Review Detail

Young Adult Fiction 1101
the book parents give their little queer girls
Overall rating 
 
4.3
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
4.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0
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
Report this review Was this review helpful to you? 0 0

Comments

Already have an account? or Create an account
Powered by JReviews

FEATURED GIVEAWAYS

Latest Book Listings Added

Butterfly Yellow
 
3.3
 
0.0 (0)
Perfect for fans of Elizabeth Acevedo, Ibi Zoboi, and Erika...
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
The definitive collection of art, poetry, and prose, celebrating fat...
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Seventh-grader Tristan Strong feels anything but strong ever since he...
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Still reeling from her recent battle (and grounded until she...
Cog
Cog
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
Cog looks like a normal twelve-year-old boy. But his name...
Homerooms and Hall Passes
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
In the mystical realm of Bríandalör, every day the brave...
Susan B. Anthony: The Making of America #4
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
In the fourth installment in the Making of America series,...
Hazel's Theory of Evolution
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
Hazel knows a lot about the world. That’s because when...
Sublime Karma
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
When Brie’s stepfather moves the family for what he...
Goddess Ascending
 
4.3
 
0.0 (0)
Promised to the Light. Hunted by the Dark. Two...
Crown of Coral and Pearl
 
4.7
 
0.0 (0)
Nor once dreamed of seeing the wondrous wealth and...
#Murderfunding (#MurderTrending, #2)
 
4.3
 
0.0 (0)
WELCOME TO WHO WANTS TO BE A PAINIAC?, the...
Voyages in the Underworld of Orpheus Black
 
3.3
 
0.0 (0)
Harry Black is lost between the world of war...
Vow of Thieves (Dance of Thieves, #2)
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Kazi and Jase have survived, stronger and more in...
The Lady Rogue
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
The Last Magician meets A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and...
A Very Pikmi Halloween (Pikmi Pops)
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
Pikmi Pops(TM) are the latest collectible craze! Join these cute...

Latest Member Reviews

Wilder Girls
 
4.3
"The top 3 reasons you need WILDER GIRLS by Rory Power on your shelf: 1.) The characters:..."
Butterfly Yellow
 
3.3
"BUTTERFLY YELLOW is a heartfelt and engrossing historical fiction. H?ng is in the US, searching for her younger brother. After..."
 
5.0
"*This review contains spoilers for book one, A BLADE SO BLACK* A DREAM SO DARK, sequel to A BLADE..."
The Lady Rogue
 
5.0
"THE LADY ROGUE is an absolutely thrilling historical fiction/fantasy. In the vein of THE MUMMY but in Romania and with..."
The Burning Shadow (Origin Series, #2)
 
3.7
"What worked: I'm a huge fan of the Lux series and LOVE Daemon. The relationship between Daemon and Kat is..."
Voyages in the Underworld of Orpheus Black
 
3.3
"VOYAGES IN THE UNDERWORLD OF ORPHEUS BLACK is a story about brotherhood, war, and the power of art. Harry is..."
Firebrand: The Initiation of Natali Presano (Firebrand, #1)
 
5.0
"This comic book is an interesting print form of a webtoon series that captures season 1. Natali Presano was born..."
Tiger Queen
 
5.0
"All Kateri wants to do is impress her father, become the queen she's meant to be, protect her people, and..."
Cracking the Bell
 
4.7
"Isaiah's family has struggled after the death of his sister in a car accident that wasn't her fault. The parents..."
The Haunted
 
3.7
"THE HAUNTED is a really fascinating YA horror that follows Hendricks, a teenage girl, after she moves into a haunted..."
My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life
 
3.3
"Sixteen-year-old foster kid Elle Zoellner's life turns topsy turvy when a father, she never knew about, wants her to move..."
Truly Madly Royally
 
3.0
"I’d be lying if I didn’t say that half of the reason why I read this was because it’s a..."
Finding Esme
 
3.3
"Esme feels alone. Her much-loved grandfather died, her dad deserted the family, her mom has mentally checked out, and her..."
House of Salt and Sorrows
 
4.3
"Annaleigh just wanted to be in charge of the lighthouse close to her island home. Rumors circulate on the island..."
Wreck: A Novel
 
4.3
"WRECK is a heart-wrenching story about a teenage girl on the brink of college as she discovers her father's life-altering..."
Reverie
 
5.0
"REVERIE is a captivating and unique YA fantasy without adequate comparisons. The book follows Kane, a teenage boy who was..."
Coral
 
3.0
"CORAL is not a fairytale retelling of THE LITTLE MERMAID- while it may have been inspired by some of the..."
You Are The Everything
 
4.0
"YOU ARE THE EVERYTHING is an intriguing stream-of-consciousness style read that follows Elyse Schmidt, a 16/17 year old girl who..."
The Last Hope
 
4.7
"I honestly don’t know where to begin! The Last Hope by Krista & Becca Ritchie picks up thirty days after..."
 
4.0
"Most books about a school shooting would start with the horrific event at the center of story, but EVERY MOMENT..."