Our Own Private Universe

UniverseRobin Talley. Our Own Private Universe. Ontario: HarlequinTEEN, 2017.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Prince songs that are secretly your favorite song ever

This book, you guys. This book is sexy like woah. Like, it goes into all the steamy, graphic details.    This book is not to be read without a tall glass of ice water nearby.

Aki Simon is fifteen, and has recently realized she might be bisexual, and this summer may be her first chance to test her theory. Of course, on her very first night in Mexico, where she and forty other church youth travel for a volunteer project, she meets the perfect girl. Christa is older, probably more experienced, and totally cute, and totally seems to be into Aki. Are they up for a summer fling, or could this turn into something more serious?

One of the great things about Robin Talley, as I first discovered in What We Left Behind, is how she explores the different questions readers might have about LGBT experiences. Her LGBT characters have those same questions about themselves, and that’s totally ok. Like, what exactly does it mean to be bisexual? Do you have to be equally attracted to guys and girls? If you choose to be monogamous with someone, does that suddenly make you straight or gay?

It used to be that whenever I pictured my grown-up, married life, I was always married to a faceless guy. Now, though, I usually saw myself with a faceless girl. Did that mean I was gay now? Or gayer than I used to be, at least?
Were bi people always supposed to be exactly bi? Did it have to be fifty-fifty, or could it be, say, sixty-forty? And could it be different percentages on different days? [1]

And how exactly do you have sex with another girl?

These kinds of questions make the characters very real and relatable. Some are pretty sure of who and what they are, while others are figuring it out day to day.

I also like how cool Aki’s church sounds:

Holy Life churches aren’t the kind where preachers talk constantly about how abortion is evil and how we should all vote Republican or anything, though. I mean, some people at my church probably do vote Republican, but mostly we don’t talk about that stuff. Instead, we get together for picnics and ice-cream socials, and on Sunday mornings we sing hymns and listen to sermons about whatever Jesus did that week. [2]

The one thing I wasn’t so sure I liked was the occasional inconsistency with Christa’s character – she says she wants to be really careful about who finds out about her relationship with Aki, but she’s inconsistent in how careful she is to hide that relationship. The story starts with her openly flirting with Aki, and admitting to Aki’s best friend that she likes girls. But for the rest of the story, she freaks out any time she thinks someone might have seen her and Aki together. Then again, Aki does notice this as an inconsistency, so maybe it’s just part of what makes Christa a complicated character.

Another thing that slightly threw me off was how much free time these volunteers seem to have to constantly wander around the town, considering they’re supposed to be helping build a new church and doing other projects, and they only have about a month to do it all.

Other than that, though, this is a lovely, steamy summer romance with well-developed, relatable characters. And yes, you do find out what Aki’s favorite Prince song is 🙂



[1] Pg. 314

[2] Pg. 37


  1. I’ll have to check it out. Growing up I had a lot of LGBT friends, and things didn’t always go well for them. Good to know there’s another decent book on the subject. Haven’t read it yet, but would venture a guess that Christa is so confused herself, she’ll say what she feels in that particular moment. Plus, if she’s older than Aki, she’d also fulfill the role of partner to lean on in a way, feeling that responsibility. But like I said, haven’t read the book yet, so these are just off the top of my head.

    • Those do sound like good points about Christa. She wants to really be true to herself now that she has a chance, while she’s away from home, but she’s still really worried about what could get back to the wrong people at a time when anything can be easily posted on the internet.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      • That’s actually what I meant. Only having to watch autocorrect, so it doesn’t mess anything up, got in the way of expressing myself.

        I’m not in the U.S., but is it recommended reading in any school you know of? Because that would be a really good idea.

        • I haven’t yet heard if this book has been listed as recommended reading in any schools. I’m not sure if the sexual content would prevent it from being recommended in a school setting, but it would be really cool if it was at least on summer reading lists.

          • Yeah, that always bothered me. You’re not supposed to read a book due to sexual content when most teens are already very much aware of the very things everyone else is trying to shelter them from.

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