Follmuth, Alexene Farol. My Mechanical Romance. New York: Holiday House, 2022.
ISBN-13: 978-0823450107 | $18.99 USD | 266 pages | YA Contemporary Romance
Opposites attract in this battle-robot-building YA romance from the NYT best-selling author of The Atlas Six.
Bel would rather die than think about the future. College apps? You’re funny. Extracurriculars? Not a chance. But when she accidentally reveals a talent for engineering at school, she’s basically forced into joining the robotics club. Even worse? All the boys ignore Bel—and Neelam, the only other girl on the team, doesn’t seem to like her either.
Enter Mateo Luna, captain of the club, who recognizes Bel as a potential asset—until they start butting heads. Bel doesn’t care about Nationals, while Teo cares too much. But as the nights of after-school work grow longer and longer, Bel and Teo realize they’ve made more than just a combat-ready robot for the championship: they’ve made each other and the team better. Because girls do belong in STEM.
In her YA debut, Alexene Farol Follmuth, author of The Atlas Six (under the penname Olivie Blake), explores both the challenges girls of color face in STEM and the vulnerability of first love with unfailing wit and honesty. With an adorable, opposites-attract romance at its center and lines that beg to be read aloud, My Mechanical Romance is swoonworthy perfection.
A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley. Review based on final copy. All opinions are my own.
I requested My Mechanical Romance based on the cover and premise alone, not realizing that Alexene Farol Follmuth was also Olivie Blake at the time. I really didn’t get the hype for The Atlas Six, and had DNFed it, but hoped this was a case where I simply preferred her writing in one genre over the other. Unfortunately, while I appreciate what she was trying to do here, I didn’t gel with it.
I do like the general intent. While I don’t feel drawn to any STEM fields myself, I am aware of the sexism within those industries…and how it can be worse when you’re a woman of color due to being doubly marginalized. Bel personally faces accusations of being the “token woman of color” and being added to the robotics team solely for “diversity points,” something that is very common to hear in this day and age, instead of pausing to consider the merit people like her add, due to their talent and diverse background.
Bel is also generally relatable in her own right, because of how she expresses what it’s like to be a child of divorce. I appreciate how she attempts to handle it in the most mature way possible, with the acknowledgment that this change in family dynamics has had a major impact on her.
Teo is ok, but definitely suffered from the book being a bit too short to delve into his story equally. The romance is cute, but this is yet another book that dramatically oversells the rivalry aspect, when it’s incredibly tame.
And I don’t know if it’s the way that the author writes about academics and technical things that just puts me off or what, but that seems to be the common denominator here and with TAS. The latter book went hard in terms of the “magical academics” to the point where I didn’t care about the many characters introduced. And here, while the smaller main cast made it easier to connect with them, the depiction of robotics dragged the book down for me.
So, while this book didn’t entirely work for me, it’s probably a reflection of my issues with the author’s style and choices more than anything else. This is a great book unpacking the issues of young women of color in STEM fields, and I can see why it resonates for that reason.
Alexene Farol Follmuth is a first-generation American, a romance enthusiast, Ana a lover and writer of stories. Alexene has penned a number of adult SFF projects under the name Olivie Blake, including the webtoon Clara and the Devil and the BookTok-viral The Atlas Six. My Mechanical Romance is her YA debut. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, new baby, and rescue pit bull. Find her at https://www.alexenefarolfollmuth.com.
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