cover image Our Own Private Universe

Our Own Private Universe

Robin Talley. Harlequin Teen, $18.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-373-21198-2

Fifteen-year-old Aki Simon is a preacher’s daughter, a talented musician, “the black girl with braids,” and bisexual—though not everyone knows about that last item. Aki has never had a girlfriend or boyfriend, but during a youth group trip to Mexico, she finally allows herself to explore. Sparks fly when she meets a girl named Christa, even though Christa is closeted about her own interest in girls. Aki, meanwhile, worries about coming out to her father while dealing with her older brother, Drew, who plans to drop out of college and enlist in the army; both situations have the potential to cause conflict with their father, and they also serve as neat parallels to larger conversations within their church about war and gay marriage. Talley (As I Descended) realistically explores first love and first sexual experiences against a backdrop of faith, family, prejudice, and social justice. Though these themes aren’t explored as deeply as Aki and Christa’s conflicted and increasingly steamy relationship, it’s a valuable portrait of teenage girls learning to be honest with themselves and others. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jim McCarthy, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (Jan.)