Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare's best-loved plays, and it has inspired many modern productions and retellings, including Baz Luhrmann's iconic film Romeo + Juliet, featuring contemporary music and settings, and the well-known stage musical (later made into a film) West Side Story, with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.
The story of the two "star-crossed lovers" has very classic and relatable themes, such as adolescent infatuation, family disapproval of young people's choices in love, and the idea that lovers are somehow destined to be together because of fate. It also has powerful story and plot devices, such as a fight that ends in accidental death and escalating a family feud, and a faked death that causes another character to commit suicide in despair.
Shakespeare's play contains very complex dialogue from an earlier historical period, so one reason it has been updated for modern audiences is to make the story more accessible by using language more relevant to the contemporary era. By using more contemporary language, situations and contexts, Draper's novel Romiette and Julio makes Shakespeare's story more pertinent to contemporary times.
Draper also does this by including issues of class, race, and ethnic culture (this was also part of the plot in West Side Story, in which white adolescents were at odds with the Puerto Rican community). By setting the story in Cincinnati, Draper also makes the story familiar in terms of a recognizable setting.