Leah on the Offbeat
by Becky Albertalli
read in April 2018
This is a spoiler-free review!
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.
It’s been almost a week since I read Leah on the Offbeat. I usually write my reviews the instant I finish a book, but I still don’t know how I feel about this novel.
I’ve read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda four times and The Upside of Unrequited three times already, so it’s safe to say I’m a fan of Becky Albertalli’s work. I was looking forward to the release of this sequel, but I was also a bit hesitant: what if I didn’t love it as much as her other books?
Leah and I have so much in common. We’re both bisexual, live with our mom, have struggles with money, are fat, don’t drink, etc. Leah on the Offbeat was incredibly relatable, so I will definitely re-read this.
I binge-read this novel in one sitting, so it’s obvious I enjoyed it. That said, that also influenced my reading experience because I didn’t have a lot of time to formulate an opinion, which is why it took me so long to review this.
Leah on the Offbeat doesn’t have much of a plot, but it’s certainly not boring. I just can’t seem to get over the pacing of the final two chapters in this book. The ending was too sudden and seemed disconnected from the rest of the novel. As opposed to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and The Upside of Unrequited, we only spend a handful of pages with the couple, and I didn’t like that.
At a certain point, Leah’s love interest tells her she’s “low-key bi”. Leah gets really mad and says “it’s not a real label” and runs away. At the start of the novel, the love interest identified as straight. It’s difficult enough to accept you’re not heterosexual, let alone to immediately choose a label. I understand where Leah is coming from, but this is very shitty and it’s not challenged in the book.
In the second to last chapter, Leah changes her mind about something. I was happy with her decision, but it seemed a bit last-minute?? It’s so different from what she was feeling only a couple of pages beforehand and as a reader, I didn’t understand why she suddenly felt so differently.
Someone mentioned in their review that everyone in their friend group gets paired up in the end and I HATE THAT! Becky Albertalli’s books deal with a lot of serious topics, but they’re also fluffy and funny. The fact that everyone has a “happy ever after”, however, is too much of a cliché for me and I wish we got to see characters who are happy and don’t want to be or aren’t in a romantic relationship.
content and trigger warnings for anti-fat remarks (challenged), racism (challenged), queer-/bihobia (challenged), ableist language (unchallenged)
I read Leah on the Offbeat in one sitting, so I clearly enjoyed it. I related a lot to Leah and I will certainly re-read this book! That said, the ending was too sudden for my taste and I would’ve liked to spend more time with this couple.
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