Tuesday 15 August 2017

Review! - Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley

Our Own Private Universe title image

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Title: Our Own Private Universe

Author: Robin Talley

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ+, Romance (F/F)

Amazon: UK - USA

A few starting notes:

I received a free digital review copy of this book via NetGalley. NetGalley provides review copies from publishers in exchange for fair and honest reviews.

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I've previously read and reviewed two of Talley's books - As I Descended, a queer YA retelling of Macbeth, and Lies We Tell Ourselves, a book about girls falling in love across the divide of racial segregation.

Both books have been fairly criticised for aspects of diverse representation which weren't good enough.

I shamelessly admit that I loved both, and missed a lot of the problems with Lies We Tell Ourselves in particular when I read it. 

I love Robin Talley's books - but I also clearly have a habit of missing things in them, so if I've done it again, don't hesitate to let me know.

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A note on Robin Talley herself though:

Of course she makes mistakes, but I can't help but admire a lesbian woman who's managed to do so well, and gained such a level of success, with her books.

No, we should never ignore mistakes that affect people. We should discuss them, point them out, and treat them critically.

But we should also remember to celebrate diverse creators, and not hold them to a different standard - either higher or lower - to anyone else.


Aki figures that you only get one chance to lead an interesting life... and she's currently not leading one.

But this summer she's heading to Mexico with her father's church (literally - he's the pastor,) so maybe it's time for some no-strings-attached summer fun.

And then Aki meets Christa... and there are definite sparks.

But between issues with her best friend, Lori, and deciding whether to come out to her family...

Plus the little detail that Christa has a boyfriend back home...

Well, this summer's going to be very interesting. 

Best bits:

Complex characters

The complexity of the characters here impressed me - they really do seem to have various depths, hopes, feelings, and all that jazz.

I think they were also quite relatable - which is always awesome. :)

We have a bisexual black girl as a main character - which rocks - and she has real depth (imho.)

And this really is character-lead more than anything (action-filled-plot fans may not be the best audience here.)

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Safe sex

Safe sex. On page F/F safe sex action. That is so rare - especially in YA.

And there were def. things that yours truly didn't know much about - like dental dams, and gloves (actual gloves - for your hands.)

There's bacteria downstairs that shouldn't go anywhere else, and bacteria from everywhere else that shouldn't go downstairs. #TrueStory.

Also fantastic was the emphasis on discussing this with your sexual partner. If you aren't ready to talk about it, you aren't ready to have sex.

(And if someone is making you feel guilty or naïve for talking about and/or wanting safe sex, that should be a massive red flag! Ditch their a**.)

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It's actually not that often that we see questioning characters in YA - they tend to have some sort of major revelation, and: BOOM, you're [insert label here.]

In real life? It doesn't really work like that.

Real life is years of trying to figure out why and how you're different. It's not an overnight thing - especially if you don't have the words to explain yourself.

At the same time, there have been reviewers who raise questions of bi-erasure in this book, which are important to discuss (see 'not so great bits' section.)

I personally didn't interpret it that way - but if anyone who is bisexual all the time (unlike yours truly, who is sometimes bi, due to being fluid,) has reviewed this book please let me know!

I don't have the perspective of someone who is always bi, so I might be missing things that to others scream bi-erasure.

Not so great bits:

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Potentially distressing content:

- being afraid to come out/coming out

- being outed

- being blackmailed due to sexuality

- poverty

- discussions of/references to parents/others who are homophobic, and homeless LGBTQ+ youth

- academic struggles

- discussions of various social issues - e.g., guns, war, health care, poverty

- cheating/infidelity

- grief

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- lying (EVERYWHERE - see below)

- brief racism

- homophobia/biphobia/queerphobia

- bullying/people acting like jerks

There's also some ableist language: crazy, dumb, etc. It doesn't bother me, but I know it bothers a lot of people.

And there's a lot of underage drinking, underage sex, and generally doing irresponsible cr*p.


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Goddammit just talk to each other and stop lying! Wtf is wrong with you?!

...I think that statement pretty much sums my point. You know when you just want the character to not do the ill-advised thing? That.

It's not just the teens either. The adults - including the freaking minister - are just as bad.

