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.
I know that everyone and their mum has probably now read this book, and there are hundreds of truly fantastic own voices reviews (read some here and here!) but Juliet Takes a Breath was just too good of a book for me not to review it. Now, I’ve been rather annoying to myself, as I read it a couple months ago and I’m only just getting around to writing down my thoughts. Why do I never learn?! However, here’s a brief summary of my thoughts. 🙂
I absolutely adored Juliet’s voice. I don’t often like first-person narratives, but this was absolutely perfect. She is everything I would want a protagonist to be – brave, funny, constantly learning, and flawed. Her relationships with every character in the novel (particularly with Harlowe and her mother) are multi-faceted, and, to top it off, there’s a brief sexy romance with a MOTORCYCLE LESBIAN. (I am mentally adding this to the list of things I didn’t realise I needed until now.)
I also thought that the message of the overall book was incredible. I basically took from it the idea that all your faves are problematic – especially when your faves are hippy white feminists who are obsessed with vaginas. There’s some calling-out of Harlowe’s transphobic type of feminism, and her appropriation of Juliet’s experiences as a Puerto Rican. However, I do agree with other reviewers (I’ve forgotten specific names, sorry) that Harlowe was let off the hook far too easily, as many white feminists are.
Overall I thought this was an absolutely incredible book – if I had read this when I was a teenager/young adult, it absolutely would have blown my mind about intersectional feminism. The quality of YA constantly astounds me, especially in the case of Juliet Takes a Breath.