|Image: Penguin Young Readers|
Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera. 310 p. Dial Books/ Penguin, September 17, 2019. 9780593108178. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher, ALAAC19)
Juliet Milagros Palente took a women's studies class at college because she had a crush on a girl. She fell in love with the girl and the writings of Harlowe Brisbane, feminist author, as well. She wrote to Brisbane asking for a summer internship. When she got it, she packed her bags for Portland, Oregon and came out to her family just before leaving for the airport. Things did not go great. Additionally, Lainie, her first love, on an internship of her own in D.C. isn't returning her texts. As a self-proclaimed "Puerto Rican baby dyke from the Bronx," Juliet has a lot to learn, about Portland, feminism, and being a queer poc. And it isn't from Harlowe, who, though she considers herself an ally, often can't get past her white privilege and fragility.
I fell in love with Juliet on page one and gobbled this story up in two sittings. Juliet is a joyous character, so open and honest and curious and enthusiastic. It hurt to watch her bump up against unkindness. I also loved that the many Spanish words and phrases were not translated for outsiders like me. It's up to me to look them up. I would love to reread this with my ears.
There were one or two teeny-tiny things that niggled, tiny things like, "Can you hear a click when someone disconnects a cell phone call?" that were mostly lost under the rest of the awesomeness.
This is the author's debut novel but it was published as a paperback a couple of years ago. It was an Amelia Bloomer finalist, but this got by me. Hopefully, Dial/ Penguin will bring readers to this not-to-be-missed story. It's a tad mature for my middle school crowd, having more to do with serious discussions of feminist theory and intersectionality than language, drug use or sex. Smart teen fans of edgy, hilarious, thought-provoking novels will love it.