Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley – Book Review

Title: Our Own Private Universe (review copy)

Author: Robin Talley

Genre/Themes: Contemporary YA, Romance, Coming of Age, LGBTQ+, Religion, Church Group, Sex Positive

Blurb from Goodreads

Fifteen-year-old Aki Hunter knows she’s bisexual, but up until now she’s only dated guys—and her best friend, Lori, is the only person she’s out to.

When she and Lori set off on a four-week youth-group mission trip in a small Mexican town, it never crosses Aki’s mind that there might be anyone in the group she’d be interested in dating.

But that all goes out the window when Aki meets Christa.

My Review

This book is just the cutest thing. EXACTLY what I want from my contemporary YA reads and extra brownie points for promoting diversity in such an awesome fashion.

Also did you see that cute cover? Nice to see a YA book with an image of two girls openly sharing an intimate moment rather than the traditionally safe hand holding.

The main focus of the novel is on teenager Aki who, like pretty much anyone at that age, is trying to figure out her way in the world. She knows she likes both boys and girls but she’s never even kissed a girl so it’s all very confusing for her. This one summer she goes away to Mexico on a volunteer project with her church group and her youth minister Dad and decides that this will be the summer to change all that has gone before. She makes a pact with her BFF Lori about finding a summer fling and the story takes off.

The early chapters of this book when Aki meets Christa are just the most adorable chapters I’ve read in ages. Lots of people complain about insta-love in books. This wasn’t that. It was insta-LIKE!!! You know that feeling when you get butterflies in your tummy when you’ve just met someone new who is a combination of cute and funny and interesting… We’ve all been there, no matter our sexual preferences. And especially as teenagers. And this book started with such a great big dollop of insta-like that even my tummy got butterflies!!!! Definitely maxed out on the adorabilty scale.

  • So what do you do when you’re a girl who likes another girl?
  • What do you say? Think? Feel?
  • How do you have sex?
  • Do you want to have sex?
  • Is this love? Is this a fling?
  • Does it mean you’re just attracted to girls now? Can you still like boys?
  • When you dream about the future do you picture yourself being married to man or a woman?
  • Will your parents still love and accept you?
  • Will you still be welcome in your church?

There are a lot of questions that must rage through anyone’s mind when they’re trying to figure this extra stuff out right? And these questions raged through Aki’s mind.

What I loved about the book is it felt very teenage with realistic teenage problems.
So many times we read books where the so called teenage characters don’t act like teenagers. In this one, they do!

They do LOTS of dumb things.

  • They push each other.
  • Have falling outs,
  • Petty squabbles,
  • They casually lie to save face,
  • They stick their heads in the sand about things,
  • They don’t think about the consequences of their actions.

Was it a lot of needless drama????

I didn’t think so. At that age everything in life is a ‘life or death situation’, hormones are flying and feelings & tensions are easily heightened. And everything is confusing.

Okay, as the book progressed perhaps it did wander into the territory of being a ‘how to’ manual on safe f/f sex and at times read like an LGBTQ+ information pamphlet.

However, I believe it is great to see a book promote safe sex between two girls; it is not a subject that tends to get much focus or airtime. And it wasn’t written in an overly-gratuitous manner; it all felt very natural and would be a great read for any young girl with questions regarding her sexual identity.

I also liked the positive spin that was placed on being LGBTQ+ within a church community. It may yet not be entirely realistic for all religions but I think writing about openness and acceptance of your sexual orientation within a church environment can only promote positive change in the future. I always like the idea that you should promote change from within. So by writing such a positive viewpoint of the older church members it could maybe encourage young teens to stay within their churches, if they wish to, and to make it the norm within their church that being LGBTQ+, or accepting of being LGBTQ+ and being a religious person are not two diametrically opposing things.

I should point out that the book didn’t have a completely fuzzy view on societal acceptance of being LGBTQ+ though. There were characters who took “issue” with it and Aki did not feel completely accepted by everyone who knew she was bisexual so it wasn’t all shiny and happy.

This is a great book if you like cute and fluffy contemporary YAs. And as it has such a strong, positive message, I’m sure if you were feeling as confused in your life as Aki was then this book would make you feel that little bit less alone and put a smile on your face.

Who needs to put a term on what we are anyway?
We like what we like.
We love who we love.
At the end of the day we are all just people.
And everyone is beautiful in their own unique way.

*A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Book read and reviewed for Goodreads in January 2017

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