Book Review: Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley
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.
Our Own Private Universe is a young-adult LGBT coming-of-age story. Aki is pretty sure she’s bisexual and she is just starting to accept it. The only person she’s told is her best friend Lori. Aki and Lori are spending the summer on a mission trip to Mexico with their church, at which Aki’s father is the pastor, and two other churches. Aki and Lori make a pact that they will both have summer flings while on the trip. Upon arriving in Mexico, Aki meets Christa, a cute girl from one of the other churches, and falls instantly in like. Luckily for her, Christa is bi too. Aki thinks Christa would be the perfect girl for her to have her fling with. Christa thinks Aki is cute too and soon a clandestine relationship between the two begins. After a time, Aki wants more than just a fling but there is one problem – Christa has a boyfriend back home.
I thought Our Own Private Universe was a realistic portrayal of an LGBT teenager’s struggle to define her identity. Aki has so many questions. What does it mean to be bisexual? Now that she’s been involved with a girl, if they break up, does her next relationship have to be with a boy? Should she come out to her parents? How do two girls have sex anyway?
Since the author is married to a woman, I assume that she’s a member of the LGBT community and was able to draw from her experience to make this book authentic. In the acknowledgements she says that this book is the book she wished she had when she was a young-adult reader herself. I also think this book would be a great resource for LGBT teenagers. Even though Aki is fictional, I think it would help them to feel like they’re not alone. It always feels good to be represented in a positive way in popular culture. It’s also good to learn about people who are different than you so straight teens would benefit and enjoy this book as well.
(I received a complementary copy of this book for review.)