Let me start by saying this: you don’t need to be part of the LGBT community to love this book. No, seriously. It’s an all-over winner in my book, with tons of representation we don’t usually get to see in mass media. But let’s just say that this book will probably have a special place in the heart of someone who struggled to be open about who they were, because Leah on the Offbeat gets it.
After the success of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda and its subsequent movie, Love, Simon, author Becky Albertalli decided a spinoff was absolutely necessary. And thank god, because she produced a Simon sequel the LGBT community — and, honestly, everyone — deserved.
Leah on the Offbeat focuses on Simon’s best friend, Leah Burke, in their last year of high school. Leah is everything we remember from Simon — cynical, moody, and utterly badass — and some things we don’t quite remember. For instance, Simon never mentioned that Leah is bisexual. But that’s because Simon didn’t – and still doesn’t – know.
If LGBT books are rare in YA literature, I think it’s safe to say that books revolving around bisexuality is the rarest of all. Bisexuality, after all, is perhaps the most misunderstood sexual orientation, at least compared to its more discussed L and G counterparts. In fact, it’s rarely represented in media at all, and when it is, it’s usually seen as “experimentation” until the characters ultimately meet their heteronormative end.
But Leah on the Offbeat doesn’t follow the usual narrative of bisexual characters. Because Leah Burke may be going to prom with a boy, but she’s hopelessly in love with a girl. The problem is, of course, that she isn’t sure the girl can love her back, especially when said girl is already dating a guy. This, along with pressure from her mother to accept her new boyfriend, the expectations of college looming in the future, and the fast-approaching end of high school, has Leah at her wits end.
Within its first week of publication, Leah on the Offbeat found its way to No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list for young adult hardcovers, no doubt with the help of loyal Simon fans. Still, it’s a pretty big deal for a book about a plus-size bisexual teen to make it to the top of the list. Since the beginning of time, fluffy, feel-good rom coms have been dominated by heterosexual couples. This, in my opinion, is a small but important win for the LGBT community. We’re all about representation, especially in young adult literature.
Overall, I’d say give Leah on the Offbeat a go — it’s a fast, fun read that will get your heart pounding with its ridiculously romantic moments. Seriously, my heart fluttered. If you fell in love with Simon the first time, you’ll fall in love with their world all over again.