Reading Journal 001: Nina LaCour’s WATCH OVER ME

Warning: reading journal entries contain plot spoilers!

After I started reading Watch Over Me and talked about it to my girlfriend, I was in the middle of talking about it when I suddenly realised: I have not read the blurb. (It’s Nina LaCour, so… insta-buy for me.)

If I had, I’d have known going in that this was a literal ghost story — I’m sort of glad that I didn’t. It came as a delicious, unsettling surprise; both for the protagonist, Mila, and for me. Well. Far more delicious for me than for her, to be fair. (I’m just going to assume that the lot of you are more diligent about readin’ your blurbs, so I won’t consider this spoilers yet.) I wonder at the terrible secret in Mila’s past, the horrible thing she did; the fire. Was that her fault, her doing? Or was it Blake? Is it true that they were living in the burnt-out husk of a house? Even knowing that LaCour likes to peel back these layers slowly and all in good time, and that she will, eventually, make the facts plan; I am impatient. I want to know. That’s a good start.

I’ve finished the novel at the point of this writing, so this is more retrospective than my other reading journal entries.

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JULIET TAKES A BREATH — Gabby Rivera

“I wanted her to change my world.”
“Mi amor, only you can change your world.”

— Gabby Rivera, JULIET TAKES A BREATH

An excellent story about a young queer woman from the Bronx who goes to Portland for the summer to find a new love, White Feminism, and the joy of community. Rivera’s grasp on setting the scene and bringing environments to life is masterful.

The Coming Out

Juliet Takes A Breath begins with tears. During her goodbye dinner, Juliet comes out to her family, and it ends as one might expect. Her father says nothing, her mother locks herself in her room, crying, and makes it all about her “shame.” Throughout the novel, Juliet’s mom is a well of all the things straight people say: ‘it’s just a phase,’ ‘you just haven’t met the right boy,’ ‘you don’t know what love is yet.’ It’s frustrating as hell, especially as Juliet struggles and needs her mother to be there for her. Juliet’s mom says she loves her, but that Juliet has to forgive her for not being able to accept ‘what she told her’ — and that’s a nice euphemism for ‘who her daughter is in her heart.’

The Arrival

Juliet arrives in Portland, OR, still heartbroken and heartsick, too: her girlfriend, Laney, is also doing a summer internship, in D.C., and Juliet hasn’t heard from her since before her flight. No calls, not even a damn text.

And then, we meet Harlowe. Oh my God, Harlowe.
I didn’t touch the audiobook for a couple days after the first chapter with her, because I could not stop rolling my eyes after everything she said. This could have become a Did Not Finish, but I had too much affection for Juliet and too much curiosity about the story to leave it there.

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WE ARE OKAY — Nina LaCour

We were miraculous. We were beach creatures. We had treasure in our pockets and each other on our skin.

— WE ARE OKAY

WE ARE OKAY is a novel that does not centre its queerness in the sense that it isn’t your typical coming of age + coming out story. It is an undeniably queer story, but Marin’s romantic feelings for and attraction towards her best friend, Mabel, are part of an additional narrative conflict that is both caused by and a contributing factor to the story of her grief.

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