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Romiette and Julio by Sharon M. Draper is a story loosely based on William Shakespeare's seminal play, Romeo and Juliet, about the romantic relationship between two teenagers who are members of feuding families. Draper adapts this story by setting it modern Cincinnati, and making Romiette African-American and Julio Mexican-American. The school which these two teenagers attend is one plagued by drugs, gangs, and ethnic tensions. The main conflicts in the plot have to do with the teenagers making decisions either to resist the bad influences in their schools or to simply sit by passively and let bad things happen. The greatest danger is the gangs. Because they have killed a teacher who stood up to them, most people either join the gangs or just try to avoid being noticed by them, something that allows the Devildogs to act with impunity.
By standing up to the Devildogs, having friendships that cross ethinic boundaries, and following their dreams, including those of being active in media and creative activities, the teens manage to make a difference in their environment and break the stranglehold the gangs have on school life. It should be noted that the point of the novel is that individuals can make a difference, but through the means of being loyal to their friends. Ben, Destiny, Romi and Julio are strengthened and encouraged by their positive bonds of friendship, and though each individually makes a major contribution, their real success comes from their ability to work together.
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