Posted in contemporary, lgbt, review, young adult

Leah On The OffBeat – Becky Albertalli

“I should have told him a year ago. I don’t think it would have been a big deal then, but now it feels insurmountable. It’s like I missed a beat somewhere, and now the whole song’s tempo.”

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Blurb: “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.”

Becky Albertalli has cemented herself as one of my favourite authors. For someone who keeps saying she doesn’t like contemporaries (but still seems to read them anyway), I will happily devour anything she releases.

Do you need to read Simon Vs The Homo sapiens Agenda before reading Leah On The Offbeat? Absolutely. From the get-go this book is riddled with spoilers as, after all, it is a sequel.

Leah very much appears to be the outsider of the group at times. She is often the one looking on while everyone has their in-depth discussions and she rarely adds her own input until she’s with certain individuals such as Simon. It’s senior year and, as to be expected, conversations and plot are peppered with college worries, the concept of friendships ending and prom. Leah, just like possibly everyone who’s ever been a teenager, is worrying about everything.

She is also having her own internal battle with her sexuality. She is bisexual and only out to her mum. As a fat bisexual girl myself, I was able to relate to Leah in the way that she is quite comfortable with her sexuality but feels like she missed the window in which to declare it to the world; as the title implies, she’s offbeat. She doesn’t quite understand why she is unable to tell people, especially her best friend Simon who is out as gay. However, there is one particular scene that really does not sit right with me (for the sake of preserving the experience I have changed the name to Kelly). During a heart-to-heart with Leah, Kelly comes out as “low-key bi” and in response, Leah completely shuts her down, invalidates the sexuality of someone who is questioning and proceeds to storm off in a huff. In a time where LGBT books are reaching the mainstream in YA, it seems a very odd and harmful thing to include in a book. Normally I’m fine with problematic things as long as it’s called out within context and it isn’t. Leah never apologises and the scene just becomes a footnote in the overall plot. If I had read this book when I was questioning, it probably would’ve had a negative impact and I hate the idea of a questioning teen reading this book and feeling the same. It just seemed a very odd choice for Albertalli to make and I’m not sure how it slipped past editors.

There is also an instance of racism towards Abby which Leah is quick to step up and shut down and while it was lovely to see and appreciate, once it had been solved and Abby expressed this, Leah continued to hold a grunge.

But, moving on. I liked seeing Leah and Abby getting to know each other better outside of their friendship group obligations and it was nice to see some references to The Upside of Unrequited. I did struggle getting into this book at first as I reread Simon for the film and a few characters in the book are not present in the film, so once I found my feet again the book started to flow better.

Another thing that bugged me was the formatting of the Ebook. A few conversations take place through text messages and there were no bold or italic sentences to make it clear what was part of the message and what made up the narrative.

This was one of my most anticipated reads for the year, and sadly, it missed the beat.

 
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