Readers of my blog or anyone who has spoken to me about queer YA fiction ever will know that I’m a massive Robin Talley fan; her novels Lies We Tell Ourselves and As I Descended rank as some of my favourites.
Our Own Private Universe is a very different novel from these two, and by all appearances seems to be more of a return to her contemporary queer writing seen in What We Left Behind.
Aki Simon is in Mexico to build a church with her father, brother Drew and best friend Lori. Intending to make their summer exciting, Lori and Aki promise each other a summer fling to report back on.
Upon arriving, Aki meets beautiful Christa, mysterious, experienced and seriously cute. As they get closer, Christa reveals the boyfriend waiting back home and the agreement of a don’t ask, don’t tell agreement for summer romance! But making out with a girl while building a church, with her father around the corner, could be asking for trouble…
Our Own Private Universe is an ambitious novel, that seeks to educate its readers on wider political issues as well as sexualities. I think really it is a novel about lying – the lies we tell our families and our friends to protect ourselves, enhance our pasts, ensure our futures. In fact, I’d say the title “Lies We Tell Ourselves” is actually a pretty apt name for this novel.
I was expecting a little more faith and religion conflict having just read Georgia Peaches, but instead Aki grapples with a past ambition of music alongside her sexuality.
Importantly, this novel not only tackles sex between two people with vulvas, it also discusses how to do that while using protection and what options there are. It shows that having this conversation is important.
I think for young bi kids looking to learn a lot, this novel would be a god-send (and in some cases a great example of what not to do). Talley’s writing always pushes the edges of what fiction can be, seeking to educate alongside entertainment, and I think that she succeeds. This is definitely much slower paced than Lies and Descended, so give it the time and space it requires.
Interested? Get it here.
What to read next:
- The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
- Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruits by Jaye Robin Brown
- All of the Above by Juno Dawson
Thank you kindly to HQ Stories and Harper Collins for sharing this copy with me.