This one of my most anticipated releases for the entirety of 2017. After reading Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley, I was eager to get my hands on her new book: Our Own Private Universe. I was excited because I read that this book was about a bisexual, POC, fifteen-year-old, who goes to Mexico with the church. So already, there’s a lot going on here: we have a black girl, a bisexual protagonist who wants to explore her sexuality and it’s set in Mexico where there are religious aspects to it. After finishing it, I realised that I was slightly disappointed. *lengthy review ahead*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. Her best friend, Lori, is the only person who knows she likes girls.
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. 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.
I hate insta-love when it just doesn’t work… in The Sun is Also a Star, insta-love works beautifully, but in Our Own Private Universe, it’s like INSTA-INSTA-INSTA LIKE. Not even one chapter goes by and Aki is looking at Christa and developing a crush on her. I mean I know that there’s being thrown into the action and everything but jeez… This was quick.
BUT! Once the romance kicked off, it was so adorable. I loved how Aki and Christa were around each other and I loved how both of them were exploring their sexuality properly for the first time. We read how Aki is constantly getting butterflies and getting tongue-tied around Christa; she’s constantly looking for her in a crowd just to get that millisecond of pleasure.
This book posed a lot of questions about lesbian sex. How do you have sex? What do you do? How does it feel? What do I need? All of these questions are brought up and answered throughout this book which I think is brilliant, as Talley is raising awareness that there is not just hetero sex. However, as brilliant as it was, it almost felt like I was reading a leaflet that I would find in the NHS clinic, it was very factual but put me off slightly as I thought that there must be a better way to incorporate these facts into the book. However, I will say that it’s awesome to see an author promote safe sex; it’s very refreshing.
I also wasn’t expecting those sex scenes! I loved how Aki and Christa’s friendship and the relationship was growing but I forgot that they were only fifteen – Christa is slightly older, so I’m guessing she’s sixteen? The scenes that Talley described in the book were very descriptive and although in no way did I feel uncomfortable about the actual sexual content; I did feel uncomfortable about the age of Aki. I do believe that it’s 100% okay to recognise your sexuality at any age and I believe that it’s ok to explore your sexuality but in this mad rush like Aki did? It almost felt purely sexual. I wish the butterflies would have lasted for longer, I wish the friendship building was longer.
“Frankly, it’s self-evident. As people of faith, it’s our duty to love everyone, the way God loves everyone. There’s no reason why any one group is less deserving of love – either the love of a church community, to the love of a family – than any other.”
― Robin Talley,
The one thing that really bothered me about this book was all of the lies. Lies seemed to be coming out of every direction and it just really irritated me. I’m not on about hiding your sexuality from your parents; or hiding big, personal problems from people, but when it’s really petty things like how Aki won’t tell Christa her favourite song? C’mon… All of the lies that Lori told as well, I was so angry at her for most of the book and I just wanted her to stay away from Aki. The whole book was pretty much full of secrets and lies that I nearly got whiplash from a number of sudden things that happened.
However, the positives of this book were beautiful. I loved how the protagonist was black (finally!), I love how the whole book just focuses on sexuality. I think it’s brilliant. I love how there were multiple LGB characters and I loved how the whole story was set in a church environment. There’s so much backlash in today’s society that religious people despise LGBT individuals and the generalisation of their beliefs; this book shows that people not everyone within the church community is close-minded and they will support you. I also loved the big debate that the church had at the end to do with important issues that are parallel with today. I love how they spoke about gay marriage, immigration and healthcare.
I loved how Talley subtly told the audience that we need to care for one another; it doesn’t matter what religion you are, it doesn’t matter what race you are, what sexuality you are; we all need to come together and stop the horrible forces that want to bring cultures and sub-cultures to the ground.
This is a very good book and although it’s not as good as Lies We Tell Ourselves, it tackles some important issues, it’s a diverse read and Talley’s writing never fails to entertain.
Disclaimer: this book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review