Book Review – ‘Leah on the Offbeat’ (#2 Creekwood) by Becky Albertalli

Another coming out story from the Simonverse… .

Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT

No. of pages: 352

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.

Many of my book friends did not like ‘Leah on the Offbeat’ but I thought it was a comical romp through coming out.

Maybe if so much time hadn’t passed, and I was comparing it to ‘Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda,’ then yes, I would have rated it lower. For this sequel, we follow Leah coming to terms with her bisexuality and crush(es). We get all the comedic timing that was in the debut of this series, though I have to admit our protagonist fell a touch flatter. I think because we never get any deep exploration around the relationship with her mother (and mother’s new boyfriend,) or any resolution to the issues these two share. It’s all very perfunctory. Also, with ‘Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda’ we get how Simon and Bram’s relationship affect the gang – and the larger circle of friends they share. Again, we don’t get this exploration in ‘Leah on the Offbeat.’

Leah is a very private, closed-off, and sarcastic protagonist. She’s confident but self-depreciating. So it makes a bit of sense that the plot is a little reserved. We get teen angst, but it felt understated in comparison to ‘Simon and the Homo Sapiens Agenda,’ but again, it fits the character profile of Leah. I loved how she is sensible. Practical. Considerate of others. Too often in YA we get self-righteous or self-absorbed protagonists who’s character arc is the realisation of their small worldly view, or selfish actions affecting others… not so in ‘Leah on the Offbeat,’ it’s kind of the reverse. Leah learning to take care of herself, and become a little selfish. Letting others in.

It’s a testament to what happens when someone gets bullied for the colour of their skin, their weight, their sexuality, or any other challenge a person may face. They build up walls to protect themselves. In this case, Leah keeps everyone at a distance and deals with the world through sarcasm and dry wit. It’s hard to let people get close to you again because your heart is still in pain from the past.

We get a lot of Simon and Bram and see the progression of their relationship. It fill in the gap between ‘Simon and the Homo Sapiens Agenda’ and the television show ‘Love, Victor.’

Leah on the Offbeat’ is easily predictable, falling into the trope contemporaries are famous for, and I’m not mad at it – it’s the reason I picked up the novel in the first place. I’m glad I had left so much distance between reading this and the debut of the series to let it have headspace in its own right. Becky Albertalli has an expert writing style that really gets into the head of an angsty teen facing personal obstacles around love and identity. I would have loved her to delve into the subject of bisexuality and the stigma the label faces in the wider community, or even bring in more support for Leah from the bisexual community in the story.

There are many missed opportunities in the narrative, but overall it was a hilarious tale of a girl overcoming anxiety and embracing her sexuality while on the verge of that tenuous time when we graduate high school and the fear of losing your friendships as everyone scatters into adulthood.

Overall feeling: A little flat, but cute.

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

#bookporn #coverlove

I have to get to catching up on my Creekwood (or Simonverse) series to justify buying ‘Love, Creekwood.’ I have to admit, the tv show ‘Love, Victor‘ has played a great part in re-igniting my passion to read more from this universe. But nothing has topped ‘Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda‘ yet.

Book Review – ‘What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

The type of diverse novel I’ve been longing to read. No hate. Just meetcute.

What If It's Us Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 437

From Goodreads:

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?

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This was such an adorable story. Arthur and Ben are deliciously, awkwardly cute. A realistic things-don’t-always-go-right sort of thing.

What if it’s us’ is everything I expected it to be. Well written characters, a meet cute oozing innocence, awkwardness and angst. I may have rated it higher, but in comparison to ‘Simon vs the Homo Sapien Agenda’ this didn’t hit me as hard… or have as much comedy. So it just missed out on a perfect score. But that is not to say that is any less of a captivating read.

Four hundred pages and still ‘What if it’s us’ flew by. I was always eager to see where the next chapter would take me. The alternating perspectives between Arthur and Ben lead off on two different storylines that happened to intertwine more and more as the novel progressed without rehashing information as we head-jumped into each narrative. I will say that the writing style did not differ too greatly between each perspective – if it weren’t for chapter titles and references I would have difficulty discerning whose voice was whose. I’d love to have seen some idiosyncrasies, habits, common word usage and tone separate the two perspectives a little more.

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Arthur, the shorter college-bound nerd discovering his first love made me smile with his uncertainty in everything but love. His values in family and friendship. I think this is the first story where there is no bitchiness or bullying, so a surprisingly fun rom-com.

It felt like Ben had the biggest journey in this contemporary; discovering things about himself through introspection, friends, and of course, Arthur. He felt more like the stoic introvert that finally comes out of his shell.

