Leah on the Offbeat
- Author: Becky Albertalli
- Genre: YA Romance
- Publication Date: April 4, 2018
- Publisher: Balzer + Bray
- Series: Simonverse #3
CONTENT WARNING: profanity, racism, fatphobia (minor)
When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.
So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.
Becky Albertalli returns to the world of her acclaimed first novel, Simon vs. the Homo sapiens Agenda, in this warm and humorous story of first love and senior-year angst.
While I loved Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Leah was definitely the weakest part of the book for me. She wasn’t a very likable character, although I honestly hoped there was going to be so much more to her in this book. Unfortunately, this one just didn’t give me the same warm and fuzzy feeling, and I wound up reading just to catch up with literally all the other characters. Except Morgan, who lost a lot of my regard.
Leah (while having an awesome name in common with … ME), is rude, obnoxious, and snarky, but not really in a good way at all. She does have some funny moments, but mostly, her personality just grated on me for like … the entire book. I found myself wondering why her friends actually bother putting up with her, especially since it kind of seems like they tiptoe around her the vast majority of the time to avoid getting on her bad side. There’s so much of the miscommunication trope at work in this book, and while this can really work in some cases, it didn’t quite come through for me in this one. My biggest problem was that a) Leah led someone on for nearly the entire book because she just didn’t want to tell them how she felt, and b) she cut herself off from all of the support that was available to her because she just refused to open up to anyone at all. Like, not one single person actually knew how she felt about anything.
On the other hand, I lived for the times when Simon and Bram showed up. These two were absolutely living their best lives, and seeing them continuing to date in this book was the most heart-warming thing in the book! Seeing the rest of the crew felt like catching up with old friends as well. Somehow, this quirky group comprised of a strange mix of band kids, drama kids, and soccer jocks. But they manage to make it work.
The story takes place at a time that’s really momentous for high schoolers—towards the end of senior year, when they’re applying and getting into colleges, and getting ready for prom. However, this is also when it hits them that everything in their lives is about to change, when they go away to school and there are major shifts in their friendships and the paths that they will take in their future. And the way Becky Albertalli puts it is absolutely beautiful and took me right back to my own high school days:
“It’s strange, because good-byes are a thing I can understand intellectually, but they almost never feel real. Which makes it hard to brace for impact. I don’t know how to miss people when they’re standing right in front of me.”
The representation in this book is amazing. I originally chose this to read as part of the Hanukkah readathon to fulfill the intersectional prompt. There is a teeny tiny bit of Jewish representation in the story, but it wasn’t one of the major characters. Leah is bisexual, as is one other character, and there are two side characters who are gay, and there is also a nonbinary character that briefly appears in the story. One of the most prominent side characters is Black. There is also a less commonly seen representation, which I loved to see, especially since it was done so well, and that was seeing a fat character, and even more importantly, one who is actually comfortable in their own skin and has no desire to change how they look.
“I swear, people can’t wrap their minds around the concept of a fat girl who doesn’t diet. Is it that hard to believe I might actually like my body?”
Overall, the story actually wound up winning major points in the last few chapters, but this definitely isn’t my favorite Albertalli novel. Her writing is, as always, on point and felt authentic, rather than an adult trying to write teens, even if I didn’t love the main character. It’s more of “me” issue, than the book itself. And my favorite part of the book actually turned out to be the excerpt at the end, which was for What If It’s Us, which I am definitely planning to check out of my library ASAP.
Categories: Book Review