Penguin Young Readers has acquired what it is calling one of the “buzziest novels of the year,” Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera. The YA debut novel, which the publisher describes as a “candid, feminist, queer, coming-of-age story,” is about a closeted Puerto Rican teenager from the Bronx who interns for a white feminist professor in Portland, Ore.
Juliet Takes a Breath originally was released in 2016 by a hybrid POD publisher in New York City, Riverdale Avenue Books. The novel will be released in September 17 under the Dial Books for Young Readers imprint for readers ages 14 and up. There will be an initial 100,000-copy print run. Rivera is also the creator with artist Joe Quinones of a new Marvel comic series, America Chavez.
In a release, the publisher stated that Juliet Takes a Breath will be one of Penguin’s leading fall frontlist titles, with promotional plans that include an author tour, festival appearances, a consumer advertising campaign, and promotion on Penguin Teen and Penguin Random House social channels. Calling Riverdale Avenue’s purple cover “iconic,” Nancy Mercado, the editor who acquired Juliet Takes a Breath, told PW that the original artist, Cristy Road, was commissioned to create the cover for the Dial edition, “simply freshening it up a little bit,” with a pink cover to maintain the same distinctive look, but also to distinguish it from the earlier edition.
Mercado said that she first heard about Juliet Takes a Breath “where one hears about all great books: on Twitter.” In early February, feminist author Roxane Gay tweeted five times about how much she had enjoyed reading Juliet Takes a Breath, calling it “amazing,” among other superlatives. In her Goodreads review, Gay was even more explicit. Giving it four out of five stars, Gay wrote that the book was “gorgeous and exuberant” and “fucking outstanding.”
Gay’s praise for Juliet Takes a Breath, coupled with the distinctive cover art and the title itself, “intrigued” Mercado, who noticed that the book quickly picked up traction with other authors and book influencers whom Mercado follows on Twitter. Adding to the book’s luster, it won a 2016 Silver IPPY Award for Best LGBTQ Fiction and was selected by the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer Committee for the 2017 Amelia Bloomer List of recommended feminist literature for children and teens.
After reading Juliet Takes a Breath, Mercado was determined to acquire it so that it could reach a wider readership. Rivera has this “fresh take on white feminism and how it has failed women of color,” Mercado said. “There’s something so timely about this book.”
Riverdale Avenue publisher Lori Perkins, who described Rivera as a “brave new voice,” told PW she was “honored to have launched Gabby’s writing career and excited to see how this book will reach even more readers under Penguin’s direction.” Perkins disclosed that Riverdale Avenue sold more than 10,000 copies in paper and 3,000 digital copies. While a Google search did not reveal any reviews in trade or consumer media, Juliet Takes a Breath has 4.7 stars on Amazon; 83% of 141 reviewers give a five-star rating.
“It proves how word-of-mouth can move a book, the power of when someone passes a book to a friend, who then passes it on to another friend, who then passes it on to another friend, and so on,” Mercado said. “I believe Gabby is the voice of a generation. She has lots to say and she says it powerfully and eloquently.”