Leah and the Offbeat – Becky Albertalli – Review
Leah knows drumming and she understands music. Everything else in her life? She has no idea how to handle. It is her senior year and the world feels like it is slipping through her fingers. Friends are fighting. In the Fall they will all be entering into a whole new stage of life, without one another.
On top of all of that she is struggling with a secret crush, one that she is sure will destroy her life and hurt her friends. How can she find her way in the world when at every turn it seems like everything and everyone is against her?
I adored Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. (You can read my glowing review here). In that book Simon and Blue were the two that captivated my attention. The rest of the cast was interesting but they didn’t make me wonder too hard about them. They were just Simon’s friends and I liked the role they played in that story.
This as Leah’s story and I actually loved learning more about her. She was probably the least developed in Simon. I loved her character. She is unapologetically herself. She is crass, she is loud and she doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. I found her character refreshing.
I have read reviews that see Leah as too whiny but I thought her issues and her complaining were very relatable. Leah is struggling to figure out where she belongs in her world. She is also someone who overthinks everything. I related well to this issue.
As someone who constantly thinks her choices are the wrong ones I understood Leah’s issues. I understood why she would be upset half the time and why she was constantly fighting everyone. She wanted to belong but she wanted to belong her way. She wanted to stay true to herself while also evolve without seeming phony or fake. Leah was a complicated character and I loved that about her.
I also really enjoyed a very short conversation that was held about being Bi and what labels can mean. One character classify themselves as “Kind bi” and Leah gets upset at them. She points out there is no “kinda bi,” there is you are Bi or you aren’t. The other character pushes back stating their confusion and how they don’t know where they quite fit in.
I thought this was a very important discussion. We sometimes think that we have to have a label for ourselves. We then have to fit into everything that label entails. This creates a serious issue because no one will ever fit one specific label or idea exactly. We all are different. We all have different ways of defining ourselves and I think if a label makes that difficult you shouldn’t have to use one. Labels are good if they help you but if they don’t, don’t worry about them. Anyone who fights you is too busy trying to live their life in one defined way and that is not your problem.
I thought this story did a good job at showing the uncertainty that comes with senior year of high school. It is exciting and terrifying all at the same time. You are going to be an “adult” even though you have no idea what that means. I liked how true to life some of the fears and issues explored in this book felt.
I loved Simon vs. because of the connection between Blue and Simon. I also loved it because the plot was easy and precise. This one was missing both of those elements.
I felt like Leah’s story was missing the growing connection between two people. The relationship in this one was wrought with indecision and confusion, which made sense but it never felt like the two characters were getting any closer. I didn’t feel like Leah was learning anything about the other character. I felt like it was more annoyance that eventually evened out. I didn’t feel like she was becoming closer with the person she was crushing on.
The plot in this book was also just about trying to get through this crush. Simon was about Simon coming out and finding out who Blue was. There was more story than just the romance. This one was about her senior year and romance, but it was all around this back and forth relationship. I wanted more to the plot.
I also felt like Leah’s drumming and music were underutilized in this story. There were a few metaphors made but she didn’t really play drums often. I wanted to see her develop as a musician and see music help her find her way. I think if that had been added in this story would have been stronger.
The biggest issue I had with this story was the ending. It was too quick. In Simon vs. we learn who Blue is and there is a bit of Simon and Blue developing their relationship. We get some scenes we rarely see in books, them just being together. In Leah we got none of that.
In this book we got the big kiss and reveal and then a quick wrap up email to let us know what happened to everyone else and that was it. We don’t get to see the two characters develop their relationship at all. We don’t get to see them talk as a couple. We don’t get to see anything meaningful between them. I wanted more like what Simon left us with, a giddy and happy feeling. Instead I felt like I do often in these books, almost indifferent. I think it would have just been nice to see a bit more of these two together as a couple at the end.
I ended up giving this story 3 stars on Goodreads. It was a good read. I enjoyed learning more about Leah, I just wish it had felt deeper and more meaningful like Simon vs. did.
“But it sucks when life moves along without you.” (pg. 17)
“That has to be the best part of being in love – the feeling of having a home in someone else’s brain.” (pg. 43)
“Like, I call myself an ally. […] But then the second it gets personal, it all flies out the window. I’ll never forget that I said that.” (pg. 286)