Title: If This Gets Out
Author: Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich
Release Date: December 7th, 2021
Genre: Young Adult Fiction – Contemporary – Romance – LGBTQIA+
My rating in stars:
My rating in words:
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
Eighteen-year-olds Ruben Montez and Zach Knight are two members of the boy-band Saturday, one of the biggest acts in America. Along with their bandmates, Angel Phan and Jon Braxton, the four are teen heartbreakers in front of the cameras and best friends backstage. But privately, cracks are starting to form: their once-easy rapport is straining under the pressures of fame, and Ruben confides in Zach that he’s feeling smothered by management’s pressure to stay in the closet.
On a whirlwind tour through Europe, with both an unrelenting schedule and minimal supervision, Ruben and Zach come to rely on each other more and more, and their already close friendship evolves into a romance. But when they decide they’re ready to tell their fans and live freely, Zach and Ruben start to truly realize that they will never have the support of their management. How can they hold tight to each other when the whole world seems to want to come between them?
MY THOUGHTS (spoiler-free):
“The freedom to be ourselves, and express whatever truest version of ourselves we know of to the world as we see fit, is the most important freedom we have.”
If This Gets Out is a book that has been on my radar and my ‘most-anticipated-releases” lists for about a year now. I’ve always loved music, as well as stories set in the music industry. And I’ve always been a fan of boy (and girl) bands, from The Backstreet Boys and NSync all the way to BTS. Though for some reason I completely missed the train on the One Direction hype (rest assured, I looked them up after finishing this book). All this to say, I was super excited from the get-go to read this story about a forbidden queer boy band romance. This is my thing, you know? But I’m also happy to say that I got so much more than I expected. This is way more than just an angsty forbidden romance and I’d recommend this book even if you’re not into boy bands at all. Let me tell you all about why!
The music industry setting and the exploration of some harmful practices
While this book is a romance, the romance itself doesn’t feel like the main topic of the story. In fact, I felt so invested in everything going on around it and it even felt a little difficult to read about sometimes.
Ruben, Zach, Angel and Jon are the four members of the world’s most popular boy band, Saturday. They’re super successful and when the book starts they just wrapped up a sold-out American tour and are about to embark on an equally sold-out European tour. However, we also learn that not everything is as shiny and golden as it seems. The boys are controlled by their label to the extreme. They each have been branded with a certain personality they can’t stray from, even if their public ‘brand’ is nothing like their real selves. Ruben is gay and has been asking management to be able to come out publicly for years, and yet he’s turned down every single time. Zach loves song writing, but does not get any chances because his type of songs don’t fit their poppy brand. Angel is full of playful energy and mischief, but has to tone himself down all the time and present himself as the ‘sweet, innocent angel’ of the group. And Jon, who is also the manager’s son, is branded as the band’s ‘sex symbol’, but is extremely uncomfortable with this. Their every move is monitored, their every outfit picked out, their every interview carefully directed. They don’t even have the freedom to be themselves and this is extremely harmful to their mental state. There is obvious emotional abuse and gaslighting going on and it is so painful to read about. I just got so protective of these boys. And that is even before Ruben and Zach become romantically involved and everything falls apart even more.
I thought the book handled the pressures of being famous and the dark side of the music industry very well. It’s a thoughtful exploration of the exploitation that happens in the music industry and the behind-the-scenes struggles of the world’s most popular boy band and balances deep issues like closeting, drug abuse, emotional abuse and toxic family members with the funny, light-hearted and sweet moments.
The friendship and found family aspect
One of the most heartwarming aspects of this story was the unconditional love and support all four Saturday boys have for each other. Though there are of course some annoyances and frustrations due to their situation, they form this close-knit family unit together, and I loved seeing how they were always there for each other, no matter what. Though we see the story mostly through Ruben and Zach’s dual POV’s, Angel and Jon were both still well-developed characters. They all felt so distinct and their (real) personalities all shone through. It was just so nice that see that despite everything they’re going though, these guys are actually friends and there for each other, even when their management and label (and in some cases, even their family) isn’t. Found family vibes at its finest.
The romance: a slow-burn, forbidden friends-to-lovers romance
And of course, there is the romance. Though I’d been expecting this aspect of the story and was so ready for a nice angsty forbidden romance plot, I got so much more here as well. The romance between Ruben and Zach and their journey from friends to more develops at a nice, slow, and realistic pace. Though Ruben is gay and has known this about himself for years, Zach has never considered that he may be into boys as well. Him coming to terms with his feelings for Ruben and his sexuality happens gradually and realistically. Ruben and Zach both grew so much together and have this mostly open and honest communication that was just so nice to read about. While the romance is angsty in the fact that they are forced to keep it hidden from the world, between Ruben and Zach themselves everything is soft and sweet and any teen angst drama is resolved pretty quickly. There were so many nice and light-hearted moments between the two of them that balance out the hardships they need to face.
Overall, I highly recommend this story. Whether you’re a fan of boy bands or not. Because ultimately, this is a nice read for anyone who loves supportive friendships and found family vibes, adorable friends-to-lovers romances and a thoughtful exploration of some of the harmful practices found in the music industry. You’ll be rooting and cheering for this fictional band called Saturday before you know it.
“Everyone wants the world to see them as they are. The truth isn’t the problem. The problem is that the world doesn’t always make the truth safe for us to share.”
“Almost plummeting to my death before a stadium full of screaming people is a warning sign, in an endless parade of warning signs lately, that I need more sleep.”
“The thing about your dreams coming true is that, for a gold-spun moment, you catch a glimpse of what life could be like for you. Then when you lose it, and you crash back to reality, it’s from such a great height all you can do is lie there, winded and bruised, while you come to terms with the idea that a happiness like that isn’t meant for you.”
“It’s been so hard for me to believe that being adored doesn’t mean I’m one mistake away from being despised.”