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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THE OLD GUARD — Rucka & Fernández

“War never takes the wicked man by chance, the good man always.”

— Sophocles, Philoctetes

Soldiers Live. They Wonder Why.

The concept of The Old Guard, sketched out in the exposition and then built upon throughout, is that everyone dies — just for some, their time hasn’t come yet.

The soldiers in this group aren’t immortal, they’re simply not dead yet, and that’s what elevates this from origin story to something more akin to fate — it’s time that’s getting longer instead of running out, and it’s as unpredictable as death has always been and will be. What binds them is war, is knowing that everyone they love will die, is that they will never know which bullet is going to be the last. They get torn apart and put themselves back together, until they don’t. They love and they lose and they search for purpose. They find each other in their dreams, and sometimes they find dreams in each other’s hearts.

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OUT OF THIS WORLD — Catherine Lundoff

If I said I met my vampire prince at a ball at the King’s palace, would you believe me?

— OUT OF THIS WORLD

OUT OF THIS WORLD is an excellent anthology — crucially in that it introduces new readers, such as me, to such a wide variety of stories by a single author. The short stories selected for this each are set in its own, sometimes fantastic, sometimes magical, often dark sort of world; drawing on their own tropes and genres. The distinctions of each are easily grasped, so deft is Lundoff in crafting the impressions of those worlds. I could see the cushy, Victorian furniture in Medium Méchanique in front of me as well as the mean streets a femme private eye walks in Red Scare.

I may have not connected with every single protagonist in each of the stories, and such is the nature of anthologies especially when the stories contained are not all of one genre and style. But more than that, it’s down to the diversity of Lundoff’s characters that you’ll meet some you don’t vibe with and others you immediately want to go sit down for coffee (or something stronger, your mileage may vary) with. Even more decidedly so, however, I can name my favourites.

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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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