Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

“Libraries are safe but also exciting. Libraries are where nerds like me go to refuel. They are safe-havens where the polluted noise of the outside world, with all the bullies and bro-dudes and anti-feminist rhetoric, is shut out. Libraries have zero tolerance for bullshit. Their walls protect us and keep us safe from all the bastards that have never read a book for fun.”
― Gabby Rivera, Juliet Takes a Breath

Juliet Milagros Palante is working on herself. She has landed an internship with Harlowe Brisbane, the author of her favorite book. In Juliet’s mind, Harlowe is the ultimate: Harlowe opened her eyes to so many topics like loving your body, being a feminist, and fighting for yourself. Juliet will be leaving the Bronx and flying to Portland, Oregon to spend the whole summer learning from Harlowe and soaking up her wisdom. One thing stands in her way: coming out to her family.

After dropping her truth at her going-away dinner, Juliet isn’t sure if her mom will ever talk to her again. She travels to Portland, hoping to spend the summer figuring out her life and learning more about herself. As soon as she lands in Portland, Juliet sees a side of life that she has never experienced in the Bronx before. She sees people living their authentic lives, not hiding who they are.

Juliet spends her summer learning about herself, while also learning that she has pinned a lot of her hopes on Harlowe. Harlowe is messy and may not be the helpful human Juliet believes her to be. Juliet’s envisioning of Harlowe is destroyed, sending her spiraling and looking for help. Add in a tumultuous relationship and the fall out of her coming out and Juliet is shattered. Luckily she has sources of help established through her family, the people she has met in Portland, and the library where she has spent her time researching during her internship. Her life is upended, but she finds people and tools to help her grow through the pain (a summer fling and books can work wonders).

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera is packed full of diverse women fighting for themselves. They grow, struggle, and build lives. What kept me coming back to this book is the richness and realness of all the characters. They didn’t feel like flashy side characters who were not fully thought out. Each character was fully developed and pushing for what they wanted. Love pours from different characters in this book, highlighting all ways you can make a family and feel loved. This book also had me reevaluating my own experiences, writing down women, books, and authors to explore, and reflecting on how I live. This is a beautifully empowering story showcasing characters who aren’t afraid to ask for help.