ARC Review: Ode to My First Car by Robin Gow | Teen Ink

ARC Review: Ode to My First Car by Robin Gow

February 28, 2023
By keine_ahnung GOLD, Omaha, Nebraska
keine_ahnung GOLD, Omaha, Nebraska
10 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers

Overall, Ode to My First Car was a below-average read for me as someone who has read over a hundred queer books.  But had this book fallen into my arms in sixth grade, my life would have been transformed.  A bisexual teen trying to figure out her life, family, and most importantly herself?  This is the type of representation the LGBTQ+ community needs.  

Robin Gow depicted the narrator, Claire, beautifully and candidly as she spends the summer before her senior year falling for her best friend, Sophia.  For me, a best-friends-to-lovers romance would be all I need.  However, Gow included the messiness and loneliness and exploration of finding yourself, especially when you’re scared to be yourself.  I deeply resonated with Claire’s late night worries about coming out to her parents and her feeling of being in an environment where being queer is practically unheard of.  For any LGBTQ+ person looking to see their experiences with coming out reflected in a book, this is a fantastic read.  For any allies wanting to understand the innermost fears but also excitement of coming out, this is a fantastic read.

I was truly blown away and appreciative of how positive I found the representation to be.  Claire had a healthy relationship with herself while simultaneously having a healthy relationship with her brother, Sophia, and Lena.  In a book industry often full of tragic or villainous queer stories, the happy ending and positive relationships meant so much.  Lena was such a lovely role model in the story, causing me to long for a real-life Lena to give me advice.  Sophia made mistakes but was willing to reconcile and apologize to Claire.  Even Pen, who Claire did not ultimately end up with, demonstrated a healthy friendship and forgiveness after the break-up.  I seriously did not have any complaints about the representation in Ode to My First Car, which unfortunately is rare for queer books.

While Gow wrote some amazing representation, the reason the book was below-average for me was the overall construction of the book.  As I mentioned, sixth-grade me would have been over the moon, but at this point in my reading, I’m a bit more picky.  I would say that I know the LGBTQ+ YA/romance genre pretty thoroughly at this point and I’ve read enough to know what I like and dislike in novels.  Besides the phenomenal representation, Ode to My First Car doesn’t stick out and isn’t something I would recommend.  

My main problem was the narrator’s voice.  Claire felt like a middle schooler or high school freshman, at best, to me.  Her expressions were cheesy or overall just immature for a high school senior, in my opinion.  I felt like I was reading a middle grade novel until you got to the plot.  She would also observe the world or mention things in an immature manner.  For instance, when Sophia explained proportions in math to her, Claire exclaimed, “that totally blew my mind” (27).  

I also was not too fond of the verse style of the novel.  I love verse- when it’s done well.  In Ode to My First Car, the verse never enhances the story and ultimately seems unnecessary.  For a story so engulfed in love and feelings of finding yourself, the text never stole my breath away or even made me swoon.  And I’m a hopeless romantic.  Falling in love with your best friend, discovering yourself, coming out, dating- those are all very emotional and special moments.  Yet, the book never did them justice.  Even with mourning the loss of her car, Claire’s thoughts are never poetic.  It just caused some of the plot to drag.

Ultimately, I do applaud the wonderful representation and queer joy depicted in the book.  I can’t say whether I would recommend it, just because I have read better queer books, but it was a quick and enjoyable read.  I hope someone questioning their sexual/gender identity reads this.

The author's comments:

I received Ode to My First Car to review through the Teen Ink Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) Program.

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