- my rating: 3 stars
- published by: HarperCollins
- genres: contemporary, lgbt+
- diversity: bisexual fat anxious mc
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.
I really, really wanted to love this book. It was one of my most anticipated 2018 releases, and I was so excited to get this story from Becky Albertalli. For me personally, seeing a bisexual girl in a mainstream book I knew people would read really means a lot. Unfortunately this fell very very flat to me, and I’m going to be straight up here and acknowledge this may not be my most unbiased, objective review. I brought a lot of my ideas and hopes of what this book, and what Becky Albertalli would write, into this book and I think that played a part in my disappointment.
I’m going to start with the positives. I loved Leah as a protagonist. Her voice absolutely shone in this book and it dragged me into the story. Leah is a bit straight up and brash but I totally loved it, and it’s nice to see girls in YA getting more diverse, complex personalities that transcend archetypes. She, and this book in general, was also hilarious which is of course a massive plus.
As with all Becky Albtertalli books, this was very readable. Once you started with this one, it was very hard to put it down. Albteralli infuses her works with such life and fun that you can’t help fall deep into the story. Her books are un-putdown-able.
But here’s where I get to my first issue. Compared to other Albtertalli books, I found so many parts of this book a slog. A lot of this book revolved around drama and fights and other friendship group messiness I just really could have done without. And here’s the thing: from any other author I probably wouldn’t have minded. But I expected something fluffy and fun and I just feel like instead I kinda got misery and it was annoying. I found the drama really upsetting at times, and I really felt like so much of it was installed to justify the main couple, rather than a natural progression of where Simon Vs ended.
On that, I also felt like a lot of Leah on the Offbeat felt clunky and out of character. I often felt like aspects of Leah, including Leah’s and Abby’s backstory and how some of the characters interacted, was super out of line with Simon Vs. I want to put a note here that I saw Love, Simon before reading this and that could have influenced by perceptions. But I still felt like, overall, some of the events and drama felt really, really out of place.
One big aspect of this book for me was the bisexual rep. I was curious to see what it would be like and how the main f/f ship would be handled.
I’ll say first of all I generally enjoyed the rep, up until about 3/4 through. Leah was bisexual on page, which was nice. Leah spoke about her crushes and ships and the way she mentioned both men and women was really cute. I loved that she shipped both Ninej and also Percabeth. I also liked the discussion around coming out, and how it was uncomfortable, maybe even more so since her friends were out.
The f/f ship was cute, and I liked how it developed. The way that Leah spoke about the girl she was into was so soft and sweet, and it was really nice following how their relationship developed. Plus, the epilogue gave me LIFE. But again, I felt like so much of the potential aww’nesss of the relationship was ruined by the drama. The angst and mess wasn’t balanced enough for me so it was just annoying. I also HATED the first kiss and how it played out. I also think it was disappointing how many interactions with the main couple were fraught with misunderstandings and miscommunication.
And as mentioned earlier, 3/4 through something happened which I really didn’t like. This was the discussion between Leah and her LI about being bi. I’m going to link Marianne’s review, because she goes into it more depth and echoes what I think about this scene.
This scene was very unsettling to me. I understand what it was trying to do – point out that bisexual girls aren’t just in it for LAUGHS but that we’re actually genuinely queer, not straight girls messing around. But this scene really missed the mark. It upset me a bit, and I think it’d definitely hurt questioning people. I also think it’s just kind of wrong. Being “lowkey bi” is valid. The implication is that she’s a bit into girls, and you know what, if you’re a girl who likes girls only a little bit, that is VALID. I think this scene really, really missed the mark. And I’m actually really surprised and shocked it passed so many sensitivity readers.
Okay, so this review is 1000 words long so I think I should wrap it up. I want to say this book isn’t actually bad. Although I gave it a three star, I also see why people love it. For me the stars just didn’t align. I really didn’t like the plot and drama that Becky Albertalli went for with this one, and I just wanted something more fluffy and cute. I really felt like I wasn’t reading the friendship group I fell in love with in Simon VS and that was so upsetting.
I am not going to say anyone who loved that scene or the bi rep is wrong, this is just how I viewed it. So please keep that in mind too.
I will definitely read more books from Becky. I think a lot of this missed the mark for me, but she writes great characters, has a hilarious tone and sucks you right into the story, which is great.
until next time!