As always with a Becky Albertalli book, I flew through it. I haven’t read an entire book in a night in quite a long time, but I felt compelled to keep going even though it got pretty late. And then I figured I might as well just finish it. No regrets here! A good time was had. I do think this is my least favorite of her three books, so far, though.
Surprisingly, it has nothing to do with Leah herself. Leah is a tough character to like for me. I bounced off her a little bit in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, as well. She’s often brash and stubborn and reactive. But Albertalli does a great job internalizing her personality, so that even when she’s being more difficult, you see where she’s coming from. She feels human, and I really liked her almost immediately as a protagonist.
There are two things keeping me from giving this five stars, despite how fun it was and how fast I read it. First, I’m not really sure I can identify what Leah’s arc is in this book. I liked reading the book so much that I didn’t really catch on to this until trying to sum up my feelings for it, but she doesn’t really grow or change throughout. Besides gaining a significant other, and coming out to her friends as bi, nothing about Leah is different from page one through the end. The growth is more on the part of other characters, especially Abby. Well, wait, now that I think about it, she does open up, and that is a change. She also starts showing people her art. So, there’s that. But I had to think a little bit about it before it occurred to me, so I still wish a little more had been done there.
The second thing is her relationship with Abby. I liked Abby in Simon, felt I knew who she was, but here I felt weirdly removed from her. Even as I loved Leah having an adorable crush on her, I’m not sure I entirely see how they work as a couple? I mean, I’m clear on Leah’s end. We see all her thoughts. But I’m not sure about Abby. I think this might just be me, though from the acknowledgements, this is something Albertalli actually got from the fan community and wasn’t something she was planning on her own, if that makes any difference at all. I have no idea.
Regardless, I liked this quite a bit. As always with Albertalli, so many little details and emotional nuances are packed in. From Leah defending Abby getting in to a college that another friend didn’t, when that friend implies she only got in because she’s black, from high school relationships not lasting, through the very common breaking up of a formerly close friend group. All those things ring true.
I think if I ever re-read this, the two issues I mentioned above might not be there anymore, so they really aren’t that big of a deal for me, clearly.
Read Harder Challenge 2018: A one-sitting book.