It has been roughly a year since the events of the first book and now Leah is in the spotlight. Which may not be awkward for you but it is kind of awkward for her.
|Genre||Young Adult, Coming of Age, Comedy|
Chapter 1: A Year Later & Nothing Has Really Changed
Remember Leah? Yeah, not featured highly in the previous book and despite Katherine Langford being her in the movie, the biggest thing to note was her out of place crush on Simon. Something which seemed like one of those, “We had to for it made the movie work” moments that bugged me. Alas, we learn this chapter she has long had a crush on Simon. But, alas, he is gay so that isn’t going to happen.
Unfortunately, what does happen is Martin not having transferred to a different school, and still being fairly chummy with everyone. Note: he is barely in the book, but his presence still irks most of Simon’s friends. As for Simon though, he has pretty much moved on for everyone’s sake.
Especially since they are all, minus Leah who refused to audition, in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I’m talking Nick as lead, Simon, Abby, and even Nora as a stage manager.
I wonder which came first, taking note how long it took to perhaps write this book, I guess I have to rescind ill feelings about Leah liking Simon. But, at the same time, considering it wasn’t really pushed they were more than like non-blood related siblings, since she was so into Nick, can you blame me for getting weird about what seemed to be a change? I mean, even with it now being canon it makes me roll my eyes since it seems mad typical.
But, you have to take note, with Leah considering herself poor, and from a single parent household, why wouldn’t she want to marry into Simon’s family? They have everything her’s doesn’t. Two parents, she could have a cool older and younger sister, and as shown in Simon’s book and this one, Simon is a pretty communicative friend. Though there are some awkward moments with Bram on the way, when it comes to Leah, there is nothing but open dialog.
Chapter 2: When Things Begin To Get Awkward
It’s senior year and naturally, there are conversations about what people are doing the following year. Thus really pushing to the forefront how challenging things are going to be for the dynamic. But it isn’t just the far future but present which is sort of awkward. Like Taylor, one of the members of Nora and Leah’s band, being very Nick obsessed despite him being all over Abby and her reciprocating.
That isn’t the only awkward moment though. Being that Leah probably has the least bit of money, when they all go out to eat after school she just gets a coke and a comment is made about her being on a diet. Which, being a big girl, pisses her off as if she can’t enjoy and love her size. It doesn’t end there though, Abby, who of course Leah has this weird relationship with, begins to linger more and directly try to have conversations with Leah. Some of which seem friendly but with Abby going for pre-school show friendly to taking it down a notch with Leah, its puzzling to the point of being side-eye worthy.
One of the things I appreciate about Albertalli’s writing style is that she isn’t very lofty or draws things out. She doesn’t feel the need to over explain a place or emotion since she figures, this is a book, use your imagination. We don’t have to get Leah going on and on about dealing with people being uncomfortable with her size or her being poor – in her mind. It’s about her allowing you into her thoughts and seeing through her eyes. Not solely from a first person, everyone is evil, perspective either. Yes, Leah might be sarcastic and more so for certain individuals than everyone, but in pursuit of showing how she interacts with everyone, you get a three-dimensional character.
One which, in the first book, as noted, was at times an afterthought. Like, while we knew a bit about Leah’s life and her father disappearing on her, her being a big girl and poor wasn’t really noted. Mostly because she wasn’t in Simon’s inner circle while he was going through coming out – Abby and Nick were – but this book seemingly is trying to make up for that. Especially in regards to what is Leah’s place in the friend group outside of being Simon’s best friend.
And, let’s just add, considering how few popularized YA novels feature girls who aren’t skinny wallflower types, you have to give props for Leah not only being described as a big girl, and her version of poor, but also putting that right on the cover too.
With that said, I wonder what pushed Taylor, after all this time, to want to get with Nick so bad? Especially being obvious about it too because that just seemed so unnecessarily messy. Oh, and lest we forget, I like that Abby, though in better straits than Leah, also noted the limitations of her college options by bringing up money. For while they don’t go too deep, another issue with paying for college is where you aren’t poor enough to qualify for financial aid and fancy grants, yet aren’t rich enough where not having those isn’t a big thing. That middle ground is often ignored but, even with Abby outright saying it, you get the idea that her reason for going to Georgia State, like Leah, was because in-state tuition was really the only serious option.
Chapter 3: Meet Mom and, By The Way, I’m Bi
After waffle house awkwardness it is waiting for mom with Bram awkwardness. Which isn’t so bad, since Lean and Bram share Simon, and swap stories and pictures, but then Simon and Bram text in a private chat. Thus leaving Leah on her own a bit. But then her mom pulls up and be it because she is the young mom, so she is the cool one, she is a bit closer to Leah than everyone else is with their parents. Meaning, unofficially, she is kind of Leah’s best friend and most of what she knows, her mom Jessica knows.
Which is a little bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s great her mom knows and likes her friends but the other end of the spectrum is now she seemingly sees herself as hip. Not embarrassingly, like trying to go to high school parties or anything like that. You know, just trying to use what she thinks is modern lingo and pushing it past her being cool and in reality being corny.
Take note of Leah being bi since the possibility of a female love interest will be coming up. Also, you have to admit it is kind of nice how this compare and contrast thing is with Leah and her friends. For, in a way, Leah sort of seems like an outsider at times because everyone is so friendly but, out loud, and in her head a bit, she can be quite snarky. Yet, she shares a love of art and financial restraint with Abby; like Bram, her father isn’t necessarily in her life, though Bram’s dad is increasingly active now; and with Nora, Taylor, and others, she has music. As for what it is about Simon that keeps them close? Honestly, it might just be opposites attracting.
But perhaps the nicest thing about this book, especially in comparison to the first one, is you kind of get the idea that Leah, as much as she may adore Simon’s life and family, she perhaps has it better. In the first book, as perfect as Simon and his family may seem, as noted in the book review, they didn’t really interact much. They kept secrets and wanted to seemingly maintain this ideal or perfect standard to maybe not just outsiders, but internally as well.
When it comes to Leah and Jessica however, there isn’t much in the way of facades. Leah is upfront about how she feels about her life, her mom’s, and even who her mom is dating, this man named Wells. Really making it feel like, as much as we’re in the same universe and featuring an already introduced character, it is like things got completely changed
Other Noteworthy Facts & Moments
- Leah came out to her mom as Bi when 11
Text Message Font
Being that this book takes place in modern day, naturally, texting is part of how the characters communicate. The issue is for me, because of how subtle the font change is, taking note of when someone is texting or communicating regularly is the slightest bit difficult.
- While you certainly feel a sense of consistency from Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda to this, Leah’s point of view, way of speaking, and more are completely different. Thus maintaining familiarity, while presenting something which feels fresh and new.
- Simon, despite not being the lead, isn’t kicked to the side nor absent.
- Leah being bi not being presented as a big thing. Yes, only her mom knows, but it isn’t made into this huge secret to come out about.
- A book starring a big girl who actually enjoys being a big girl.
On The Fence
- I still think the Simon crush thing is eye-roll inducing but I get it. Leah finds his family enviable, from the outside in, and would love to be part of that.