Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli | The Long Wait is Over

Content warnings: fatphobia, homophobia, biphobia

So here we have the sequel to Simon Vs. which focusses on Leah. Leah is a fat, bisexual girl who has only told her mum that she’s bi, despite her best friend being openly gay and happy. So Leah has to figure out how she’s going to go about telling her friends whilst also harbouring a crush on someone she knows is completely off limits.

God I have been waiting for this book for what feels like forever. When I read this it had been over a year since I’d had new Becky Albertalli and I was absolutely dying for this. What I found in Leah was what I was hoping for, a kindred spirit, brutal in her honesty and abrasive when upset. I found someone so similar to me.

I’m very happy that there are more books with body positive fat girls because I needed that as a teenager. I think I would feel more comfortable in my skin had I read books like these growing up.

Leah is a very harsh human, she wears her angry emotions on her sleeve and her heart stays behind closed doors. This means that some people will not like her as a character to read. For me this was not the case, she’s one of my favorite characters I’ve read. I’m very straight and to the point, some people see me as harsh, and my sarcasm sometimes doesn’t register with people right.  This was 100% what Leah was like, and honestly, sometimes she could be a bit mean, and I’m not going to hide that I can be mean at times.

One of the biggest problems I know a lot of people found in this book was that at a point in the book Leah gets very upset with a character and yells at them for basically saying they’re trying to figure out their sexuality. And look I completely understand the frustrations, they’re completely valid. Hollie, a bisexual blogger, explained very well why this upset and others, and I recommend reading her review! For me I read the situation differently, I remember when someone who didn’t know their sexuality was labelled “bicurious” and there was a lot of discourse around that. Sexuality is seen as more fluid now and there are a lot more people who do not know or want to label themselves. But for me I could understand why Leah lashed out the way she did because if you’re someone who likes labels and someone you are “hanging out” with says to you “oh I don’t know what I am I’m just going with the flow” then this could throw up warning signs for someone to turn around and end things. And whilst I’m not bi, I’m pan and these are definitely not the same sexuality at all, I feel like we have some similar experiences at times. So I do understand exactly where the frustration is coming from, but I saw things from a different point of view. I think a lot of the frustration comes from Leah not being called out on page which is completely warranted, and I agree she should’ve been but thankfully this didn’t cause me upset unlike it did to quite a few people. But if you haven’t read this yet be aware that that scene has been emotionally harmful to others and make sure you’re taking appropriate measures of self-care!

We got to see so much of Simon and Blue (I’m saying blue just in case anyone is reading this who hasn’t read Simon), and I absolutely adored that, I love them as a couple. But it never felt like they were taking over the show or anything.

I did really love this book, but it is my least favourite of Becky’s books so far. Upside is number 1, because it was the first book I ever felt validated in, and Simon holds such a special place in my heart. I’m excited what Becky does next with her books as she’s said this is the last in this specific universe.

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Meg & Linus by Hanna Nowinski – Could’ve been cute but was let down with poor language and characterisation

Content warning: Ableism, homophobia, transphobia, fatphobia

Meg and Linus are queer best friends, who love Star Trek and each other. As they start their senior year things start to change in their lies, some for the good and some not so good. This is your classic coming of age story but from 2 queer kids.

So basically I just did not give a flying toss about Meg. The book is all about her and Linus’ friendship but I just wish it had been only from Linus’ POV. Yeah it’s great to have a half sapphic half m/m novel, but she was just infuriating. Whereas Linus is a small bean who just needs to be protected. Now I’m a fan of anti-heroes and unlikeable characters as it brings something different to the table but this was more a case of she was just an annoying character that you could tell the writer wanted to be likeable but did not come off that way.

The language use in this book is not great, there’s a lot of casual ableism, and some transphobic language too. Linus is fat, and whilst it’s not shown necessarily as a bad thing it’s also got a couple of moments where the way he’s regarded by the author is less than positive. Like it was nice to read a contemporary with a fat boy but it felt a bit rocky.

Despite this, as my only trigger is death, it was an easy read for me. And it was nice to read a contemporary of this type. But I just expected more really.

In terms of the plot, I felt like at times it dragged a bit, the book is short but with Meg’s story line it kind of felt like pulling teeth. Linus’ story move a much steadier pace but I would’ve liked to have it continued and have some more about his life.