There's quite a lot of 'drama' here. Which, teens = drama, so I really don't have a problem with it, but for a lot of people I know that's a deal-breaker.

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Drags in places

Look, parts of this are slow. I really didn't mind at all, but I can see some people getting frustrated with this.

There's not much in terms of plot - it really is character-driven.

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Dudes, supervise your damned kids!!!!

Where was the parental supervision?! Or, like, the trip-leader supervision?!

In Aki's case, her dad is actually one of the supervisors. And he's totally oblivious to pretty much everything.

Seriously: if you are taking a large group of teens to another country, YOU HAVE TO WATCH THEM.

Otherwise, there's sex and drinking everywhere. Even with church kids. #JustSaying

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Other views of this book

I've tried to find some critical reviews which talk about the rep in the book, but don't have some sort of unfair issue with the book - i.e., the reviewers aren't writing from a biphobic, queerphobic, racist, or otherwise bigoted standpoint.

(Doing this was far more difficult than it should have been - dammit reviewers!)

I also excluded reviews which for some reason had a problem with safe sex. Because, no. Just no.

If you have anything, especially if you're an #ownvoices reviewer, please let me know!

So here are some critical reviews I've found:

I don't know the sexuality of any of these reviewers, as they don't identify themselves.


One with many talking points, and a really enjoyable read.

Not for everyone though; so if it sounds like your thing, go for it - but otherwise, you might wanna give it a miss.

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Last updated: 26th November 2019


  1. This looks like a great book! I've definitely heard of it before, and even though it doesn't seem to be perfect, I'm always willing to give an own voices author a chance.

    1. It's technically not #ownvoices as Robin Talley is lesbian, and the MCs of this book are bisexual.

      When it comes to love between girls though, she def. knows what she's talking about! :)

      I think you'd enjoy this one :)

  2. This book sounds great. I always find it hard when i like books with not great diversity rep, but at the end of the day art is art, we all see it differently. Our enjoyment is what's important!
    Tori @ In Tori Lex

    1. I think as long as we discuss things, and don't ignore the issues, then f**k yeah! Life's too short to not enjoy things! :)

  3. I haven't read any of her books, mainly because they don't sound like something I'd enjoy. But, I am slowly trying to incorporate more diversity into my reading. So, mayhaps I'll read her stuff one day (probably not, though, tbh. I get really triggered with sex scenes and stuff, no matter what orientation).
    But, I'm glad you're reviewing her work and are open to boosting bisexual voices in your review. *Thumbs up*

    1. Thanks :)

      And no problem - you read what you feel comfortable with. I'm just happy that there *are* now f/f sex scenes in YA books in this world! Lol.

      *thumbs up back atcha* *cwtches*

  4. I really enjoyed it, and I hope you do too! :) Thanks for your awesome comment :)

  5. hahaha you made me laugh with the adult supervision! Don't you know there is no supervision in YA books [winks] as far as the safe sex... hum... I don't read much romance and when I read it I tend to like it not TMIish ;-P BUT I understand it's important for YA readers to keep that in mind I'm just not YA anymore and I prefer not to read about the "logistics" [winks again]

    1. I think it's extra-important in LGBTQ+ YA - because people just don't get told this stuff!

      There's a scene where Aki goes to an internet café to google it - because there's no other info she has about what to do to keep safe. Sex ed in schools (here at least, and I'm sure in a lot of places,) is centred on allocishet (not queer,) sex - and even then (trying not to get too TMI, but here we go!) they don't explain that with... mouths... you should be using either condoms or dental dams (depending on the parts!) same goes for the... rear end of things! Lol.

  6. This actually sounds like something I'd like. I can cope with a little bit of dragging but I love YA books, especially if they're full of drama. I think I'm missing my teen years haha

    Thank you for joining in #RVHT it's going to have a rest for the next fortnight and then I should return, revamped in two weeks. I'll tweet you!

    1. It's a great book :) Nothing wrong with reading YA as an adult! (Anyone who says different needs a slap! Lol.)

      Thanks v much for putting up with me and my randomness in your awesomeful link-up! :) I'll be happy to re-join you when it comes back :)


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