Thursday, June 22, 2017
REVIEW: Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley
Our Own Private Universe is set during the summer in Mexico. The main character, Aki, is spending the summer with her youth church group doing odd jobs for a community in Mexico. She's sort of hoping that this summer is the summer that Aki will stop living hypothetically and will start actually living. Including putting to the test her own bisexuality. Which she feels is the right label for her ... but how does she really know without ever kissing a girl? or anything else?
Let's start with the things I didn't quite love first... I didn't much care for the characters or their interactions with each other. Mainly the three main characters, Aki and her best friend, Lori and Aki's love interest for the summer, Christa. I felt like there was so much ...pettiness and arguing and keeping secrets and just needless drama then there needed to be. I felt weighed down by it in the end. The ridiculous lies told, the keeping of important truths. All three of them were guilty of it and I'm not sure how necessary it was? Sure, every story needs conflict but was this just over the top conflict for the sake of having conflict? I can't tell. But all this extra drama also made me question the ages of these girls. They felt much younger which made me feel uncomfortable. Shame this was quite pervasive throughout the story.
Moving on. What I did love, I really loved, as I said. The first is the exploration of Aki's sexuality. I've never read a YA book that discussed safe sex practices amongst lesbians in the way Our Own Private Universe did. And then (slight spoiler alert) to have a character educate herself on the risks involved in lesbian sex, obtain dental dams and rubber gloves, and then use them was pretty exceptional to me. It felt important and worthy to see this carried out and being discussed.
I also loved the exploration of faith within a multicultural environment and the ways in which teenagers in general combine their own faiths with that of sexuality in particular. One of the things that is brought up and is a very main story line are quite political discussions that are being brought up amongst the church community to agree on. And I loved that quite a lot of this story line revolves around the political engagement of young people on a vast array of socially important subjects from same sex marriage to armed police, war, and health care in struggling nations such as Mexico. I loved seeing how passionate everyone got and it really made my heart soar to see so many teenagers rally around these subjects and want their voices to be heard, wanting to educate about certain topics. The youth will save us.
So all in all, kind of a mixed bag on this one. I wanted to love it more than I did but felt letdown by the childishness and dramatics of the main characters. BUT! there was enough amongst the rest of the story to keep me reading. And perhaps, who knows? You might enjoy it too.