Leah on the offbeat – Becky Albertalli

‘I don’t mean to be dramatic but God save me from Morgan picking our set list. That girl is a suburban’s dad midlife crisis in a high school senior’s body’

leh on the offbeat

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat- but real life isn’t always so rhythmic.
The only child of a single mum, and her life is less privileged than her friends.
Her mum knows she’s bisexual, but Leah hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends.
Not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.
Prom and college are on the horizon, and tensions are running high.
Can Leah still strike the right note, when the people she loves are fighting?
And how can she cope knowing that she might love one of her friends more than she ever intended?

What I thought

I really enjoyed that the focus of this book was Leah, she’s a really well written character and I liked her in Simon Vs but getting more of her is just awesome. She’s very honest in her opinions and has a lot of them. She’s also quite prickly and doesn’t like anyone having power over her, or feeling like she owes anyone (including her friends or family). In that sense she’s quite similar to me although I think she’s got more opinions than me and is louder with them. But she is also a really good friend and is the first to defend any of them. There is also no doubt that Leah has a chip on her shoulder and has decided that no one will like her apart from her few select friends and so she’ll do everything she can to prove it to others. She instantly believes that even though she’s got a gay best friend people aren’t going to be ok with the fact that she’s bi and that all she has to do is finish high school so she can go onto college and everything will be better and cooler. (Which is a complete myth, there is still plenty of idiots at uni/college and it’ll be damn hard. If all the college kids are cool, then they cancel each other out and cool becomes the new average)

Reading a mainstream book where the main character is bi and the romance is a female/female one is great. There are a lot more male/male relationships in mainstream media currently but f/f is still fetishised, often joked about, and is it does exist they are the best friend and not the main character. So YEY having a mainstream f/f book but also YEY YEY YEY having a mainstream f/f book that is really good and they are adorable! Seriously Leah and her gf, (I won’t say who because of spoilers) are so cute and they have the same issues that normal couples do as well as the awkward … “are… are you gay?” conversations and “…I thought you were straight.” crossed lines.
One of the things I liked about this book was also something that made me feel a bit uncomfortable; even though Leah is bi she’s also quite rigid in her beliefs of someone being gay/straight/bi. As far as she’s concerned, there is no gray, you either are or you not. The reason I liked this even though it’s an uncomfortable thing to read is it’s so in character so her to only see in black and white. Her gf is only just coming to terms with her sexuality and where she is on the LGBTQA+ spectrum and Leah goes in quite bull-headed and tries to force her to decide. It was good because it didn’t force the character to fit the ‘problem’ instead its written in a way that makes you go “Ouch. Leah, stop. Please just stop for a second and THINK”. There are a number of books that I’ve read where characters are okay with things that aren’t in character. “oh you’re gay. Ok cool.” Not that you shouldn’t be cool with these kind of things but it bugs me when there is a break in character to make them more understanding. Leah is brutal in her opinions and has never seen in shades of gray from what we know of her in ‘Simon Vs’ so it makes sense for that to continue in here regarding LGBTQA+ and coming out. I also love that she’s aware that she’s a hypocrite as her best friend is gay, and that she knows that Simon wouldn’t have any problems with it. Leah is aware that there have been plenty of times she could/should have mentioned it to Simon but the longer she leaves it the harder it is. I think she’s also just hoping she won’t have to come out in a small town, especially because she saw how people reacted to Simon when he was forced out by Martin. And her mum is doing her best to be understanding and accepting of her bi daughter and making Leah aware that her bringing home a girl is FINE, in a way that is really embarrassing for Leah.

Finally I just want to say that Simon and Bram are still utterly adorable as a couple and sickly sweet, but still having normal relationship worries about leaving for college.

 

Why I read it:

I love Simon vs, reading this was a no brainer. Leah’s pretty awesome in Simon vs and to get more of her is great. Plus f/f relationships and I’m now slightly in love with Becky Albertili

 

Final Thought

This a great contemporary YA with representation as a focus without be ‘in-your-face’ about it. The relationship is a real one with depth and growth to it. Leah and her girlfriend are a cute couple and I love them, as well as their growth as individuals. Plus we have background Simon/Bram.

 

Would I recommend: YES! My copy is waiting to be loaned out to a friend who enjoyed reading my copy of Simon Vs (he agreed to come see the film with me and wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as he did. He loved it)

 

Challenges

Popsugar: The next book in a series you’ve started, LGBTQ+ protagonist, Alliteration in the title, published in 2018.

Read Harder: Romance by or about PoC, one-sitting

 

As always please leave a comment and let me know what you think, that would be pretty great of you.

Rea

P.S The next book is Your turn To Die, by Sue Wallman

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