Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley
Genre: Contemporary, LGBT
Format: ARC e-book
I don’t even know how to put into words how disappointed I am with this one. It just…fell flat. The setting did nothing to enhance the story (and was void of any kind of adult supervision, which was unrealistic for the type of trip they’re on), the social activist thread came way too late in the story for me to be convinced it was Aki’s passion, her hidden backstory with the music school was over emphasised and came to nothing, there was so much unnecessary drama based on lying about stupid things.
What I hated most was how Aki completely abandoned her best friend, Lori, as soon as she started getting close to Christa. Friendships and relationships can co-exist, but after reading this, you’d think that’s impossible. I also genuinely despised the parts of the book that tried to infer what a ‘normal’ teenager is (someone who doesn’t sit and read books like me, for sure) and that the only way to be interesting is to be in a relationship. I read somewhere that 60% of teens aren’t in romantic relationships. Does that make more than half our age group boring??
As far as bisexual and lesbian representation goes…I don’t know. There were lots of lesbian stereotypes, and suggestions that Aki was being bisexual wrong (??) She did really question her sexuality and I appreciated how her struggle to find herself was represented, but something about it just didn’t sit right with me. I’ll be interested to see reviews from people who identify as bisexual to see if this was well done and sensitive. The characters had a conversation at the end about sexual orientation as well as romantic orientation which felt a little shoehorned in for the sake of it, like bisexual people shouldn’t feel the need to explain themselves to others all the time.
The one big positive for this book was the discussion of safe sex, regardless of your sexuality and how important it is, so I’ll give it a star for that. I can count the number of times I’ve read LGBT+ sex scenes on my thumb, but I need more than two hands to count how many hetero sex scenes I’ve read, so I’m all for this.
Would I recommend? I know a lot of people were pumped about it as an Own Voices, diverse read, but maybe try Robin Talley’s other books if you’re looking for books with LGBT+ protagonists.