“You’ve been blessed with the spirit of women who know how to love.”
This book is unlike any I’ve ever read before. Juliet Takes a Breath, by Gabby Rivera, is a revelation, and it is revolutionary. It’s a novel that poses so many questions, and it makes you think, and rethink. Most of the questions aren’t answered, but that’s okay, because I believe that’s the point. In Juliet Takes a Breath, Juliet explores the world and who she is, and the reader is forced to do the same.
“Love is an acid trip.”
This novel follows a young college girl over the course of a summer when her whole life changes. In the very beginning of the novel, she reveals to her family that she’s a lesbian, and is heartbroken by the reaction of the person she so clearly loves most in the world: her mother. Knowingly or not, she reveals her true self to her family the day she’s to go to Portland for an internship, so she runs to another hero when her hero disappoints her. In the months that follow, Juliet undergoes a metamorphosis as she meets many wonderful women and learns about a new world she never imagined.
“I don’t really know how this feminism stuff works, anyway.”
This book is about women, all women, and how we intersect. It’s about Juliet and the different parts of herself that she tries to reconcile with the world. It’s about identity and independent identity in a world that’s more likely to take away your choices than grant you freedom. This book is unique to me because I’ve never read a novel that featured so little men. Juliet’s summer is bursting with femininity in all its forms. It’s inspirational.
“You’re destined to evolve and understand yourself in ways you never imagined before.”
Juliet travels across the country because she loves a book, and while she’s in Portland, a land so far removed from the Bronx that it might as well be another world, she falls in love, she gets her heartbroken, she’s awakened, she’s disillusioned, and she’s empowered.
I loved nearly everything about this book, the prose in particular. It has humor and melancholy, and it’s insightful analysis is mostly balanced by an entertaining plot. The writing is beautiful and engaging, intelligent and down-to-earth. This wasn’t a perfect read for me, because there were some moments when I lost interest, though they were few and far between. Sometimes the pace just let up and I had to rewind and reset.
“This world is yours to reinvent.”
In this book, Juliet falls in love with a book because it is a refuge from her neighborhood and her contradictions, but then when she meets the author and her friends, she learns that we’re all a host of contradictions and differences that we most reconcile within and amongst ourselves. I love this novel for tackling intersectionality and the challenges women face regarding unity and empowerment. The characters in this novel are vibrant and to say they’re multi-faceted is an understatement. There are lessons to be learned here, but as I stated, it’s not clear cut, at all. I loved Juliet’s story and what she goes through, even if her growing pains sometimes made my heart ache.
More books like this need to exist, books with depth and passion. ALL women should read this book. (Men too, but they’re not what this is about.) I highly recommend this novel to anyone looking for a book that features great writing, is layered, awesome, engaging, and honest. Get to reading!
“I live for myself, all of my selves.”Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
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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.