Leah On The Offbeat
By Becky Albertalli
Rose Rating – 2
Maturity Level – 12+
Genre – Young Adult LGBTQ Contemporary (Emphasis on bisexual characters)
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It’s senior year for Leah. She’s having a tough time because even though she has a pretty accepting group of friends, she hasn’t come out as bisexual yet. She’s quickly developing feeling for one of her friends. However, her friend has problems of her own. The two are both navigating the difficulties of being a teen and coming to terms with their ‘offbeat’ sexual identities.
As Leah struggles to deal with her emotions, she’ll learn that being independent doesn’t always mean closing oneself off the ones you care about most.
Having read “Simon vs The Homosapien’s Agenda” first, I was so excited to read this book. I had really high hopes but there were quite a few problems with the story and Leah’s character development.
In the ‘Simon’ universe, Leah is Simon’s best friend. She comes off as being a tough nut to crack in ‘Simon’ which was fine, but in ‘Leah’ she comes off as a downright bitch. This really bothered me to say the least.
This was the first book that was discussed by The Rainbow Readers Book Club and I was not surprised that many others had similar emotions towards Leah, in how she was portrayed, as well as key scenes that were bothersome
Leah is obviously struggling with her emotions, and while I don’t think Albertalli meant for her character to come off as abusive, there are scenes where she nearly seems so.
The one scene that really dropped this book from a solid 3 roses to a 2, was a scene where one character is trying to express their emotions about coming out as bisexual. The way that Leah responds is awful. She criticizes this person and makes it all about herself instead of trying to empathize with the other person. Leah’s internal dialog let’s us know how badly she is struggling with coming out. While this should have been a bonding moment for the characters, it turns extremely sour, very fast.
In the book club chat, I was not surprised to hear this one scene alone, really put a lot of people off.
While Leah has her redeeming moments, as she stands up firmly against racism, it was still really off putting to see how callous she was about someone’s coming out process.
In addition to how terrible Leah treats her loved ones throughout the story, there is also the issue that the ending felt rushed. Many of the book chat participants also agreed with me that perhaps the editor forced Albertalli to shave her story down. We all unanimously agreed this was a mistake.
I do agree with the book club participants, this was probably a decicsion made on the part of the editor rather than Albertalli herself. We all agreed that perhaps Albertalli would do better with a new editor/publisher if this is going to be a constant theme in her work.
Albertalli is pretty extraordinary at character development and world building and when you’ve got that kind of talent, it shouldn’t be shaved down for the interest of ‘time’. Which clearly indicated the audience can’t handle it – so not true! Many of us felt offended by this, as if our attention spans couldn’t handle it. I even got this comment from younger readers. We wanted the whole cake, and only got slices and even crumbs in some instances, which left us really unsatisfied!
Would I Read Other Work By This Author?
Because I didn’t read this book first, I will definitely be reading more from this author. “Simon vs. The Homosapien’s Agenda” was so heartwarming, that I can’t pass up potential books Albertalli will write, that may end up in the same rated bracket as ‘Simon’.
The Rainbow Reader’s Club
Want to join us for the next book chat? We have a meet-up on the last Sunday of every month on my Instagram account, which is you can click this link to follow me @this.rainbow.life. If you would like more information about how it works, click here for the schedule!