Hi everyone! Hope you’re all doing well! I can’t believe we’re almost at the end of September – the month has completely flown by! I think I’ve finally managed to get out of the reading slump I was stuck in and I’m spending a chunk of today writing and scheduling posts for next week as I’m away (40 minutes away from my house lol!) with my girlfriend for our anniversary! But before I get too ahead of myself, today I have a review for a book that at first, I was a little sceptical of, but then as I hit the halfway mark I absolutely devoured!
Title: The Key to You and Me
Author: Jaye Robin Brown
Genre: Contemporary, LGBT+, Young Adult
Synopsis: Piper Kitts is spending the summer living with her grandmother, training at the barn of a former Olympic horseback rider, and trying to get over her ex-girlfriend. Much to Piper’s dismay, her grandmother is making her face her fear of driving head-on by taking lessons from a girl in town.
Kat Pearson has always suspected that she likes girls but fears her North Carolina town is too small to color outside the lines. But when Piper’s grandmother hires Kat to give her driving lessons, everything changes.
Piper’s not sure if she’s ready to let go of her ex. Kat’s navigating uncharted territory with her new crush. With the summer running out, will they be able to unlock a future together?
Juliet Takes a Breath follows fat, Latina lesbian Juliet as she begins her journey into feminism after reading Harlowe Brisbane’s hit novel, ‘Raging Flower’. Juliet flies to Portland for the Summer after she manages to cinch an internship – the internship of her dreams – with her now new favourite author. However after a rocky coming out on her last night at home and a girlfriend who won’t answer her calls, Juliet starts to figure out what it means, not only to be a feminist, but to be herself. I’ve had my eye on this book for some time now – it’s seen as quite a staple in sapphic literature and I’m always on the lookout for fat rep in sapphic novels – but after seeing quite a few people recommend it on Twitter, and the fact that there’s a graphic novel in the works, I figured now was a great time to check it out! I had really quite high expectations for this one as so many people whose reviews I trust loved it, and at first I felt a little let down by it, but after the halfway mark I adored it!
The writing style is very simple and accessible and offers a real insight into Juliet’s life – she’s Puerto Rican and living in the Bronx, and, as such, so many Spanish words are sprinkled in as well as so many references to Puerto Rican food (which sounded amazing!) I felt that the pacing was just right, as we follow Juliet through the whole of her Summer in Portland and it’s like we’re following along with her, although there are a couple of unresolved plotlines which I felt needed some closure, such as the romantic plotlines, the plotline regarding Harlowe’s interns, the actual work Juliet was in Portland to do (even her sci-fi writing) and Phen (what happened to him?? I thought he was going to play a much bigger role).
Despite the aforementioned plot-holes, I did really enjoy this book, particularly since it was so character driven. Juliet is very naïve when we start the book – her only real experience of feminism comes from Harlowe’s book, and she knows very little about queer culture – so it was really nice to follow that journey with her. Juliet is a fat woman, and not once throughout the book does she deal with body issues, and there is no fat shaming either, which was just so refreshing and something I really appreciated. Harlowe on the other hand was an extremely unlikeable character and I think Gabby Rivera did an amazing job writing her. She’s the epitome of white hippy feminism – she is constantly centring womanhood on having a vagina and has all these ridiculous rituals, particularly regarding periods. She is also very racist but thinks of herself as an ally, and we see how her racism directly affects Juliet and those close to her. I really loved all the side characters too – there’s Zaira who runs a writing workshop for POC, Maxine who is in a poly relationship with Harlowe, Ava who is Juliet’s bi cousin, Kira the motorbike-riding librarian, and Lupe and Ginger Rain a lesbian couple expecting their first child.
I think one of the books biggest positives is the themes that it tackles. First there is Juliet’s foray into feminism and queer culture. The feminism that Juliet reads about in Harlowe’s book is very much white feminism and is very centred around the vagina, as I mentioned earlier. In fact this type of feminism is particularly hailed at the start of the book, which is what had me questioning whether I wanted to finish the book, particularly because, as a nonbinary person, it made me very uncomfortable. It is mentioned that Harlowe’s book only tags trans women and women of colour on at the very end and tries to make it seem like hers is the only real form of feminism. However, in the second half of the book this is challenged completely. Ava explains to Juliet that she needs to question everything she thinks she knows about feminism and begins to educate her on intersectional feminism and queer culture. In fact, queer culture is another theme that is tackled in the book. There’s a chapter called ‘Undercuts and Transformation’ which actually made me tear up (!) and follows Juliet going to her first QPOC club night. There’s a lot of discussion about not feeling as much of a part of the queer community (and also in feminism) as a person of colour and about performative allyship, and the strong sense of QPOC community that has risen out of that. Despite these very positive takes there was some anti-Indigenous speech in the book which wasn’t challenged and I urge you to also read this own voices review on the matter.
Overall, despite this book having it’s flaws I came out of this book with a real sense of appreciation for it, and I wish I could put it in the hands of every young person who is coming to terms with feminism and their queerness for the first time but on a broader scale, I also wholeheartedly recommend this one to anybody and everybody interested in this amazing sapphic book!