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Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli - Review

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Where did I get it? I had it on pre-order so it arrived a couple of weeks ago. 

What's it about? It is a sequel to Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, told from his best friend Leah's point of view. It takes place just a bit after Simon vs, just before they graduate from high school and have their prom. 

Leah has a crush on Abby, who is going out with Nick. Abby is straight, though, right? Leah needs to get over it, so she agrees to go to prom with Garrett. Then Abby wants to go to Athens with Leah for them to check out the college they're both going to. But after everything that happened in Simon vs, Leah doesn't feel that she and Abby are friends, so she's confused by the overtures of friendship she's receiving. 

The end of the book is prom night, and it does slide quite a bit into cliche. I don't want to say I disliked the book, but I didn't love it. I wanted to love it because I loved Simon vs and The Upside of Unrequited so much. I don't feel like we saw enough of Leah's personality. Like, she's a drummer, but we only see that a couple of times. She's in a band, but we barely see them. She's into wearing dresses and combat boots and make up, but we don't really get a sense of that. Her mum is seeing a man called Wells and Leah is uncomfortable about it, but we never see any resolution to that. Leah is chubby, and there's passing mention to "everyone thinks fat girls should diet", but then she buys a prom dress off the rack at Nordstrom so that annoyed me too. Leah's personality didn't shine through in the same way it did in Simon vs, which I thought was a shame.

I thought she was quite passive in her own life, like things happen TO her and not because she goes to get them or wants them to happen. Like agreeing to go to prom with Connor - she doesn't really like him, so why say yes to him? Especially when he's clearly really into her and wants to do a whole promposal for her. I didn't like it. 

I did like this second glimpse into the lives of these characters. I like that we saw Simon and Bram at prom and know what colleges everyone ended up going to. But it didn't live up to everything I hoped, and I'm sad about that. 

What age range is it for? 14+

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, Leah is bisexual and she discovers someone else is bi too. Now, there's been a bit of controversy over this because Leah tells this person that they're basically not bi enough. I agree, I didn't like this bit at all. Leah isn't the gatekeeper of bisexuality. Someone could be only 5% bisexual and they're still allowed to be bisexual. Gender and sexuality are on spectrums. I know it's pretty outdated, but I think the Kinsey scale is a useful tool. I did think Leah was just out of order here and I didn't like it.

There is a minor character who is nonbinary and who uses the pronoun 'they'. I liked this minor character and what their existence meant to Leah. 

Are any main characters people of colour? Abby is. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No 

Is there any sex stuff? No 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No, but there's a tiny bit of alcohol use. 

Is there any talk of death? No. 

Are there swear words? Yes, Leah curses quite a lot 

What criticisms do I have? Gosh, where do I start. I've already given some above, obviously, but even apart from those I had such high hopes for this book but I felt like it was sort of unfinished and a bit sloppy? Too many things went nowhere and Leah wasn't as badass as I wanted her to be. 

Would I recommend the book? If you liked Simon vs then yes, for completism's sake, read this. But I wouldn't make it my first book of Becky's at all. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I'd heard there were some concerns about it and thought I ought to read it so I could have an informed opinion. I believe the concerns were around the aforementioned part about Leah saying someone wasn't bisexual enough. 

What other books is it like? It's like Becky's other books, for sure, but it's just not really as deep as her others. 

How many stars? Three out of five. I'm sorry. I wanted to love it, but I just didn't. 

Where is the book going now? I'll for sure keep it, I mean it looks absolutely gorgeous for one thing!

I took this photo while sitting on my front lawn while Lee and I had a barbecue on Sunday, I was lazing in the sunshine reading. The pan to the right had potatoes in it for our potato salad!

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