Leah on the Offbeat fills in a lot of the gaps and questions about Simon’s best friend Leah, as well as bring readers some bi-sexual representation.
|Genre||Young Adult, Novel, Comedy, LGBT|
Remember Leah? Simon’s best friend who, in the first, book, didn’t seem to have a crush on him, just saw him as a brother, but the movie changed all that? Well, first off, she does have a crush and secondly, she is bi-sexual. That is something worth mentioning because, largely, the book deals with her struggles of being bi-sexual in a world where Garrett has a crush on her and, of all people, ABBY SUSO DOES TOO!
Problem is, Abby is not out, doesn’t seem to want to be, and she presents only moments which confuse the hell out of Leah. Though, to make things worse, she breaks up with Nick who is completely devastated. Yet, in Abby’s mind, they are going to different schools and she doesn’t believe in the long distance thing. So, taking that into account, as much as Leah may have had a crush on Abby back in the day, trying to define what they are or could be? Well, there are just more and more levels of complication. Of which also include one of Leah’s friends saying something she deems racist and just so much high school drama.
Yet, no matter what Leah goes through, there is Simon. Someone who doesn’t get to act as a confidant, he doesn’t learn the full story till it is resolved, but between him and Nora, they remain the family she’d love to integrate into by marriage. For they just bring her some form of normalcy as she deals with all that as well as her mom’s new boyfriend.
As a consistent disclaimer, it is recognized there are many bi-sexual characters in literature and media. However, based off what I’ve read or seen, it is hard to really come up with any off hand. Never mind remember one who was the lead and not a love interest or supporting character. So for Leah to be bi and not just verbalize that, but note how she had both a male and female love interest was something.
Especially because, the way Garret and Abby are described, it is made clear they are gender stereotypical. Abby is a girly girl and Garret is a jock. So there can’t be any arguments that Leah liked Garrett because he was feminine or Abby because she had more masculine traits. In a way, she just likes them for who they are as well as the fact they pursue her and want her time and attention. Never mind her affection.
It’s The Little Moments That Count – To Prove Someone Is Racist
Morgan noting how Abby only got into a school because she is Black, and Leah calling her out on it, was perfection. Because, there is this idea that still exists that you have to call someone the N word or repeat an act during the week or two you learned about the civil rights movement to be racist. Nope, it is the little things as well.
As for how this is racist? Well, let’s take into account Morgan is putting out there the thought that, despite her academics and extracurricular activities, there is no way Abby would get into a school Morgan didn’t. On top of that, she is applying the concept that, if Abby wasn’t Black, she’d have less of a chance of getting in.
Now, I’m sure some may think this is overblown but take into consideration they are in the south – Georgia. A state which may not all be racist, no one is saying that, but it is ingrained into its history and culture. So while some may not have the gall to take things to the levels seen in the 60s, that doesn’t mean the micro-aggressions should not be taken seriously. For enabling them to be said and keeping silent, that passiveness makes it seem like it is okay.
And for those who still may not get it, think about rape culture and the whole #MeToo thing. If a guy is allowed to say something sexual to a woman, and no one calls him out on it, then it seems okay. They accept his actions as normal and acceptable. However, if someone says something, then it is made clear that it makes people uncomfortable, there isn’t a consensus that it is socially acceptable, and the person is at least shamed enough to not repeat the action in that person’s company.
Living Life As a Big Girl Without Qualms About It
Does Leah sometimes feel uncomfortable clothes shopping? Yes. However, in general, she presents herself as a proud big girl who likes her body. Which you have to love since, again, representation. Especially since, as seen on the cover, she isn’t big in, and I mean this in an inoffensive way, Hollywood version of the word. She isn’t an Ashley Graham or even Amy Schumer. Leah is not plus size simply because she doesn’t have abs and has thighs.
What Leah is, is what a lot of people are. Someone whose metabolism isn’t that quick and she doesn’t pursue vigorous exercise. It’s not something she is into and it is hard to not relate to that. For while, again, sometimes shopping can be quite annoying, it is better to love who and what you are than stress over inches and pounds and do something you hate just to be assumingly healthy.
Also Being Seen As Attractive
Also, I have to add, the book makes it clear that weight does not equal being attractive. We have a jock and cheerleader with a crush on Leah based off her personality and drawing talents. Now, a person could argue Albertalli could have tried to make being a big girl sexy but then comes the problem of fetishizing. Which, considering there was already some backlash over a straight woman writing a story about a gay teen experience, maybe she was dodging a potential issue?
Either way, you have to love the fact that, also, there isn’t that weird vibe you get from comedy movies here either. While Leah is sarcastic, she isn’t this weird guy with hardly any redeemable social skills who is attracting attention. There is no, “Yeah you’re an ass, but I like you anyway” type of crap. Nor does she treat them like crap, lose them, and then does some grand gesture to redeem herself. They like Leah because she keeps it honest, takes no s*** from anyone, and can be a really good friend as long as you can handle her first two attributes.
A Main Character Who Isn’t Rich Nor Destitute or Dealing with Abuse
I don’t know why, but it seems with YA novels, most of the time they feature people who are middle class and above. Then, when they don’t, it’s like that person deals with nearly everything a poor person can deal with. Be it abuse, lack of food, wondering if they may keep a roof over their head, and so much more. However, thankfully, while Leah may just be lower middle class, at the very least, it’s presented in a normal way and not a “If we buy this dress, we won’t be able to afford food next week!” met with a reply of, “This is a special occasion and you let me worry about that.”
Is there a need to budget and be cautious? Yes, especially since Leah is relying on a scholarship to go to college. However, a sense of poverty porn isn’t seen what so ever.
It Figures A Way To Involve Simon Without Making Him The Star or A Crutch
With this book being a sequel, not featuring the person who got the series started, naturally there can and should be some caution. However, Simon is so integrated into this book that he, essentially, is like the male lead. The book may focus on Leah but Simon’s presence, as her best friend, is consistent enough that you don’t get the vibe his role is downplayed so Leah can have her moment.
Also, he isn’t around so much that you feel he is acting as a trojan horse or crutch for Leah. Strangely, his appearance is just the right amount of, “You remember me?!” with “You heard my story and it pretty much is going fine so there is no need to focus on me.”
It’s Such A Quick Read
Originally, I was going to do this book by covering it chapter by chapter but, even with me not being an avid reader, I got through this within days of receiving it. For, whether it is the fact Leah’s attitude isn’t common for protagonist, or her story, it brought a sort of rush. As if maybe YA novels aren’t slowly morphing into the same story featuring the same characters with slightly different descriptions.
Overall: Positive (Buy)
To be honest, I don’t know if Becky Albertalli is at that point where I’d read something not in Simon and Leah’s universe, but I will admit I’m tempted to give her a chance. Which is saying something. For there aren’t a huge amount of authors that make multiple franchises or books you can get into. Usually, it isn’t them or their style but one set of characters that draw you in.
But, questioning if I’m a fan of Albertalli or her characters aside, this is definitely a book to buy, especially if you read Simon vs. The Homo Sapien’s Agenda. For while Simon may have been the one you originally fell in love with, Leah takes that baton and even with a completely different personality, makes you fall in love with her just the same. Truly showing that Albertalli is by far, not a one trick pony.