It’s all about coming of age…

All of the secondary characters had their own stuff going on too: getting together, breaking up, fighting, and supporting each other. I really loved this aspect of ‘What if it’s us’ and really fleshed out the narrative.

It ends on the same note of the title as a question – like a true contemporary. One of hope that left me satisfied and hopeful myself.

The pacing is fairly steady. It’s not a fast read, but definitely does not feel like its dragging. The perfect timing for this type of genre.

Definitely recommend for lovers of stories of diversity, light romances, and New York City.

Overall feeling: A deliciously snuggy story

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What If It's Us Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘The Upside of Unrequited’ (Creekwood) by Becky Albertalli

Like a page from my high school journal…

The Upside of Unrequited (Creekwood) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance, GLBT

No. of pages: 336

From Goodreads:

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back. 

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

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The Upside of Unrequited’ was cute. Really cute. Adorable even.

While I loved the romance of it all, the diversity and points of view, I wasn’t completely engaged or surprised. And I didn’t identify too much with Molly. Mental illness, insecurity, a youthful mindset all played a part in isolating me from her. I liked this difference to the usual tropes in YA, but I found myself wishing she was a touch more socially intelligent and the narrative wasn’t always related to emoticons and one word sentences and thoughts with exclamation points.

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The dynamic of twin sisters growing apart was a great storyline, I kinda wish there had been more of Molly’s relationships taking front and centre instead of it being mostly boy-centric. I mean, I love me some romance, but this felt a bit heavy on the boy crush obsession. But in saying that, it rings so true to the seventeen year old girl mind. If I cracked open any of my journals from around that age, it would read so close to Molly’s words. But waaay more awkward and waaaay less cute boys 😊

The Upside of Unrequited’ is predictable for the most part. There were moments that I got a little bored. Moments that I felt old – the language is definitely geared towards a tween demographic. Opposing, there were moments that I awed and giggled out loud.

After ‘Simon and the Homo Sapiens Agenda’ impressed me so much ‘The Upside of Unrequited’ did not really hold up to such a bright light. But a lovely read nonetheless, and I went into this novel with no expectations and enough distance to appreciate it on its own merits. I do love how it is set in the same universe as Simon, and am really looking forward to reading about Leah’s perspective (and maybe getting a glimpse at some more of the characters we know and love in ‘Leah on the Offbeat.’

Recommend this for lovers of light contemporaries, and obsessed with all things Creekwood.

Overall feeling: aww *squish* *squish*

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The Upside of Unrequited (Creekwood) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Getting lost in the High School Conversation – or just being lost in High School.

Simon vs the Homo Sapien Agenda Book Review Pic 1 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 303

From Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

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Blackmail, best friends, bullying, and a boy called Blue…

Simon vs the Homo Sapien Agenda Book Review Pic 2 by Casey CarlisleSuch a cute read!! (Yes it deserved two exclamation points.) With a mix of emails, text messages and playlists this is an easy to read narrative told from Simon Spiers point of view, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda had me glued to page after page. It’s funny, gripping and ultimately huggable.

Full of misunderstandings and character growth, this book conjures up an image of a baby duck in the pond… Simon being the baby duck, fluffy and cute, following the rest of the clutch across the surface, meanwhile underneath his feet are scrambling tremendously to keep up. It is a light coming of age story with witty and sometimes ironic dialogue, and holds a few surprises to grab your attention.

If I could deduct any points it would be for the repetition of ‘I mean,’ ‘seriously’ & ‘I can’t even’ – it made me feel like I was watching and re-watching an outtake reel of Lindsay Lohan bloopers.

There is plenty of teen angst without being over dramatic. I like the way Simon was able to explore his emotions and feel safe confident about it. It was nice to read, instead of the ‘whole world is going to end if they find out I’m gay’ vibe that some books have.

Simon, in addition to his love of Oreo cookie type deserts and coffee, is trying to sleuth out the identity of Blue – the only boy who he’s had a real connection with (even if it only exists online). I appreciate the fact that Becky Albertalli did not make this Simon’s only relationship, and allowed him to explore the world on a larger scale, even though his understated manner. The cast of characters are each driven by their own motives, mostly unknown to Simon, which I think adds another level of sophistication to the narrative.

Modern, loveable and a little bit kitsch, a definite recommend in my opinion.

Overall feeling: A big warm hug – fangirling!  *squee*

Simon vs the Homo Sapien Agenda Book Review Pic 4 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.