Title: My Mechanical Romance
Author: Alexene Farol Follmuth
Publisher: Holiday House
Review Copy: Purchased
Availability: Available now
Summary: 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 swoon worthy perfection.
Review: One of the positive results of the pandemic is that I got back into reading romance novels again (both adult & YA) and while yes they are incredibly formulaic, a good romance that pulls you in has great characters, an interesting challenge for them, and often times as of late, also makes commentary on current social issues. My Mechanical Romance does all of this by having the two main characters, Bel and Teo, be on the high school robotics team, addressing the need for having more girls in STEM.
I liked that Alexene Carol Follmuth didn’t have Bel be a complete “fish out of water” on the robotics team, but more of a teen who loved creating complex structures with a brilliant mind, but just didn’t have direction. I know many teens like this who love engineering stuff but for whatever reason could not see themselves being engineers. For Bel, designing mechanical structures was something she did with her father and her brother, and something that also brought her contentment. By being pushed by a teacher, Bel learns more about herself and the possibilities for her future. Her relationship with Teo comes about after the confidence in herself and her skills grows. Because of this, when the two finally realize their feelings for each other, the relationship is very balanced and I enjoyed that part of the story. In fact, Teo becomes more open to how he has unwittingly participated in the discrimination of girls in STEM through his friendship with Bel and his view of the world is changed, making him an equal to Bel as well.
As for the romance, it was very, very slow-burning, and actually not very “swoon worthy” as the two characters are actually very logically minded people. The romanic tension was very subtle, as Bel and Teo naturally went from good friends to a couple. There wasn’t much “pinning” for the other in the text. There were moments, but both were mainly focused on the building of their robot, AP courses, applying for college, family pressure, you know…all the regular senior in high school stresses. I found the novel to be quite real in that aspect and enjoyed how not just Bel and Teo grew throughout the story, but the other characters around them (including one of their teachers!). The story felt real to life and that is what pulled me into the novel.