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Read an excerpt of Juliet Takes a Breath!

Summer is almost here, and if you’re as excited as we are, we recommend you pick up Juliet Takes a Breath for a breathtaking, unforgettable summer!

Gabby Rivera’s debut follows Juliet Milagros Palante, who 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.

Scroll down to read the excerpt!


My head seemed like the safest place to be most of the time. Maybe that’s a bit hyperbolic. I felt safe in my house. Our three-family home on Matilda Avenue was my redbrick fortress, cemented together during the 1930s when someone decided that this would be a good neighborhood for families, specifically Jewish ones. My grandma, Amalia Petalda Palante, moved into this house pregnant with my father and married to her third husband, my grandpa Cano, in 1941. They were legit the only Puerto Ricans on the block. Everyone else was either Jewish or Italian Catholic. But according to her, “A los Judios y los Italianos no les importaba que éramos puertorriqueño. They cared that we kept quiet and made sure the front of our home was clean.” I’m sure it didn’t hurt that my grandma was hella light-skinned and brought food to her Jewish neighbors on the left and the Italians on the right. Bricks were used to build the house, but it remained standing because of her: because she scrubbed its floors ’til her knuckles bled, because she planted hydrangeas in the front yard as an act of solidarity with her neighbors and because she didn’t let anyone tell her that Puerto Ricans couldn’t live there.

I climbed the steps to our home and ran into the kitchen.

Mom and Grandma Petalda held court over food simmering in calderos and pilones filled with mashed garlic and spices.  I dropped the requested items for sofrito onto the counter and kissed them both on the cheeks. They snuggled me. Grandma wore her favorite purple bata and wooden chanclas. My mother was dressed in loose-fitting blue jeans and a souvenir shirt from our last trip to Miami. They were deep in dinner preparation mode, so it was easy to head up to my room. All I wanted to do was finish Lainie’s mixtape and be weird with Lil’ Melvin, my kid brother. I didn’t even care that he was already in my room, slobbering over a book and some TWIX bars.

“Don’t ever be an asshole on the streets. Don’t ever tell girls that you wanna grab their bodies or corner them in supermarkets while you touch your junk,” I said, kissing his chubby cheeks. I stole one of his candy bars and ate it to keep the tears away.

“I’m re-reading my old Animorphs ’cuz Mami threatened to throw them away. So definitely not on team macho-douchebag. Acting like that is uncouth and also gross, sister,” Lil’ Melvin said, looking up from his book. “Rabid animals get put down. Those types of heathens should, as well. Glad you’re home. Time for you to play me those depressing white lady songs that you’re adding to Lainie’s tape.” I hugged him tighter than usual and went to work.

I obsessed over which Ani DiFranco song to add to Lainie’s tape. When we first started dating, I had no idea who Ani DiFranco was. Lainie, shocked to baby-dyke hell, made it her mission to convert me. And yo, it took a lot of work. Ani was crazy white girl shit. Her music evoked images of Irish bagpipes and stray cats howling in heat. Her garbled singing voice made my eyes water, and I couldn’t ever be sure of what she was singing about. But with enough practice and encouragement from Lainie, I broke down Ani’s gay girl code and understood that I too was just a little girl in a training bra trying to figure shit out. Lainie’s mixtape needed some Ani. Lots of Ani. Enough Ani to make Lainie think of me all summer long. Five Ani songs in, I added some Queen Latifah, Selena, and TLC for balance. I wrote the names of songs and artists in black Sharpie. The mixtape was for her and only her, but I still played Lil’ Melvin every song twice. If he approved, he would hold up the Live-Long-and-Prosper salute. If not, he would give me a theatrical thumbs-down. The idea of leaving him for a summer made my heart ache.

Lil’ Melvin believed in the possibility of humans shifting shape but only into other mammals. He also knew months ago that something dark and sad was brewing inside me. I cracked one night after a fight with Lainie and told him that she was my girlfriend girlfriend and not just a friend. He put his chubby hand on mine and offered me an unopened package of TWIX. It was the best offering of acceptance a fourteen-year-old boy could provide. He knew tonight was the night I’d planned to let the family know that I was a big old homo. The Animorphs book series entered his life at the right time. A little shape-shifting and fantasy all helped in him being down for me and open to the possibilities of this evening. “You sure about this, sister?”

“It has to be tonight, brother. I’ll die if I don’t speak up, but

they’ll kill me if I tell them.” I decorated the i’s in Lainie’s name with black bomb stickers. I’d never made a girl a mixtape before. Lainie was my first girl anything. I’d written a free verse poem about her in the margin of my purple composition notebook.


It worked better in pieces, so I used it as love filler for the liner notes of the mixtape.

“I doubt they’ll kill you. It’s not like Mom and Dad are cyborgs that’ll disintegrate you with death rays.” Lil’ Melvin slid one TWIX bar into his mouth and measured the other. If they weren’t the same size, he’d email Mars and complain about their apparent lack of quality control.

“Duh, brother, but I mean, like, die in my soul.” Eighteen songs and one Floetry skit all accounted for on the inside of the CD case. Making a mixtape was way easier than announcing to the world that you’re a lesbian. I added more bomb stickers and glued a picture of Lainie and me at Lilith Fair to the back cover. “Spiritual death is unlikely, Juliet. Your soul would just find another creature to attach itself to and then you’d be a falcon or something. And no one cares if falcons are gay,” he said. Lil’ Melvin: philosopher, letter writer, concerned citizen, and TWIX coupon hoarder. He rolled over on the bed and pressed his fore- head against mine, his soft belly resting on my arm. “Let out your lesbionic truths, sister.”

Lesbionic. I’m keeping that word forever.” With my hands folded behind my back, I looked up at my Virgin Mary wall clock, and for a second I thought she smiled at me. Lil’ Melvin slipped back into his Animorphs coma.

The smiling faces of Selena, Ani DiFranco, TLC, Salma Hayek, and Angelina Jolie gazed down on me from the walls like patron saints on stained-glass windows. Surely they understood why I wanted to come out. They waited confidently, knowing that eventually I’d just have to do it. It’d be nice if one of them could have said something.

Could I really go downstairs and get this demon off my chest? Was it possible to exorcise yourself? I paced back and forth, following the worn path in the dark red carpeting. Prayer always freed people from possession in the movies. What kind of prayer made parents the people you needed them to be? If I went through with it, I wouldn’t be able to take any of it back. I wouldn’t be able to rewind my life to before Lainie or the movie Gia.

I watched Lil’ Melvin eat TWIX bars on my bed and read his book. Maybe he was right, maybe Mom and Dad really wouldn’t care that there was a gay falcon in the family.

What was left for me to fear anyway? I’d been a nervous wreck since coming home from college. I’d avoided my parents and their questions the same way my parents avoided Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking at our door: turn off the lights, turn down the TV. No confrontation; just wait for them to go away.



Psst! Did you hear? We just revealed the cover for Echoes and Empires by Morgan Rhodes!

Penguin Teen