My rating in stars: 4 stars
My rating in words: Really liked it
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
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.
MY THOUGHTS (SPOILER-FREE):
“I’m basically your resident fat Slytherin Rory Gilmore.”
Full disclosure: I think Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda is one of my all-time favorite books. Possibly even my number one all-time favorite because I keep re-reading and re-reading it and I still can’t get enough. And though not everybody agreed with me, I always ADORED the character of Leah. My teenage self related to her so much. So when I heard Becky Albertalli was writing a sort-of sequel to Simon vs, but from Leah’s POV, I was over-the-moon ecstatic. Not only would I be able to revisit my wonderful Simon but I could also get to know my girl Leah better! Win-win!
And well, I finished this book in give or take 24 hours. Meaning I loved it. It was addictive, it was funny, it was cute and romantic and sassy and bantery and seriously I could go on. Was it perfect? No. It did not even come close to taking Simon’s place in my heart (but truthfully, the chances it could do that were very slim to start with). Also, this book definitely has some issues that need to be discussed and I’ll get to later in this review. But overall? I am happy that I got to read this and I am happy this book exists. Here’s why:
Leah. Like I said, I loved Leah ever since I met her in Simon vs. I related to her so much and I found so many of these things I still relate to now. Major Harry Potter nerd? Me too! Loves to cuss? Fucking same! Loves the dead-pan delivery? Definitely! Had a crush on her gay best friend? Been there! Uses sarcasm as a defense mechanism? Yep! Does not drink? Same. Tends to blow up and exaggerate when things go wrong? Again, same! And yet, I also discovered some sides to Leah I did not appreciate. Namely, she can be mean and very abrasive. She says some pretty mean things in this book when she gets mad or annoyed and nobody really calls her out on them. But yeah, it did make her a fully developed character that felt so very, very real to me and I loved that about her. Also, can we just appreciate the fact that we have a fat, bisexual main character who is happy with who she is? Because yes to that!
Friendship. Friendship plays a very big part of the story as it takes place during senior year, when all the important life changes are coming and Leah’s strong friend group seems to be having some problems adjusting to these big changes. I’m a sucker for those kinds of stories since friendship is so important for me and it’s also just something almost everybody goes through: seeing your friendships evolve as you become an adult (ew) and go to college, get a job, settle down and all that. Leah’s friendship with Simon is just too adorable for words. But I also enjoyed her interactions with everyone in their friend group, from Nick to Abby to Anna and Morgan, even Taylor. Also, that American Grill scene? HILARIOUS.
Family. As with Becky Albertalli’s other books, family is also a big part of the story. In particular here, we follow Leah’s relationship with her young, single mother while she starts getting serious with a man Leah has some trouble adjusting to. I adored the mother-daughter scenes, mostly because I loved Leah’s mom. Though Leah’s attitude kind of bothered me, I did also love all the scenes with her mother’s new boyfriend, Wells, especially when he awkwardly takes her shopping.
Diversity. Becky Albertalli has a way of seamlessly integrating diversity to her stories in a way that is as natural as it is beautiful. Of course we have Leah, our main character who is a fat, bisexual girl, but we also have different races and sexualities in the supporting characters, including a mention of an enby character. I can’t stress enough how much I love this and wish every authour could write this diversely.
Romance. Another thing I love about Becky Albertalli’s books? The adorable fluff. I’m talking about the swoons. The romance. And though I must admit that I felt like we had less romantic scenes here than in previous books, the scenes we do get are THE BEST. Like, I never thought I could get happy about feet touching, but damnit I was!
BUT. And yes there is a big BUT. Be very aware that there is a scene where Leah is very mean to another character who comes out to her as bisexual. The character in question says she is still figuring things out, but calls herself low-key bi. And Leah completely shuts her down, saying that’s not a real label, even making the girl cry. So she does some really mean policing of another person’s sexuality and calling her label unvalid and that’s just wrong and hurtful. Especially because she never apologizes or gets called out for it and it’s just adressed in a bad way. I honestly hadn’t really noticed at this at first read. I thought this was just mean Leah lashing out when she feels vulnerable again, but I hadn’t stood still at the implications until another book blogger pointed it out. And it is completely true. Though I still love the book as a whole, I do mention this scene, because for someone who is struggling with their sexual identity or still figuring things out like this girl, this can be a very hurtful scene. Nobody should police your label or make you feel unvalid and the book should have handled this better.
Overall though, I still enjoyed this book. It’s not my favorite Becky Albertalli, but it still put a smile to my face and gave my heart a little skip with its cuteness.
“I hate when assholes have talent. I want to live in a world where good people rule at everything and shitty people suck at everything.”
“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 some else’s brain.”
“I hate when writers make Draco sweet. Sorry, but Draco’s a bitch. Own it. I mean, yeah, he’s a ball of mush underneath, but you have to earn it with him.”
“I can’t help it. I’m a Slytherin.”
And I’m the worst kind of Slytherin. I’m the kind who’s so stupidly in love with a Gryffindor, she can’t even function. I’m the Draco from some shitty Drarry fic that the author abandoned after four chapters.”
“I used to think boners literally pointed in the direction of the person you’re attracted to, like a compass. That would be helpful. Mortifying as fuck, but at least it would clarify things.”
“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?”