I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
- my rating: 4 stars
- published by: Riverdale Avenue Books
- genres: YA, lgbt+, contemporary
- diverse: yes
I started my Pride Month review theme with my review of Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda and today I’m continuing it with this review of Gabby Rivera’s novel focussing on lesbian, Puerto-Rican girl Juliet who moves from the Bronx to Portland to intern with feminist writer Harlowe Brisbane.
Pride Month reviewing has not been going as well as I anticipated, in all honesty. I’d hadn’t expected I’d only be reviewing my second lgbt+ read this month half way through. But all well, it is what it is.
You know the saying quality over quantity? That’s how I feel about this situation. True, Juliet Takes a Breath is only my second queer book – but it’s such a good book with meaningful representation and important discourse it doesn’t feel like it matters.
A few negatives to get out the way
Okay, I do have a little things I wanna get out the way first. First of all, this is a contemporary and pretty much a coming-of-age story so it’s a little plotless. Not necessarily boring, because there are other aspects of the story that aren’t plot filling it out but there’s no big THING we’re building up to here. Its just a story that makes it’s way along at it’s own pace and that did make it seem unexciting in places.
I also didn’t like some of the cheating aspects that weeded their way into this story. Including the MC cheating, the MC’s girlfriend cheating and other cheating plots on the side. I never felt these were adequately addressed and I hate cheating in books.
But the positives far outweigh the negatives
These little grievances could not take away from my absolute enjoyment of this book. This book is one of those ones thats not just good, it’s IMPORTANT.
Juliet Takes a Breath follows a young Puerto-Rican girl called Juliet who’s recently discovered feminism through reading a “Pussy Power” book by white feminist Harlowe Brisbane. Inspired by the book, and looking to escape her family who she’s just come out the closet to – Juliet takes up an internship with Harlowe in Portland.
The great thing about this book is that it basically takes your hand and allows you to experience and learn as Juliet does. Juliet learns so much, especially about empowerment and intersectionality and to be educated alongside a naive protagonist was a big highlight of this book.
This book forced me, and will probably force you to, to address, challenge and confront my own cissexism and white privilege. If you’re willing to go into it open minded you will genuinely learn alot about modern feminism, lgbt+ communities, QPOC spaces and intersectional feminism. And if you’re already aware of that, or are dealing with your own intersections – this book is incredibly validating and welcoming and completely normalises things many people still sneer at – such as using preferred pronouns, safe spaces, QPOC only spaces and affirmative action.
This book debunks and challenges aspects of feminism and womanhood that are exclusionary, cissexist or racist and promotes intersectionality. Juliet must confront and explore how her sexuality, gender and ethnicity intersect and that exploration is something so rarely seen in YA.
Amazing visibility of queer spaces
The truly beautiful and unique thing about this book is the incredible visibility of queer spaces, and especially queer spaces for women of colour. Juliet attends and meets so many women just like her, and is able to find spaces and people who are inclusionary and understanding. Juliet being able to find a space in which she feels she belongs was one of my favourite aspects of her character development.
Another aspect of the representation I enjoyed was how Juliet feels coming into contact with other gay girls – her nervousness, being tongue-tied and flustered, really her whole composure in these instances felt relatable and appropriate. It normalised her interactions, and you could tell in these scenes it was own voices. Never was her attraction to other girls portrayed as being sexualised as I’ve seen other books with lesbian mc’s do – this felt like any other YA except it was a girl and a girl and not a girl and a boy.
I also liked the consent aspects of this book and how every interaction was preceded by a “is this okay” question.
One of my favourite lgbt+ reads
It is an incredible shame that because this is an f/f book it probably won’t be read by that many people (seriously, there’s statistics on this). Because this is a truly important book for the lgbt+ community, especially for queer people of colour. This is a book that not only presents a relatable, sympathetic and strong lesbian female character of colour – but one which also highlights so well the problems and challenges facing the lgbt+ community and why intersectionality is so important.
This is one of those books I just really want people to read because it’s so informative, educational but also cute and so positively represents wlw.
Gabby Rivera has truly written a masterful and thoughtful book about the lgbt+ people and why intersectionality is so important and I can only hope people will read this, listen to her words and learn.