Size Doesn’t Matter (198): Our Own Private Universe; Echo After Echo

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (198): Our Own Private Universe; Echo After EchoOur Own Private Universe by Robin Talley
Published by Harlequin Teen on January 31, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
AmazonThe Book Depository
Goodreads
four-stars

Fifteen-year-old Aki Simon has a theory. And it's mostly about sex.

No, it isn't that kind of theory. Aki already knows she's bisexual—even if, until now, it's mostly been in the hypothetical sense. Aki has dated only guys so far, and her best friend, Lori, is the only person who knows she likes girls, too.

Actually, Aki's theory is that she's got only one shot at living an interesting life—and that means she's got to stop sitting around and thinking so much. It's time for her to actually do something. Or at least try.

So when Aki and Lori set off on a church youth-group trip to a small Mexican town for the summer and Aki meets Christa—slightly older, far more experienced—it seems her theory is prime for the testing.

But it's not going to be easy. For one thing, how exactly do two girls have sex, anyway? And more important, how can you tell if you're in love? It's going to be a summer of testing theories—and the result may just be love.

So far, I’ve read (or tried—sorry, As I Descended, you just were not my thing) all of Robin Talley’s novels. She’s consistently high quality and focuses on realities of f/f relationships that no one else does. That continues in Our Own Private Universe, which I think may be my favorite of her novels thus far.

Aki, her brother, and their youth group leader father are all in Mexico for the summer to help build a new church. They’re part of a big group with teens (and a few adults) from three congregations (all part of a larger church organization). When I first started, I was nervous, because I’m very easily annoyed by books about faith, but Talley does a nice job with balance. There are people with hateful opinions, people who believe that faith is completely compatible with being lgbt, and people who are honestly trying to figure out how they feel. The book is neither preachy nor dismissive of religion. It’s a nice readalike for Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit. Biracial Aki becomes more and more invested in her church over the summer, but in a way that even I found pretty sweet and inspiring.

Aki and her friend Lori make a pact to have a “summer fling” while in Mexico. Though Aki’d been planning to hook up with a boy, she finds herself drawn to Christa. The two quickly strike up a flirtation and then some serious kissing. They’re a decent ship, but the shippiness takes a hit because they’re both lying about things from the outset, and that doesn’t really get my ship engines going. I very much don’t unship them, but that relationship was less emotionally impactful to me than Aki’s with her father or with her church.

In Our Own Private Universe, Talley brings up the topic of safe sex for two women, which I think might be a first for f/f, at least in YA. It’s awesome, but also “dental dam” has to be the least sexy term in the whole entire world. The resulting sex scenes don’t have as much hotness, but the realness, both awkwardness and the fun, is pretty great.

While not precisely my sort of read, I was very impressed with Our Own Private Universe. There’s a reason I keep reading Talley, even though I generally only care about fluffy romances in my contemporary novels.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (198): Our Own Private Universe; Echo After EchoEcho After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta
Published by Candlewick on October 10, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Mystery
Pages: 432
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible
Goodreads
four-stars

Debuting on the New York stage, Zara is unprepared—for Eli, the girl who makes the world glow; for Leopold, the director who wants perfection; and for death in the theater.

Zara Evans has come to the Aurelia Theater, home to the visionary director Leopold Henneman, to play her dream role in Echo and Ariston, the Greek tragedy that taught her everything she knows about love. When the director asks Zara to promise that she will have no outside commitments, no distractions, it’s easy to say yes. But it’s hard not to be distracted when there’s a death at the theater—and then another—especially when Zara doesn’t know if they’re accidents, or murder, or a curse that always comes in threes. It’s hard not to be distracted when assistant lighting director Eli Vasquez, a girl made of tattoos and abrupt laughs and every form of light, looks at Zara. It’s hard not to fall in love. In heart-achingly beautiful prose, Amy Rose Capetta has spun a mystery and a love story into an impossible, inevitable whole—and cast lantern light on two girls, finding each other on a stage set for tragedy.

Continuing my hunt for a life-ruining (in all the best ways) f/f OTP, I requested Echo After Echo. Spoiler alert: this is not my ship of dreams. The good news is that the book itself is really well-executed and stunningly theatrical.

Let’s get the sad part over with first: the ship is the worst part. I really hate how often I say that with f/f romances. LET ME LOVE YOU. Zara and Eli absolutely instalove on each other. There’s scarcely an attempt to make it anything other than that. Add in some forbidden romance, because the director doesn’t want his lead distracted, and it’s very much not a Christina ship. It’s not an unship, but it’s very much a shrug.

However, I absolutely loved both the writing (heart-achingly beautiful prose? uhhh, idk maybe) and the plotting. Though the play featured is an invented Greek tragedy, there’s something Shakespearean to the cursed show, and there’s a beautiful usage of the play within a play trope. Everything that happens plot-wise feels very studied and very aware of the tropes and histories of the theater, and oh it’s dark and delicious.

For the writing, what I want to call out is the multiple POV. While I love multiple points of view in theory, they so often end up weakening a narrative, because the voices aren’t strong enough or distract from the flow of the narrative, especially when they’re really short chapters. Here, they’re done in third person, and you end up in the head of pretty much every cast member at some point. Rather than feeling gimmicky, forced, or distracting, everything really comes together perfectly. Capetta manages to give all the key elements of the mystery without actually telegraphing the twists. It is absolutely brilliantly done, and I applaud. Perhaps just as impressive, despite crossing 400 pages, it doesn’t feel long.

The craft on Echo After Echo is totally on point. Though I didn’t get the feels from this one, I would absolutely recommend it to folks who love theater, murder mysteries, or multiple POVs done well.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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