Leah on the Offbeat
Leah on the Offbeat - 2018
"Leah 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." - Goodreads
Sometimes, when I've really been anticipating the release of a book, I immediately buy it and then hold off on reading it for so much longer than I should. When I do this, I feel like less of a fan, but it's hard for me to know the end of a book series or character is coming to an end. The Harry Potter books changed my life (really, they did), and it was not until a couple of years ago that I let myself read the final book. I successful avoided spoilers for years because I couldn't say goodbye yet. That's how this book's release was for me. I finally read it today. However, unlike the feeling I had when I left Hogwarts for the first time, I am heartbroken to say that I did not like this book. I'm sorry, Becky Albertalli. I really am. I didn't hate it, but I didn't like it. I recommend reading it, because her writing is unlike any other, but I can't guarantee you'll love the characters or story.
WHAT I LIKED, SORTA
This is a book that would qualify as "diverse" for my students' reading requirements. The main character, Leah Burke, is overweight, has little money, lives with a single parent, and is bisexual. Normally I would swoon over this, over a character that feels comfortable in her skin and is not middle-class and heterosexual. But I don't actually think Leah is comfortable. She hasn't come out to any of her friends, and her best friend is SIMON. She's pretty arrogant, but at the same time very aware of her weight and size.
Becky Albertalli's writing is amazing. She is so funny, witty and smart. It seems like words and jokes just come super easily to her, and even though I didn't love the plot or the characters in this book, I don't want to cut her writing abilities as an author when it comes to the actual words.
Leah's mom is so nice. She always knows the right things to say, it seems like she would try to lasso the moon for Leah, and Leah just treats her like crap. She says early on that she tells her mom everything, but throughout the book it seemed like she was annoyed to have to interact with her.
WHAT I DID NOT LIKE
I felt like there wasn't an actual plot. Just some high school kids getting ready for college and deciding where to go. It felt like reading Always and Forever, Lara Jean again, which isn't a bad thing, but I wish I hadn't read them back-to-back.
The characters I loved so much in Simon fell flat in this book. I felt like this was written for the fans, and not for the story or the characters. Don't get me wrong, that's sweet, but it doesn't make for a good story. It felt forced, a little over the top, and honestly - pretty predictable.
(Spoiler) It really bugs me that Leah didn't explain herself to Garrett after knowingly putting him through the ringer. He's so nice to her throughout the entire novel and she just continuously blows him off.
Everyone online describes Leah as this BA, but I think she's pretty arrogant and self-centered. That doesn't seem like one of Albertalli's characters to me. Also, Leah is confusing. I can't reveal too much, but she goes from hating a certain character to being completely over-the-top in love with him/her. What?!
Blah. It physically pains me to write this. I wanted to love it SO badly, but I just didn't. That is not to say, however, that I wouldn't recommend it. I definitely think it's worth finding out how these characters end up, who's dating, where they're headed to college, etc. It just isn't my favorite of the three.