Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

★★★★☆ 3.5

This isn’t an own-voices book. But it’s still extremely important. It has f/f romance, and a fat, bi main character. In case I haven’t said it enough — representation is great.

Just to get this out of the way now: I somehow love and identify with Simon Spier even more now?? Yeah, he’s the best.

All the references are on point. She mentions Inej and Nina and PERCABETH ok?? Everything is solid af in the reference department. (see also: Oh Wonder, Vampire Weekend, Reece King, Mr. Rogers, Passion Pit, American Grill Girl, etc.)

*spoiler alert* Nora and Cal are adorable I don’t care if you disagree *end spoiler*

She tackles the whole “they only got into that school because they’re a minority” thing quite well in my opinion, and I think it’s a point that needed to be mentioned.

The dialogue is witty and sharp (sometimes a little too sharp) and I really enjoyed reading it for a good part of the book.

I was looking for a little more fluff in Leah and … “Violet”‘s (let’s call her Violet) relationship, but I can live with what we got, I guess.

+ Overall, I enjoyed the book. Up until The Scene, I was having a good time, even if I wasn’t loving everything. I was writing it off as “well not everything can live up to Simon”.

+ That leads to the problem that was so big for me that it dropped the rating a star and half.

There’s a part where Violet and Leah are talking:

V: “I don’t think I’m straight,” she says, and my heart almost stops. “I don’t know,” she adds finally. “I guess I’m like lowkey bisexual?”

L: “I don’t think that’s a thing.”

V: “What? It totally is.” She pokes my arm. “Lowkey bi.”

L: “You’re either bi or you’re not. That’s like being a little bit pregnant.”

V: “Well, I’m a little bit bi, and I’m sticking with that.”

L: I sit up. “I don’t get you.”

V: “What?”

L: I shake my head. “Lowkey bi, a little bit bi. Just be bi. Like, come on.”

V: “What? No.” She draws herself up. “You don’t get to decide my label.”

L: “It’s not a real label!”

V: “Well, it’s real for me.”

and the note I made for that whole section (in response to Leah) was just “no” — after reading this part I honestly just got such a sick feeling in my chest that I couldn’t come up with more to put there. I quit reading for awhile.

And it was never addressed again. 

This type of dialogue isn’t uncommon. It isn’t even bad that it was included in this book — because sometimes it’s good to see problematic things so that we can also see them rectified — so people who are reading it know how to act.

What made it actually bad was that this book is not by an own-voices author… and that there wasn’t ever an apology. Leah devalues how her future girlfriend feels (actually makes her cry) because she feels lied to (when she never actually asked Violet her sexuality). I’m glad Leah is (sort of) confident in her sexuality, which is why I was so surprised that Leah, as a bi girl, was policing another bi girl on her label.

The issue isn’t that it happened. It’s that it was handled incredibly poorly. Some random person reading it might now think it’s ok to tell someone what they can or cannot identify as. Nah.

Marianne also said it well over here

 

I wanted to like this more than I did 😦

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One thought on “Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

  1. Pingback: The Brightsiders by Jen Wilde – Devour Books

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