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Juliet Takes A Breath by Gabby Rivera

Juliet takes a breath

Rating: 4/5

What It’s About:

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..

from Goodreads

What I liked

I think my favorite part about Juliet Takes a Breath was that it felt like it speaks to all the wonderful and difficult things about womanhood and finding one’s identity. Be warned, this book does have curse words, slang words for vagina, mild sex scenes, drinking and smoking weed. Juliet is a 19 year old queer Latina living in the Bronx. She’s in her early years of college and is going through a time of identity development. Her struggle is exacerbated when her view of the world (and her place in it) is widened during her time in Portland.

The culture clash between Juliet’s experience in the Bronx versus Portland was really interesting. It’s her first time traveling alone and being without her family to fall back on. The landscape, people, and ways of life between the two cities were extremely different and Juliet struggled to get used to her new surroundings. l adored her family and how they loved each other fiercely despite the conflicts that arose between them.

About technology and access to information

I enjoyed that this book took me back to the early 2000’s. I was in junior high during the time that this book takes place. Lines of communication with others was different back then. You could call, write basic text messages, e-mail or use regular postal mail. Social media and widespread use of the internet by the public was just starting to take off. Information, news, and the ability to connect with others was not so simple as being just a click away.

The limited access to information made Juliet’s discoveries and searches more difficult. Alot of things that she learned about the LGBTQIA, feminist, and Puerto Rican communities and movements were either introduced to her by other people or book research that she did in the library. There were many moments where Juliet had insecurity and self doubt because there was so much she didn’t know. It was impressive to see her eagerness to learn and seek out information from various sources to form her own opinion about things.

Loving yourself as you are

The main message that spoke to me was the message of self acceptance. Juliet learns to love herself as she is. And I mean self acceptance in multiple aspects. Throughout the book she always doubted whether we was good enough…as a queer person, Latina, feminist, friend, daughter, lover, student. There are so many facets that make up a person and we often feel insecure or not good enough. Juliet is a great example for others in that she realizes that she will never be perfect and doesn’t want to be. She just takes a breath and tries to live her life in way that makes her happy.

What I didn’t like

There was not a whole that that I didn’t like about this book. Some parts felt more on the “preachy” side. Like there was more telling than showing to get a point across. Harlowe, the author that Juliet was interning for, would annoy me sometimes and I can’t quite describe why. I just didn’t like her that much. Maybe because Juliet had her on this pedestal but it was clear that she wasn’t all that great. But for the most part, I was able to move past the things that bugged me and move on with the story.

Final Thoughts

This book would appeal to a wide range of readers because of all the relevant topics that are covered in the story. It reminded me alot of another book that I read, Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay (Goodreads). You can read my review of it here. I would say that this book is geared more toward the older teen readers because of some of the content mentioned earlier.

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear what you thought.


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