{Review} Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli| Realizing That Not All Authors are Perfect

31180248.jpgLeah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.
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.

TW: Biphobia (stereotypes), Racism, Bi/Sexuality Shaming

Note: swear words are in this review

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What?!??! Did I read the same book as everyone else?!?!

How did I go from giving Becky’s Albertalli’s books 4-5 stars from rating this an astounding 1.5 stars?!?!?

How come my most trusted reviewers rated this book so high?!?!?!

Ok, I liked the beginning, I really did. However, the book got progressively worse as the story continued. I never thought I would rate one of Becky Albertalli’s book so low. I thought she was becoming my queen for YA contemporary. I was even considering putting her as one of my favorite authors on Goodreads!!

But I was disappointed, angry and sad how this book turned out. It doesn’t even feel like Albertalli even wrote this.

I also thought I loved Leah. In my Goodreads update, I even said:

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But wow! What some shitty character development. I sat on this book for a couple of days, and I hated it even more.

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Let’s get this started. There will be some mild spoilers.

The Notorious Cliche Bi Love Triangle

Yes, there is a love triangle. Yes, it’s between a girl and a guy. No, I’m not surprised. Leah enters into some type of love triangle between Garrett and Abby. Right from the getgo, I already know that we’re supposed to be rooting for Abby. Therefore, there was LITERALLY no point of this stupid love triangle.

However, I am happy that Leah is comfortable with the label and I’m also glad she was already out to her mom. I also understand how difficult it is to come out to friends, even though I already know they won’t think different of me. I appreciated ONLY THAT part of the book when it comes to bi rep.

Family

I enjoyed reading about Leah’s family because it was similar to my own growing up. I had to deal with my mom dating other men, and I reacted the same way Leah did. I do wish the relationship between Leah and her family was more developed.

Race

I’m glad that Leah’s friend, Morgan, was called out about her racist comment over Abby getting accepted to a university just because she’s black. However, while reading this, I kept wondering “why isn’t Abby as mad as Leah?” It felt weird and was borderline “white savior” which I HATE. I did appreciate Abby’s take on the situation, saying black people have to work twice as hard when it comes to education. I know that we were from Leah’s point of view, but I wish it were Abby that put Morgan in her place, as it would have been more impactful.

Abby’s Coming Out and Leah Being an ASSHOLE.

Going into this, I had no idea who Leah’s love interest was going to be so when it came apparent that it was going to be Abby, I was…confused? It’s just they had no foundation in the last book (only Leah being jealous of Abby), so this was RANDOM.

BUT, when Abby did come out Leah, I was LIVID. This was the scene that made me despise Leah SO MUCH. When Abby told Leah that she was “lowkey bi” and Leah was like “Nah, you’re either bi or not bi” I wanted to punch Leah in the throat. She made Abby feel ashamed. Abby is struggling with her sexuality and Leah, WHO SHOULD UNDERSTAND, makes Abby feel like shit for not knowing. The worst part? IT NEVER GETS RESOLVED AND NEVER MENTIONED AGAIN. I’m honestly shocked that Albertalli wrote this and I’m even more shocked that no one is talking about this scene?!?!?!

Oh, and Leah was not just an asshole to Abby but to Garrett as well. She lied to him multiple times (NEVER EVEN TELLING THE TRUTH IN THE END) and used him just to make herself look and feel good. She dragged him throughout the entire book even though she had NO INTEREST in him.

The Romance

The romance was a big blob of meh. I didn’t see the chemistry, the spark. You know why? BECAUSE THIS WAS TOTALLY RANDOM. In Simon Vs., we were supposed to root for Abby and Nick, and we did! They got together, their connection was well-established. Boom, it was good! Why ruin that?!?! This is coming from a person who loves F|F romances more than anything, but I like GOOD F|F romances, not forced. Abby loved Leah’s art, and that was it! Leah liked Abby’s looks, and that was it! That was their spark?!??! I felt like they were just thrown together for the hell of it and it was shown through the writing. There were a lot of flashbacks of their past relationship (because apparently, they had one) but I still couldn’t get believe they actually have feelings for one another.

“Throw Up”

I swear if Leah says that she’s going to throw up every time something terrible happens, I’M GOING TO THROW UP. She says this phrase way often that it grew super annoying.

The Ending/What’s the Point?

