Featured Review: Our Own Private Universe (Robin Talley)

Featured Review: Our Own Private Universe (Robin Talley)

About This Book:

 

Fifteen-year-old Aki Simon has a theory. And it's mostly about sex. 

No, it isn't that kind of theory. Aki already knows she's bisexual—even if, until now, it's mostly been in the hypothetical sense. Aki has dated only guys so far, and her best friend, Lori, is the only person who knows she likes girls, too. 

Actually, Aki's theory is that she's got only one shot at living an interesting life—and that means she's got to stop sitting around and thinking so much. It's time for her to actually do something. Or at least try. 

So when Aki and Lori set off on a church youth-group trip to a small Mexican town for the summer and Aki meets Christa—slightly older, far more experienced—it seems her theory is prime for the testing. 

But it's not going to be easy. For one thing, how exactly do two girls have sex, anyway? And more important, how can you tell if you're in love? It's going to be a summer of testing theories—and the result may just be love.

 

 

*Review Contributed By Paige C Staff Reviewer*

 

 

the book parents give their little queer girls

What I Loved:
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that modern teens are very political. Another truth: religious people are very political and regularly have high turnout for elections, which is why evangelicals have such immense voting power. Combine the two groups and you get Aki, Christa, and the other teens of the Holy Life mission trip to the wee little village of Mundanza in Mexico. They’re almost terrifying in their zeal for social justice and reform! Talley really gets what modern teens care about and shows them a great deal of respect. It’s honestly pretty inspiring.

Aki grows not just as a human being but as an activist, going from a closeted bi girl to a semi-open girl who has a major part in organizing a massive debate to help determine how their church’s delegate (aka her dad the minister) will vote on a variety of planks at an upcoming religious conference that determines the entire organization’s stances. She experiences both her first relationship and her first relationship with a girl, she learns to get over the fact she’s gonna have to ask someone for dental dams, and she learns more about her brother and father amidst all this. Though the romance is at the center of the book, the facets of Aki’s life aren’t neglected.

Talley doesn’t do any fade-to-black stuff for the sex Christa and Aki have, nor does she overuse euphemisms. All talk of sex between two girls and how to have it safely is very straightforward and the scenes of Christa and Aki together are never fetishistic. It’s two girls experiencing sex for the first time and learning how to express their feelings for one another through a physical act.

The novel doesn’t ignore how different Aki and Christa’s realities are either. Aki eventually comes out to her brother and father to complete acceptance; Christa can’t come out or be outed to her ultra-religious parents without fear of being kicked out. Though Aki is initially unhappy about this and thinks Christa cowardly, she comes to understand every QUILTBAG kid has their own unique circumstances. Some can be out and shove it in everyone’s faces (me), some can only be out to a select group of people, and some have to stay closeted until they are in a better situation. It even quickly acknowledges that queerness and racial-ethnic groups intersect in different ways!

What Left Me Wanting:
Sadly, the Holy Life mission trip that brings Christa and Aki together in the first place fades into the background. They build a church for the village of Mudanza, they paint some buildings, and Aki and Lori in particular make jewelry with the little girls. Criticism of short-term mission trips like the one in Our Own Private Universe typically centers on the lack of a concrete impact and that’s exactly the hole Aki’s Holy Life trip falls into. Though Aki leaves Mundanza a changed person, the Holy Life group didn’t really do anything lasting for Mundanza. Her experience is at the crux of the story, not what she does.

In a similar vein, the focus is one hundred percent on Christa and Aki exploring their sexuality together. Thanks to this, the entire novel moves slowly and it contributes to the erasure of the missionary work they’re supposedly doing in Mundanza. The girls might as well be at a Holy Life-organized religious summer camp for teens, not on an international mission trip. Such a camp would be a much better choice of setting; with very few tweaks, Aki’s growth as a human being would unfold in the same way. Then it might not feel like Mexico and its people are being used as a backdrop.

I read a brilliant article criticizing modern short-term mission trips, but I can’t find it after all these years. It came complete with a brilliant passage about an impoverished orphan girl taking the bracelet one teen missionary had given her and throwing it away with all the others she’d gotten from teen missionaries!

Final Verdict:
When puberty hit me like a bus covered in angry porcupines, my mom gave me her old copy of Forever… by Judy Blume, that classic heterosexual tale of two teens exploring love and sex together after they start dating. I never actually read it because it didn’t apply to me and I’m not entirely sure where that book is now. Anyway, Our Own Private Universe will one day be the book parents give their little queer girls so they can see themselves in fiction and learn how to have safe sex.

Good Points
*Talley gets what modern teens care about
*sweet, complicated, and non-fetishized f/f romance that includes education on safe sex
*excellent character growth in Aki
 
 
 
*Find More Info On This Book HERE!!*
Rate this blog entry:
What's New In YA ~ March 21st, 2017
Rockstar Book Tours Blog Tour, Interview, & Giveaw...

