Book Review

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

Genre | YA Contemporary Fiction
Page #s | 276
Publishing Date | January 2016

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. 


One of my friends said this is her favorite book, and I totally see why! Juliet Takes a Breath is an excellent novel/primer about queerness, West Coast liberalism, and the perils of white feminism. When a Puerto Rican young woman from New York moves to Portland to intern with a feminist author, she learns a lot about the world and herself.

This is an educational book, in that Juliet is absorbing feminist and womanist culture with wide eyes and lots of details. But the lessons portrayed are wonderfully written with either poignancy or humor (or both). I laughed so much at Juliet listening with awe and confusion to the world’s most polite argument between polyamorous lesbians.

For being a fairly overt book in terms of showcasing queer feminist ideas, it’s also wonderfully nuanced. Juliet’s friends and family urge her to be careful in idolizing a white woman, and they urge her to dig into black and brown queer feminist spaces. I won’t give away what happens, but I thought her experience was so honest. There aren’t easy answers given, and there are no villains, even if Juliet does realize that some changes are necessary moving forward.

As a Great Plains kid who moved to Vancouver as an adult, I was delighted by the wonderful and wacky Pacific Northwest represented here. I can only imagine that a Latinx person in a similar situation would feel even more seen and understood, and for that I adore this book.

Who Do I Recommend This Book To?

Juliet Takes a Breath is the book for you if you want to see intersectional feminism flawlessly portrayed within a sweet coming-of-age lesbian story.

Check out our Queer Lil Library for more book recommendations and reviews!

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