Juliet Takes A Breath by Gabby Rivera
Juliet Takes A Breath is the kind of book that simultaneously kicks you into action and warms your heart. It is the story of a summer in which Juliet, a Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx, discovers a lot about her own identity and others’, a coming of age tale that aggressively runs away from the straight white boy type story epitomised by Holden Caulfield and many after him. It is also a story about friendship, love, and the universe, about understanding the politics of your own self and of other people, and realising that the world may not be exactly as you see it.
From its summary, Juliet Takes A Breath promises the kind of novel where the main character’s questions are not always answered, a book where growing up isn’t learning the answers, but learning new questions. This is an accurate impression, as Gabby Rivera leaves Juliet full of possibility, ready to take steps to change or become more herself. As she learns more about the wider LGBT world, intersectional feminism, and racial politics, so can the reader, but the reader can also want to look further, just as Juliet does, as she discovers what relates most to her. A lot of different people contribute their suggestions to what Juliet should do, but she ultimately learns that she has ultimate control over that.
The side characters also help to make the novel a heartwarming and funny read, from Juliet’s sweet younger brother Lil’ Melvin to her cousin Ava who is always there to answer her questions about newfound ideas and terminology. This is the kind of book to share with people who you think might need it, whether to feel support and solidarity or to see more in the world.