Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli
Release: April 24, 2018
Publisher: HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray
Source: Hardcover (US)
Rating: ★★★.5☆☆ (3.5/5)
Synopsis via Goodreads: 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.
– S P O I L E R F R E E –
TW: racism (challenged), bi-phobia, anti-fat remarks
I finished this book super late Saturday night (technically early Sunday morning) and usually I like to write down my thoughts immediately after I read a book, but I had to sleep on this one a bit. I went into the story with sort of high expectations because of my love for Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, but sadly this one didn’t quite hit the mark for me.
Don’t get me wrong, the fact that I finished this book in one sitting shows how much I still enjoyed it, I was just a bit disappointed with a few of the characters and plot points. For example, throughout the entirety of the storyline, Nick’s personality felt a little out of character which was pretty sad since I enjoyed him in the previous book. He was also an ass to some of my fave characters which is definitely a no-go for me.
There was even a scene later on in the novel where a character identified as “lowkey bi” and Leah went on about how that wasn’t really a thing and to just “say you’re bi”. I found this insensitive on her part (considering she’s bisexual) even though I know she mostly said it out of being hurt. Still, it was very uncomfortable to read and I wish that comment was challenged more in the moment, especially because it’s hard to praise a book with a moment that has been harmful to numerous bi readers.
Speaking of the lead, Leah’s perspective was very interesting to read from because she’s a very cynical person which could get frustrating in some situations. She was really unfair to her mom in a few scenes and I get that teens have the tendency to not get along with their parents, but Leah’s mom was really sweet and was trying. That’s more than a lot of YA characters get so it for sure made me mad on multiple occasions. However, when Leah and her mom did get along, those scenes proved to be some of my favorites in the book because it gave off some cute Lorelai and Rory Gilmore vibes.
Despite previously stated annoyances on her part, I did enjoy most of Leah’s persona because, above all, she’s extremely loyal to her friends. She wasn’t afraid to stand up to people for saying shitty things about the one’s she cares about and I absolutely adore how much of a boss she is. I also found myself in her a lot; whether it was how she pushes people away to avoid getting hurt to times when she talked about her body and how, even though she isn’t the cookie cutter image, she’s totally content with herself.
I also liked many other things in this novel including some adorable Simon x Bram scenes, endless Harry Potter references (plus a Hamilton one that had me DYING), and amazing diversity! Becky Albertalli’s writing is always seamlessly done and she does a wonderful job of portraying the minds of modern teens. This story truly sparked a great deal of warmth within my Creekwood-loving-soul and had me laughing out loud at hilarious moments.
Ultimately, even though the ending felt a little rushed and I wish it could have been a bit more drawn out like Simon vs. and The Upside of Unrequited, this novel still held some wonderful scenes that I enjoyed nonetheless. This may have been my least favorite Becky Albertalli book, but I’m always excited for more of her writing in the future!
“Imagine going about your day knowing someone’s carrying you in their mind. That has to be the best part of being in love — the feeling of having a home in someone else’s brain.”
“I swear people can’t wrap their minds around the concept of a fat girl who doesn’t diet. Is it that hard to believe I might actually like my body?”
“Mr. Spier, memorizing the Hamilton soundtrack is not going to save you on the AP Euro exam.”
“I can’t fuck your life, I’m monogamously fucking my own life.”
Happy Reading! ♡