I was glad this was a library book rather than a book I purchased because I think I would’ve been annoyed I paid for it, but it was an ok light read and was good for the reading mood I was in at the time.

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Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

Content warnings: abuse, parental abuse, runaways, homophobia, eating disorders, depression

Frances is obsessed with a podcast of outer space adventures, and she is known for doing incredible fan art, in her spare time between studying for her exams to get into Cambridge.Then she meets Aled, who is the writer and voice behind her podcast and they realise who each other are and begin to collaborate. But then life takes a bit of an unexpected turn.

Radio Silence wasn’t what I expected. I saw a lot of people I follow on twitter talking about it throughout my time in the book community and I thought it would be some sort of thriller contemporary but it was not. And whilst I was a bit confused for a lot of this book, like a thriller would be, but it was more just figuring out what’s going on with characters and why they choose to act the way they do.

There were some super strong friendships between people of the same gender and of different genders and I loved that about this book. As well as a diverse range of sexualities, including our MC being bisexual and Aled being either ace or demi. And there is lots of on page discussion of sexualities and feelings and what not and it was good to read.

I wasn’t really sure what to make of the writing style. It didn’t grab me as much as I would’ve liked. It took me a while to finish this book. And I would say it started off really slow and whilst it eventually got going about the midway point it didn’t have the pace I normally like from novels.

I liked that there was discussion of fandoms as well as podcasts. As someone who is an avid listener of My Favourite Murder, occasionally Lore and Serial and some others it was cool to read about a viral podcast.

There is also a lot of discussion of abusive behaviour from behaviour that is not physical and is about forcing your children to do things through manipulation. Whilst this could be triggering for some folk I feel like it could also be helpful depending on where your mind is at.

All in all I would recommend Radio Silence if you’re into more character driven stories, and I’ll definitely be checking out more of Alice Oseman’s work.

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Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

Oh my god where do I start on this book.

cw: closeting, mormons, homophobia

Autoboyography is about Tanner, a boy who had to move to Utah and go back in the closet after being out as bi in California. In his final year of high school he takes a class where he has to write a book in a semester. And he begins to fall for the mentor of this course, who is a mormon boy.

I absolutely adored this book. I read it just after I dropped out of my uni course and had tons of time on my hands and just sped through it in one night. I think it tackled the issues involved beautifully. I just felt so heartbroken and so full at the same time when I finished it. I had to hold myself back from buying a copy in Waterstones the other week, but I really want to buy it and read it again to be honest.

I absolutely adored Sebastian and Tanner, and their relationship. They both make some dodgy choices and mess up, but it just reads so well because you know they are just trying to find their place in their world.

It was interesting to read about their relationship as someone who doesn’t know too much about Mormons I felt like I learnt about them with Tanner. It felt well researched.

Making Tanner a bi character was a really good choice from the author, they could’ve made him gay, but they chose to have him represent a sexuality that can often get left behind and it’s so important to have more representation for bisexual people. I think it also brought some more interesting situations that wouldn’t have happened if he wasn’t bi. And whilst I’m not bi, I am pan and those sexualities are pretty similar and some of Tanner’s emotions were so relatable to me. Ugh I just loved him.

I honestly don’t really know what else to say bar loving this book and wanting everyone to read it.

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If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

If you know anything about lgbt+ YA books then you will have heard of this book. It has been everywhere the past couple years, with a huge reason behind that being that this book was part of the Zoella book club. This is why I will never say anything bad about Zoella’s book club because she is bringing books like this to teen girls who either aren’t huge readers or just may not have heard of this.

content warnings: transphobia, homophobia, sexual harassment, suicide attempt discussion, forced outing

If I Was Your Girl follows Amanda who is a trans teen who has moved to a new school. She wants to start off at this new school on a whole new leaf, without anyone knowing her history. She makes friends with a few people but she is always concerned that they will find out and all her new relationships will fall apart. On top of all that she has a fragile relationship with her dad.

Right off the bat, I am not trans, I am a cis woman so I don’t pretend to know about the representation in this book or the challenges that trans people go through. I tried to find an own voices review to link to but struggled, and I don’t have much time on my hands right now but if you know of one please send me the link and I will edit this review to include it.

This book was so easy to read. Now when I say easy I don’t mean the subject matter was easy to read because it 100% was not but the way it was written it just flowed and was unputdownable. I had to know what was going to happen next. I ate it up. Sometimes I had to put it down for a minute just to gather myself because it’s intense, but so worth it.

