Title: Leah on the Offbeat
Author: Becky Albertalli
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: April 2018
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, LGBT+
When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. She’s an anomaly in her friend group: 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.
Note: This review will have spoilers for Simon vs.
Leah on the Offbeat feels like it picks up where Simon vs. left off, despite the fact that it takes place about a year later. It takes a minute to get into the book, but when you do, boy are you in for a treat. Leah is sure of herself, confident and funny, and honestly that is great to see from a plus sized character. Her voice is instantly recognisable, full of quirks and self deprecation, but at times this can get a little annoying. Towards the end of the novel, you find yourself screaming at her to just trust the people around her. She may be confident but she can’t seem to understand that other people might actually like her.
This novel is a great contemporary, and the coming of age aspect of this book made me nostalgic for things that have not yet passed. I, myself, am about to leave university and the way Leah was feeling about leaving High School echoed my own feelings about leaving University. Becky Albertalli is amazing at talking about these small things that just come with growing up; she just seems to get it.
This book isn’t as cute and fluffy as Simon vs. but I loved the voice and juxtaposition Becky brought to this. It’s honestly so different to how contemporary novels usually feel. I also loved that Becky talked about some real shit in this book, and casual racism is something that’s so often looked over or brushed past that it was awesome to see it tackled. I feel like, if I were in Leah’s shoes, I would have reacted in the same way, so I also found it interesting to see things from Abby’s point of view – “I am perfect because I have to be perfect”* – and helped me open my eyes even more to something I felt like I knew a lot about. As a white, straight, cisgender woman, I am constantly learning and this just reinforced the fact that you can never take for granted how much you think you may know about something. We all have a lot to learn, and point of view is something that a lot of us need to take into account.
There were a few things that annoyed me however. This is where some spoilers will come into play, so look away now if you don’t want anything to be ruined for you.
Nick’s character spiralled in the complete opposite direction of his character in Simon vs. Now, I know he’s going through a break up, but he’s just a complete and utter asshole in this book and I could not empathise with him one bit. When he and Abby were arguing even before they broke up he was acting like a bit of a dick and so, when they inevitably split up, I couldn’t help but feel like Abby dodged a bullet. Which, quite honestly, is such a shame considering his character in Simon. I loved him in that book, and I loved him in the movie, and this just doesn’t feel like the same person to me.
Secondly, is (SPOILER) Abby’s coming out scene. It was so frustrating to see Leah – A BISEXUAL – belittle Abby’s coming out story and her definition of her own sexuality. I love Leah, I really do. She’s like that little sister you always want to hug and boost her confidence, but at the same time I get so frustrated with her I just want to shake her and shout ‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!’ Like, girl, really? That’s not your sexuality to define. And yes, I get that bisexuals are constantly belittled and ignored and people always tell them that their sexuality isn’t solid enough, but this coming from a bisexual herself is so annoying. I’m sorry Becky, but this wasn’t executed well.
With that being said, I loved this book with all my heart. Becky included so much Simon and Bram content it will make your heart sing! I loved Abby in this and I loved the subtle references to Molly and Cassie. There was a non-binary character in this story which is awesome and, as a musical theatre nerd, I loved all of the Joseph scenes. Simon playing Simeon is too precious and I love that Nick was in the show. I love Nora and wish we got to see more of her. She’s so badass she deserves a book of her own.
My initial response to this book was all love and I gave it 5 stars, but after giving it some thought, the things that annoyed me about it annoyed just a bit too much to justify giving it 5 stars. However, I devoured this book and read it in one sitting and the emotional response it evoked from me makes me feel like it deserves more than 4 stars. So, 4.5 stars it is. Honestly, just read it. Despite my grievances, this was a hugely enjoyable read and I would recommend it to anyone who was a fan of Simon vs. even if it’s just to get more Simon and Bram cuteness. This book made me laugh out loud, it almost made me cry and, like Leah, I fell in love. If you love contemporary, teen romance with a snarky, witty main character, read this book. Like, right now.
Let me know what your thoughts on Leah on the Offbeat are in the comments below. As always, if you enjoyed this review please give it a like and don’t forget to subscribe!
*I have no idea if this is a real quote or not, but the essence is there