Related Posts

 

Comments

No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment

FEATURED GIVEAWAYS

Latest Book Listings Added

Growing Friendships: A Kids' Guide to Making and Keeping Friends
From psychologist and children's friendships expert Eileen Kennedy-Moore and parenting...
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
Sword and Scion 01: Into the Dark Mountains
How lost one feels when his own character remains a...
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
The Pirates of Brisa (Wyrms of Pasandir #2)
When young Eskandar leaves his ship with the tough broomrider...
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
Building a Trade Empire (Wyrms of Pasandir #4)
Trade had been Shaw’s life, her dream, her future –...
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
Journeys: Young Readers’ Letters to Authors Who Changed Their Lives
Books can change lives — and here are more than...
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
The Moonlight Meeting: The Nocturnals
In The Moonlight Meeting, Tobin, a sweet pangolin, Bismark, a...
 
3.0
 
0.0 (0)
The Hidden Kingdom: The Nocturnals Book 4
A group of veiled creatures--a chameleon, stick bugs and assorted...
 
3.0
 
0.0 (0)
In Sight of Stars
Seventeen-year-old Klee’s father was the center of his life. He...
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
The Bokkaners of the North (Wyrms of Pasandir #3)
Against all odds, Eskandar and his bunch of ragtag youngsters...
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
The Road to Kalbakar (Wyrms of Pasandir #1)
Seventeen-year-old...
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
Air and Ash (TIDES Book 1)
Master and Commander meets Sarah J Maas in a...
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
The Wolf Hour
Welcome, my little lambs, to the Puszcza. It's an...
 
3.0
 
0.0 (0)
The Dragon Orb
The fate of a kingdom rests on the shoulders...
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Fragile Chaos
A GOD OF WAR SEEKING RESTORATION. AN UNWILLING SACRIFICIAL...
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Batman: Nightwalker (DC Icons #2)
Before he was Batman, he was Bruce Wayne. A...
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
Nice Try, Jane Sinner
The only thing 17-year-old Jane Sinner hates more than...
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)

Latest Member Reviews

Growing Friendships: A Kids' Guide to Making and Keeping Friends
 
4.0
"Utilizing plain language and a kid-friendly presentation, Growing Friendships examines and addresses a wide range of socially detrimental issues such..."
Legacy (The Biodome Chronicles #1)
 
4.8
"Writing: 4.5 Story: 5 Character Development: 4.5 Cover: 5 Editing: 4.5 This book is a rare gem. You know,..."
Joshua and the Magical Forest
 
4.0
"Reviewed for YA Books Central An enchanting fantasy. The story: Joshua thinks his father is dead. He's been..."
Ghosts of Bliss Bayou
 
5.0
"Captivating story, smooth writing style, well executed."
Uglies (Uglies #1)
 
5.0
"I loved how different this book was to most that I have read. The plot and the story line are..."
Legacy (The Biodome Chronicles #1)
 
5.0
"I went into this book with a pretty vague idea of what it was about-a sci-fi novel revolving around a..."
Wicked (A Wicked Saga #1)
 
5.0
"I read a TON of fae fiction and A WICKED TRILOGY by Jennifer L. Armentrout is so hilarious and refershing...."
Elements (The Biodome Chronicles #2)
 
5.0
"Where do I begin?! I love Legacy. I was immediately sucked into the world and characters and was more than..."
Moonburner
 
4.7
" "The moon cannot enslave the sun, nor make the day its mistress." I absolutely loved this dark yet..."
An Enchantment of Ravens
 
4.7
" This is one of the most beautifully written books I've read in a long, long while. I found myself..."
Bloodline (Forgotten Origins Trilogy #1)
 
4.8
"INFECTED began with a viral pandemic which turns the human body and mind into a host. Although I enjoyed the..."
The "Wonderful" Wizard of Futhermucking Oz
 
5.0
"Although highly irreverent throughout, what I loved most about Arabella is that she doesn't just go along with the social..."
The Secrets of Islayne
 
4.3
"The Secrets of Islayne by Kari Lynn West 4 out of 5 stars Summary Islayne is a..."
Journeys: Young Readers’ Letters to Authors Who Changed Their Lives
 
5.0
"Journeys is a collection of letters from the “Letters About Literature” program sponsored by the Library of Congress Center for..."
The Moonlight Meeting: The Nocturnals
 
3.0
"In this "Grow and Read" level two early reader book, the characters from Nocturnals World meet each other. Bismark is..."
The Hidden Kingdom: The Nocturnals Book 4
 
3.0
"Dawn, a fox; Tobin, a pangolin; and Bismark, an energetic sugar glider are all friends who have adventures. When there..."
Ignite
 
3.5
"The story: Phoenyx Blake, a teenage girl, awakens in a locked dungeon with only a girl named Lily for..."
In Sight of Stars
 
5.0
"IN SIGHT OF STARS is Gae Polisner’s latest young adult novel. It’s a contemporary story that tackles mental health in..."
First Year (The Black Mage Book 1)
 
4.0
"This is a very good series introduction. From the critical side, my first impression was that Rachel Carter broke..."
Batman: Nightwalker (DC Icons #2)
 
4.0
"I am in love! The DC Icon series is turning me into a fan of superheroes, and Marie Lu's take..."