Title: “Leah on the Offbeat”
Author: Becky Albertalli
Pages (hardcover): 343 pages
Original Publishing Date: 24 April 2018
Synopsis (from the inside flap):
“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.”
Trigger/Content warnings for the novel:
- gatekeeping of bisexuality
Representation in the novel:
- anxious bi fat girl rep
- bi/questioning girl rep
- non-binary rep (side character)
- f/f relationship
When I heard that this was coming out, I was so excited. A bi fat girl as a main character? Hell yeah, I love that. And it’s part of the same universe as Simon vs., which is cool, too; I love all of these characters. Even after I read a few reviews that explained some…not-so-good things that happen in the novel (I’ll get to that later), I was still pretty hyped for it, though a bit subdued.
So Leah on the Offbeat takes place during Leah’s senior year of high school, from her point of view. The reader is in Leah’s head throughout the entire book, going through her anxiety and fear over what’s going to happen after she and her friends graduate: will they still stay friends, will the couples stay together? On top of that, Leah also has to deal with the upcoming prom, some nastiness going on within her friend group, as well as trying to figure out if and when to come out to her friends as bi.
I have to say, I really enjoyed Leah’s narration. Some people said that she was annoying and whatever, but I loved her. That sense of catastrophism she gets whenever something goes slightly wrong, that anxiety, is exactly how I feel a lot of the time. Something goes wrong? It’s automatically because of the worst scenario ever. I feel for Leah so much because of that.
Also, the entire book itself? I loved. There wasn’t much of an action-y plot, but that’s okay. I enjoy reading about the different characters, and I thought that was a great way to wrap up their high school career: a sort of “what’s going to happen?” with all of the characters. I understand that it wasn’t as plot-driven as Simon vs., but I still enjoyed myself. And…Leah’s relationship with her mom? Perfect. Her mom in general? Just as perfect. And Leah eventually coming around to her mom’s boyfriend? I loved that, too.
Now…the not-so-good parts of this book. There’s a scene in this book where Leah and another character kiss, and it just. Irked me. Made me uncomfy. Because the other character is tipsy from alcohol, and it was one of those “truth or dare” sort of kisses. But Leah was obviously uncomfortable/undecided, and the tipsy character kissed her when she was trying to talk through it. And afterwards, when Leah asks the tipsy character why they kissed her, it was because “they wanted to.” And it was left at that. I don’t know, I just didn’t like that. From what reviews I read that were a bit less gush-y about that book, they also explained their uncomfy-ness surrounding this kiss. I feel like it would have been better if Leah was able to talk through, and then actively consent, to the kiss instead of being cut off mid-sentence. Because there really was no consent between the two characters.
Another uncomfy thing was with Leah and this same character later on in the novel. They were both talking, and the character talks about questioning their sexuality and how they may not be straight. When trying to explain it as being “a little bit bi,” Leah acts really flippant towards them, saying they are either bi or they aren’t, simple as that, and that “a little bit bit” isn’t a “””real””” label. And just…what Leah said wasn’t challenged afterwards, and it can be a bit (a lot) hurtful, especially to questioning folks or people who feel varying degrees of attraction to different genders. People are allowed to only be attracted to girls “a little bit” and be attracted to other genders in varying degrees. That’s valid. It just seemed kinda sleazy that this particular thing was never challenged in the book.
But yeah, it was hard to rate and review this book because while I loved Leah’s voice and the portrayal of her anxiety, I wasn’t so happy about the other things I pointed out. That’s why it isn’t four stars or more: to me, the things I was uncomfortable with, I was really uncomfortable with.