Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera (2016)
Genre: LGBT, YA, Fiction, Contemporary
Page Length: 276 pages (paperback edition)
Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon. She just came out to her family and isn’t sure if her mom will ever speak to her again. But Juliet has a plan, sort of, one that’s going to help her figure out this whole “Puerto Rican lesbian” thing. She’s interning with the author of her favorite book: Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women’s bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff.
Will Juliet be able to figure out her life over the course of one magical summer? Is that even possible? Or is she running away from all the problems that seem too big to handle?
With more questions than answers, Juliet takes on Portland, Harlowe, and most importantly, herself. (description from Goodreads)
Juliet Takes a Breath is a story about a young woman named Juliet who is in the midst of embarking on a summer of self-discovery. The eve before she leaves on her trip she decides to come out to her family, and while some take the news well, others don’t. Though disappointed by family members who are not supportive of her initial announcement, she goes forth with her summer plans. Traveling from the Bronx, New York to Portland, Oregon she will be an intern for Harlowe Brisbane, the author of her favorite book Raging Flower.
Through the internship Juliet learns more about herself from living with Harlowe and experiences a huge culture shock in her new surrounds. Portland has a huge cafe culture, the neighborhood is not as diverse as her neighborhood, and people throw all kinds of lingo at her that she doesn’t understand. She tries to deal with these sudden changes along being homesick, while coming into her own. She is doubtful at first and starts to question if this experience will help her or hurt her, but over the course of the novel we see her become more confident.
During the summer Juliet is faced with many obstacles that propel and challenge her journey of self-discovery. Being out of her comfort zone pushes her to face these challenges head on while giving her a new perspective of the world around her and what she wants for her future. I love self-discovery/coming-of-age stories such as Juliet. I find them to be relatable and most often readers can see themselves in the stories and reflect on their own past.
Juliet journey also fills her with questions as she struggles to understand privilege, spaces, being a queer woman of color, inter-sectional feminism, among many other things. Readers can empathize with her confusion and the way Rivera writes makes Juliet feel very real. She’s very down to earth and get nervous about new situations, but she tries to navigate them the best they can. Plus I loved her close relationship with her brother, cousin Ava, and her aunt who were are all so supportive of her and helped her talk out her problems.
I would love to continue to seek out more LQBTQA novels such as this and I loved reading the book from Juliet’s perspective. Rivera is a wonderful writer and the narrative not only felt realistic, but was engrossing too.
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