Sloppy. No resolution, no consequences for any character’s actions, nothing. The ending was too perfect and convenient, and it just made me angry!

Also, I’m a character-driven type of reader, so I don’t mind when there’s no plot. However, what the actual hell was the point of this book? There were no lessons taught (maybe becoming a manipulator, good liar, teaching teenagers that consequences don’t exist for your actions?!?!).

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I was excited for a new Becky A. especially one featuring a fat bi main character. I was deeply disappointed, the bi rep was mediocre, I was hurt over Abby’s coming out and overall, just left a horrible taste in my mouth.

There were no cute romantic moments, the humor was “offbeat,” and the characters became 2D.

I know some people are saying that this is an excellent book for F|F romances and for bi rep but let me tell you, there are WAAAAY better books out there.

However, if you found something worthwhile out of this book, good for you! I’m glad others can see some connection to the characters and/or story. However, personally, this book did not work for me, and I do not recommend.

I will still read anything by Albertalli, but I’ll pretend this book doesn’t exist.

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BOOK HAUL|I’ve read some of these already oops

Whoop whoop here are the books I’ve bought since like January.

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The Sun is Also the Star by Nicola Yoon:  Unread. Features a Jamican immigrant and the other MC is Korean-American.

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli: Read and loved already! My review can be found here. Fat MC with Anxiety, diverse side characters

Asking For It by Louise O’Neill: Unread. This book is about rape culture in Ireland.

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour: Unread A story about grief. Slight f/f romance I believe

Ask A Queer by Lindsay King-Miller: Currently Reading Basically what the title says!

#GirlBoss by Sophia Amoruse: Read A woman with no college degree and became a successful clothing business owner. Was ehh about it.

Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli: Read and amazing and please read. m/m cute romance and diverse side characters

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor: Honestly, not a clue but I know it’s sci-fi with POC characters!

Have you read any of these? Let me know down below!

 

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli| yes, yes and yes

30653853Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

I feel like there has already been a lot of great reviews surrounding this book but I will still put in my two cents.

REVIEW

I loved this book. Becky Albertalli has a way of constructing these relatable hilarious characters. I found myself saying, “yes, this character is me” to basically all the characters.

Like Molly, I was also a fat teenager. Strangely, it felt like I was reading my own autobiography because Molly’s thoughts were basically the same thoughts I had. Like Molly, I felt slightly jealous of the other girls who were getting in relationships, I noticed most of them had under size 7 bodies. I felt jealous for the so-called “sluts” because they were getting laid and they had rock hard bodies and I thought there were some type of correlation between the two. I felt guilty for thinking this throughout high school and I honestly thought something was completely wrong with me.

Some people have critiqued this book for such “another self-conscious fat girl who wants a boyfriend” and frankly I find that hilarious.  I’m going to give an example:

” Because chubby girls don’t get boyfriends, and they definitely don’t have sex. Not in movies–not really–unless it’s supposed to be a joke. And I don’t want to be a joke.”

This line may see this line as an “woe is me” type of thing but I see this as a commentary of the lack of authentic positive body representation in media/entertainment. That’s just me and some may interpret such differently

Anyways, I liked how this book was the journey of Molly trying to find confidence in her own skin. However, I also liked how it’s expressed that confidence isn’t something that’s easily handed to people and it takes time. By the end of the book, Molly doesn’t become some overly cocky woman who can take on the world. She still has her insecurities and she embraces them  and I think that’s something anybody can learn from.

Molly’s twin sister, Cassie, was also a delight. She’s a lesbian, outspoken and deeply cares for her sister. I loved her relationship with Molly and it almost felt like it was sort of their story rather than just Molly’s so that was just fucking awesome. I also just admired how how she outspoken on patriarchy and LGBTQIA+ issues and generally was just a kickass character.

“Um, let’s just start with the implication that becoming a woman has anything to do with whether or not you’ve had sex”

The relationship between Molly and Reid was adorable as shit. My favorite character relationship trope is when both characters are extremely awkward, especially when it’s first love. Frankly, first love relationships are awkward as hell and I’m glad that was portrayed in the book. I hate when books make first love like both characters know exactly what they are doing but both Molly and Reid are like “what are we supposed to do?” “I don’t know, honestly.” Like yes! It’s authentic cute dialogue that makes me squeal in delight (I never squeal but this relationship did)! And ohhh the fan art can we please. Check out this fan art because yes.

