Romance, Young Adult/Children

My Mechanical Romance by Alexene Farol Follmuth

Narrated by Amielynn Abellera, Christopher Salazar

This is not a genre I find myself enjoying too much, but I keep giving it a shot hoping for something like this. Young adult/teen romance does not always have me invested in the outcome, but the characterization here, as well as the entire atmosphere around the core story, was so brilliant that I am sure the author has had personal experience.
To give a little background, I studied computer science as an elective in my final years of school. Even with the large number of girls who end up taking it in higher studies (post Engineering), my class had nine girls and thirty boys (yes, our class sizes usually average that range if it sounds new). It did not make much of a difference most of the time since almost all of our teachers were women themselves, but sometimes even we felt the difference. This repeated itself in some small form or the other in Engineering as well, where the ratio was not much better. This time, the computer science batches had the better ratio, but I was in the Electrical and Electronics elective where the same thing happened. Again, for the most part, this is not as dramatic as it appears, but sometimes things stick with you. Like the mandatory mechanical lab one year where we had to do soldering and sawing, the prof automatically assumed I would not enjoy it(I loved it!) and gave all the girls in the class a blanket offer of assistance even before we started. If we had been struggling, it would have made more sense.
I gave such a comprehensive background because it coloured my experience with this book. There were so many moments that rang true even with these kids(I think by now I can call eighteen-year-olds that) being based in a whole other country, culture and almost two decades younger.
Bel is not a driven girl. She likes tinkering but does not see it as a skill that she could actually capitalize on. Mateo, on the other hand, has been trained to excel at robotics, with his father being in the same field. He has been provided with the right push from a young age, but that has him shouldering a lot more than he realizes. This is the story of how they help each other and take a look at their own lives with fresh eyes. I will not go any more into the story aspect since that forms the bulk of the book.
The author has written female characters in the engineering field with a lot of variety. They are not any one type. Liking robotics does not mean one does not like “girly” things, but on the other hand, it also does not mean that an individual female is a token representative of the ‘pink team’. This was very satisfying to watch. I kept looking for the author to slip up, thinking she is going to typecast someone or the other, but the variety of these California tech-loving teenagers (almost adults) was highly entertaining.
The book could have been slightly shorter, but the courtship did seem more realistic given the length of their time together.
It was filmy in certain scenes, but given the pressures in the narrative, it was not hard to imagine the scenario just as described and move on. The friendships and the straight-talking amongst people were well done. It is the kind of book I would recommend to someone who wonders what life for children in specialized coaching looks like.
The narrators did a great job in voicing these people who straddled the threshold between being responsible, independent adults and still being the children who school who crave parental hugs. This last part was the second most important reason for the rating. Normally with books like this, I feel like the characters feel too old for the plotline given to us, but here the note felt just right.
I received an ARC thanks to NetGalley and the publishers, but the review is entirely based on my own listening experience.

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