Leah On the Offbeat Review

leahontheoffbeatTitle: Leah On the Offbeat
Author: Becky Albertalli
Publisher: HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray
Genre: Young Adult – Contemporary
Pages: 343
Format: Hardcover

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.

Well, let me tell you: this is the first actual novel I’ve read TO COMPLETION in… months. Many months. I still can’t believe it. It took me around probably six to eight hours to read the thing. And I really enjoyed it!

It was great jumping back into the world of Creekwood and it was great getting a story from Leah’s perspective, while also still seeing Simon and Blue (even though they weren’t the main focus). I loved her voice and how she really talks like a young adult – swearing, sarcasm, tumblr posts. She was such a fun character that really cared not only for her body as a plus sized young woman, but also as a bisexual person. Though she was only out to her mom (which is still awesome that her mom accepted her regardless), it only really start to make things difficult as time progressed in the story.

I found that the romance aspect of the book was done well, though sometimes it did feel like a little hiccup here and there with how it went. I overall thought that it was fairly realistic as to how it turned out, but I kind of wish I got a better feel for the love interest. I understand the strain on the friendship, but it still felt to me like I was missing some of the love interest’s personality.

I also didn’t really get a feel for just how tight knit the friendship between Leah, Anna, and Morgan were, despite it supposedly being so strong in the beginning. Although, if it were my friend, I would be very pissed about the comment that was made, too, but I don’t know if I would continue to be mad even after an apology. I don’t know, that felt rocky at best and I don’t really know how the friendships would have lasted after the end of the book.

Other than that, I felt like it was a fun, light hearted story, with dashes of drama inside. I like how Leah was both proud of her body, but also self conscious, because that really does show the two sides of the coin (as a plus sized woman, myself, I can speak to this very feeling). I think that the book overall was a great read, though I feel like I am missing out on a few threads that weren’t completely tied at the end (I don’t want to ask them here for fear of spoilers).

If you’re looking for a fast-paced, light-hearted story about a teen girl who’s trying to come to terms with her emotions as well as figure out who she is as a person, and the relationships she has around her, then definitely pick up this book! I hope that you’ll like Leah as much as I did.

I rated this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda Book Review

simonvs

Title: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Author: Becky Albertalli
Publisher: Balzer + Bray – An imprint of HarperCollins
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Genres: Young Adult – Contemporary
Pages: 303
Format: Purchased Hardcover

“Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli is about sixteen year old Simon and how he is not openly gay. With anyone. He’s been keeping this secret to himself for a while now and hasn’t found the courage (or the point) to tell anyone. But one day when a classmate winds up with screenshots of private emails Simon has with a secret guy code named Blue, things start to get a little more difficult.

Now he has to find a way to not jeopardize his friendships, compromise himself, or ruin a shot at happiness with a guy who’s confusing, but oh so adorable.

Why are these diverse books so freaking adorable? Like, seriously. I can’t take it. (Actually, I can and I want to.)

When I first heard of this book I knew I had to get it because it had some great reviews from people I trust who had gotten the ARC copy and loved it.

Well, now that I read it I can see why they loved it.

I will admit it did take me about fifty or so pages to get used to the writing style, but once I was in it, I was hooked. This book was a great telling of a kid struggling with his sexual orientation – or rather, how to come out about it. It was a much more positive story than a lot of the negative ones that we hear all the time when teens come out to their parents, and I loved that. I loved reading a positive story because I think kids need that; they need positive reinforcement if they are struggling through something as monumental (and let’s be real, it is monumental) thing such as coming out to your family and friends, let alone the world.

So let me talk about Simon. He’s a sixteen-going-on-seventeen year old junior in high school. He’s in the school’s fall play and is leading a total normal teenage life: friends, parties, chilling, hanging, family life. One big thing about him, though, is he’s gay. And he has this sort of relationship developing with this guy, Blue (code name), since August of that summer. He swears a lot and is kind of sarcastic at times, but I believe he’s an overall good kid. He makes mistakes (plenty of them), but he’s one of those characters you can’t help but love because of all of those flaws and all of his thoughts and how he acts and stuff.

When he has a tough decision to make in terms of blackmail, I can understand the want to ignore it, but also the want to do something about it. I think Simon makes good decisions throughout the novel and he grows as a character. He goes from being so confused and conflicted, to dealing with a lot of crappy, to being pretty damn happy with himself.

And his friends and family are no exception.

I’m so happy to read of a family that supports Simon when he comes out to them. I thought that those parts of the book were kind of glazed over and really super fast, but the support was there. Often times it’s not. But everyone took it in stride (maybe some part of them knew?).

Now Blue is kind of mysterious. He’s extremely shy and doesn’t want to give his identity away at all, no matter what. And he doesn’t want to meet Simon, necessarily, because he’s scared. I get that. A couple of times I was frustrated like, “Just meet the guy! Gosh!” But I understood he wanted privacy for now. He was afraid that once Simon found out who he was that Simon would push him away. But the two would flirt constantly and you could start to really see their flirtations grow and even their love for each other grow.

And then when they do meet. COMMENCE THE SQUEAL SESSION. I literally squealed throughout the entire last fourth of the book, and let me tell you, SO. MUCH. CUTE.

Okay, now that I got that off my chest.

The plot of the book was one that I believe we see many times in contemporary books, but the way the author writes it and spins it is what makes it unique and defining. Obviously the most defining quality of this book is a not-so-openly gay teen. But I think the way that Albertalli wrote about the blackmail and just how everything kind of happened and exploded online and everything was a unique way of doing it. It was like a conscious stream of thought from Simon’s head, so the sentences were often short and straight to the point.

Also, I thought it interesting that I had NO CLUE what Simon looked like until the last half of the book where we finally got some descriptions of him. And I think that stuck out to me so much because it hit me that it was so obvious that what he looked like hadn’t been mentioned earlier in the book because it wasn’t relevant – it was Simon’s point of view, so why would he just talk about his appearance for no reason?

I loved the mystery surrounding Blue and who he was. I was surprised to find out who it was in the end, and was actually really happy for one major reason (which I won’t state here because it’s an obvious giveaway).

I definitely think this was a great read. Not only a successful coming out story, but one with redemption and forgiveness on multiple characters’ parts, as well as friendship and just finding yourself in who you are. I highly recommend this to anyone, really.

I rate this book 5/5 stars.

Accompanying video: Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda Book Review