Before making my rating, I was thinking about the ending and the overall message that it might send to some readers. The whole “fat girls finds love and now she has confidence” trope. I thought about this and even considered lowering my rating. However thinking about it more, I don’t think it even presents that trope.

Usually when we see this trope in books, we have these classic lines:

“he can have all the girls in the world but he chose me”

“he likes me for me”

“he doesn’t care that I’m fat, he likes me for who I am”

I can honestly go on all day but these phrases never present themselves (at least I’m aware of, hopefully I’m accurate lmao). I honestly don’t think the main love interest, Reid even mentions her body is any way (even the other love interest, Will). Yeah, the main character is nervous about sex when because of her wait but I honestly shared those same struggles in high school too. So for those reasons I simply don’t see it. However, I do understand those who do and more if you are a fellow fat girl.

Becky also somewhat addressed this issue on her twitter here if you guys are curious.

At the end of the day, I see a book where a girl finds first love.

I applaud the healthy conversations about sex and importance of birth control. Anything that I sex positive earns an A+ from me.

Now, this doesn’t account for my rating but I think it’s good to note that this is an #ownvoices book when it comes to Molly’s underrepresented body type, her anxiety and her being Jewish. Molly and Cassie also has two moms (one of them being Jewish and the other being black),  Cassie’s girlfriend, Mina is Korean-American and pansexual, and  Reid the love interest is also Jewish. There’s a shit ton more such as POC and LGBTQIA+ wise but you get the picture.

Although the diversity aspect didn’t account for my star rating, I did take .5 away due to the fact that I wished more character arcs were explored such as the dynamics of Molly’s parents, Cassie’s girlfriend Mina, their Jewish religion, etc. I am going to give credit to the wonderful character development of Cassie though.

I wished this was published when I was in high school. This could have possibly helped me get through some tough times.

Great book by a beautiful author, would recommend.

 

Mini Reviews| Aristotle and Simon!

I don’t write a review for every book I read for a couple of reasons. Some of those reasons being that I don’t have the time, the book is too short to review, sequel to a series so I don’t want to spoil, read too long ago to even do a full review or perhaps I just don’t want to spend an ample amount of time constructing one. 

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, #1)Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by  Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Published: Febuary 21 2012 by Simon & Schuster

Page Count: 359

Rating: ★★★

Summary: Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

Review: I read this on audio book solely on the purpose that Lin Manuel Miranda would be narrating the story. I enjoyed the story, the family dynamics, etc. Although I did enjoy reading these aspects of the novel, I couldn’t connect with it and therefore the story was meh to me. I didn’t like Ari too much and I kind of felt he was rude to Dante at times. I know the title says “Aristotle and Dante” but I wish the family conflict was more fleshed out rather than just in mere mentions because that was something I was looking forward to. I felt like this was supposed to be an emotional read (sad? happy?  happy-sad?) but I felt deadpanned. I actually read this in the beginning of February and I don’t remember much of it, so unfortunately for me, it wasn’t memorable. I do remember loving the story while listening to it but after I was done, I was like “oh okay next?” Though, LMM did a great job on the narration!

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens AgendaSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Published: April 7 2015 by Balzer + Bray

Page Count:320

Rating:★★★★★

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

Review: THIS. Oh gosh, this may have been the reason why I docked a star from the above review. I also read this on audiobook which was awesome but may have been a mistake since I was grinning and giggling to my classes and people probably thought I was on something. I loved the romance between Simon and Blue SO MUCH. Honestly, it takes a lot for me to get on board with a romance but Simon and Blue from the second email exchange got me hooked.  They just made me extremely happy. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda explores identity, acceptance, fear and friendship all in a realistic matter. The story talks about homophobia and racism in the south and the struggles of expressing oneself. At times, I hated characters, then loved them, then hated them again and it was all so confusing but amazing. This was HILARIOUS. I want to buy the book so that I can annotate and underline all my favorite quotes. The writing was no pretentious which I’m glad because I’m tired reading quirky books with pompous ass writing. Not every book needs to be John Green. Also, being in Simon’s head was such a treat but sometimes frustrating because using context clues, the audience knows who Blue is but Simon doesn’t. I kept wanting to scream OPEN YOUR EYES. Overall if you want to read something honest, cute and inspiring, I HIGHLY recommend this.

Read any of these books? Leave your thoughts down below!

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