Title: Juliet Takes a Breath
Author: Gabby Rivera
Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5 Stars)
Read everything you can push into your skull. Read your mother’s diary. Read Assata. Read everything Gloria Steinem and bell hooks write. Read all of the poems your friends leave in your locker. Read books about your body written by people who have bodies like yours. Read everything that supports your growth as a vibrant, rebel girl human. Read because you’re tired of secrets.
This books was a ride for me. I could not stand Harlowe Brisbane or her damn book so I almost DNF’d this after chapter 2, but I am glad my sister pushed me to keep going because I really loved it. Juliet Takes a Breath is a moving and powerful story of self-discovery, growth, expectations, and feminism. Juliet’s story felt so honest and raw, it truly captivates you as she learns to love herself.
Things I Liked :
Juliet’s journey is beautiful and powerful. I loved seeing her discover feminism, what it means to her, and where she fits into this larger movement. I also really loved that she learns from her family and she has a support system around her, ready to uplift and encourage her, even if the beginning is rocky.
The feminist and queer ideologies are very accessible for every reader. Juliet learns and absorbs so much – about non-white revolutionists, polyamorous and other non-heteronormative relationships, safe spaces, trans rights, allies. Juliet’s eyes are opened to a world she didn’t know existed and she craves knowledge and understanding. Everything is explained very clearly and respectfully, so those new to feminism can easy understand the topics and grow in knowledge like Juliet.
I also loved how Juliet’s relationship with her mom developed. We see their relationship go through so much and in the end, her mom helps propel her forward, and encourages her to reinvent her own world and not rely on others to do so.
I LOVED that they called out the white feminism EVERY TIME. The characters in the story were openly critical of the exclusionary and dismissive white feminist nonsense and actively challenged that white feminism was universal. It was just so great to see.
Things I Didn’t Like :
You already now I hated Harlowe. Everytime she was in a scene I just got angry – and don’t even get me started on her dumbass book. First of all, it reminded me so much of the book Rachel reads in Friends – Be Your Own Windkeeper. I felt like they were basically interchangeable. On a more critical note, Raging Flower reeked of privilege. Highlighting women’s divine essence and power, and their cosmic sisterhood, while not confronting any of the systemic or political oppression women – especially non-white women – face was infuriating. Yes camaraderie and self empowerment are important, but I HATED how Juliet upheld her book as a bastion of feminist literature and Harlowe was iconicized for her mediocrity. It was not unrealistic though, and Harlowe/her book was called out several times so I really appreciated that. I also HATED her half assed apology to Juliet after the incident at the book reading. She literally said she didn’t think she said anything wrong or mean about Juliet and I couldn’t believe it.
I felt Juliet was very naive. I understand that this is the story of her journey to discover more about feminism and where she fit in, but it didn’t feel like she was in college to me. She says she met Lainie in a Women’s Studies class, but she still knew virtually nothing about feminism, or the fallacies of the US government, at all. It was a little unbelievable to me. I also didn’t like her thoughts about the Native American genocide being an accident, and how Harlowe and Maxine’s poly relationship meant her crushes on Kira and Maxine, while still loving Lainie, was okay – it felt like she was trying to justify emotionally cheating to me, while not being open with all parties. It was also hard for me to believe that Juliet’s only resource on feminist literature was Raging Flower – even in Harlowe’s book she says to read books and resources from a wide range of people, so I couldn’t believe that Juliet hadn’t taken that advice to heart.
This was a tough reading experience for me, but I am really happy I finished the book. Juliet’s story is honest and gripping and unapologetically queer. Juliet celebrates the queerness in her own life and in the community she discovers. I loved going on this journey with Juliet and seeing her come into her own and learn to love who she is.