Cover of Our Own Private Universe. Two teen girls, one Black and one white, prepare to kiss

About the Book

Title: Our Own Private Universe
Published: 2017

Cover Story: Bleah
Drinking Buddy:
MPAA Rating: R (explicit sex)
Talky Talk:
Summer Lovin’
Bonus Factors:
Mexico, Church
Bromance Status:
 Teen Fling

Cover Story: Bleah

Giant teen faces, and a weird filter that almost obscures the fact that Aki is African-American. Ugh.

The Deal:

Aki and her church youth group are spending the summer in rural Mexico, working on public service projects. As the daughter of a minister, Aki is looking forward to the slightly relaxed rules south of the border. She and her friend Lori resolve to take the opportunity to have a romantic fling or two. And when Aki meets Christa, a free-spirited, fun loving bisexual girl from another church, she is smitten. Aki wonders if she may be bisexual herself, and thinks this is the perfect chance to find out. This is all casual, just a little experiment. Christa has a boyfriend at home anyway, and her parents wouldn’t understand the bisexual thing. It’s not like they’re falling in love or anything…

Drinking Buddy: ¡Salud!

Two pints of beer cheersing

I liked Aki. She was a talented musician who had fallen into a funk when she failed to get into an exclusive musical school. She’s smitten with Christa, even though she thinks this can’t last. She spearheads the an official church movement to approve of same-sex marriage, though is afraid to come out to her family. It’s a crazy time to be young, and maybe crazier when you’re an African-American girl in love with a white girl, and your church (and her parents) may not be okay with that.

MPAA Rating: R (explicit sex)

So, Aki and Christa find themselves alone in romantic Mexico. Soon, nature takes its course. And wow, the author doesn’t pull any punches. Let’s just say the descriptions are very…detailed. Oh my goodness. I may have an attack of the vapors.

Well, at least the readers will now know what a dental dam is.

Talky Talk: Summer Lovin’

On the one hand we have the beautiful story of two young women discovering the sweet taste of first love. Forbidden love. First kiss from a girl. First…well, you get the picture.

On the other hand, this is church camp, which is about as exciting as, well, church camp. I felt like there was a lot of back and forth: This is exciting/ we can’t let my parents know/ this is only for the summer/ repeat.

Bonus Factor: Mexico

A much younger FYA dude Brian on a horse in Mexico

The youth group is helping to build facilities in a small town south of Tijuana. Aki is experiencing the real Mexico, with the good food, friendly people, and the complete and utter lack of social and civil service. Aki wants to help out the locals, but there’s only so much a teenager can do. It’s kind of a wake up call to realize that even in a modern country like Mexico, people get by with a lot less than most Americans.

But God, the great food.

Bonus Factor: Church Camp

Ornate Church

So Aki and her father belong to a rather moderate church. Avi would like to tell her parents about her bisexuality, but is afraid how they’ll react. The same with her brother. College isn’t working out for him and he’d like to join the Army, but he knows he father would never agree.

Aki and her friends are part of a sort of a youth council, who have minor influence over church policy. They’re going to be voting on resolutions about things that interest Aki, as well as other social issues, such as universal health care, legalization of marijuana, and the morality of warfare. The teens realize that these issues are divisive, and that both sides make good points. They’ll have to settle this with real debate and research. And not, you know, devolving into personal attacks and insults.

Bromance Status: Teen Fling

While I doubt I’ll read you again, we’ll always have the memories. The praying, the long walks, that evening behind the bunk house…

FTC Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. No money or real Mexican tacos exchanged hands though.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.