A diverse story of first times and finding oneself.
Black 15-year-old Aki feels as though everything about her life is hypothetical: she’s “a hypothetical musician…a hypothetical Christian [and] a hypothetical teenager”—and, she feels, hypothetically bisexual. She’s not sure about everything, but she does know she’s ready to start acting on her “hypothetical” sexuality, even as she is hesitant to step out of the closet. When she signs up, along with her 19-year-old brother and her youth minister father, for a monthlong service trip to Mexico for Holy Life church youth groups, she and her best friend make a pact: “hook up with someone…three times” before the end of the trip. When she sparks with white, artsy, pansexual, and deeply closeted Christa, Aki is beyond eager to dive into new and exciting firsts. Occasional Forever…-like didacticism slips in now and again, with teen characters educating one another on intricacies of LGBTQ identities and attractions as well as researching and seeking out dental dams and other protection. However, these moments provide welcome information and discussions rarely seen in books for teens (or in public school sex education). Aki’s first-person narration rings true, and her simultaneous comfort with and concerns about her sexuality—and other parts of her identity—feel realistic and authentic. Her faith is portrayed positively, with respect and nuance not often seen in books for teens generally, let alone one with a queer protagonist.
An important and heartfelt contribution to contemporary teen lit about queer women: hopeful, realistic, and romantic, Talley’s newest is sure to satisfy. (Fiction. 14-18)