I adored Amanda, I just wanted to take her under my wing and look after her. She’s just a poor wee soul and deserves all the love. The rest of the characters are so well developed as well and it makes reading really tough content a joy. You hope Amanda’s new friends are accepting when they find out because they’re just so nice in the course of their friendship with Amanda and are so welcoming. You want Amanda to have friends who will be friends with her no matter what.

I’ve read a few reviews talking about the fact that Amanda gets forcibly outed and how they hated reading that and they wish that it had happened for Amanda a different way. And I totally get that, I felt so uncomfortable reading it and I could tell from the way it was being written that it was going to happen, there was this kind of gloomy feeling building up (great technique by the way). But I feel like marking the book down for that isn’t the right way to go about it, as it is an own voices review. Yeah sure if it was from a cis writer I wouldn’t be happy because it wouldn’t be their place to have the discussion, but this is Russo’s lane and she felt that this was this discussion needed to be had i the literary world from her own experiences.

Overall I think this book tackled the trans issues so well, now of course every human is different and every experience is different so if you are going into this thinking that this is the epitome of the trans experience it is not and nothing ever will be. The author herself is trans and the cover picture on the US edition also features a trans girl which is so damn important. Russo has 2 authors notes at the end of the book, one for trans readers and one for cis readers. The one for trans readers nearly had me in tears and the one for cis readers was really important for highlighting to readers what I have just said about this not being THE experience of trans people.

Also I just want to highlight how disrespectful I think it is that whoever wrote the blurb did not include that Amanda is trans just that she has a “secret” like that completely alienates the people that this book is for.

This book does tackle a lot of really intense issues and I just want to make it clear that if you are interested in reading this book now but are worried it may trigger you and you would like to have a discussion with me to see if it something you can read my inbox is always open, my contact email is listed on my about page and my twitter is listed below.

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Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst – Yay F/F fantasy!!!! Boo Slow read

Denna has left her home land to get married to the man she has been betrothed to since childhood. However Denna has magic in a world that is so anti magic, and being away from home has put her in so much more danger. She needs to learn to ride a horse, leading her to spending time with the Princess Mare. But then a series of magic related killings take place.

I was in a bit of a slump when I read this. I wasn’t reading it fast enough to my liking and it just felt super sluggish. But I don’t know if that was me or if that was the book. I still enjoyed it but I feel like it took longer than it should’ve done. I will say that something about the pacing was a bit off. At times it felt like it was moving along ok and other times it was just super slow. I didn’t get that “I can’t put this down” feeling.

Whilst I did love reading a fantasy book with an f/f romance, there should definitely be more, I felt like there wasn’t enough of a burn. Obviously I knew who the romance was between so as I knew it was building, but it didn’t feel like anything was happening between the pair. It wasn’t believable for me. Maybe I personally just want more from romances in books.

The world building was great. There was heretics and illegal magic. There were different countries at war with each other and being political and everything I look for in good world building.

This is a stand-alone fantasy novel and I feel like if you’re going to do a stand-alone this is how you do it. And I’m glad it is as well because I’ve started too many series.

I felt like the characters could’ve done with a little bit more development. I think because it’s a stand-alone I couldn’t get the feel for them that I would normally get from fantasy. Denna felt a bit flimsy at times, like I wasn’t sure what she was wanting to do with herself.

In the end though, I am glad I read this because I always need more f/f in my life, especially in fantasy where it’s SO sparse.

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The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by MacKenzi Lee

Right off the bat I’m going to warn you that there is homophobia, biphobia, abuse, suicidal thoughts, racism and ableism. But it’s set in the 1700s so it’s expected and there is on the page tackling of issues.

Monty and Percy are set to go on a wild tour of Europe before Percy goes to school in Amsterdam and Monty starts to learn about the estate he is to inherit. Monty is a huge playboy who spends the majority of his time drunk and gambling so their trip doesn’t go exactly as planned after a slew of different accidental occurrences. But then the pair along with Monty’s sister Felicity stumble upon a much darker plot that could change the world.

You have to listen to this on audiobook because it’s read by Tom Riddle (Christian Coulson) and he reads it so perfectly, he IS Monty.

We have some really good representation in this book as the main character is bi in a time when that was definitely not accepted and his best friend is his love inferest who was brought up by a white rich family even though he is mixed race so it was good to read their points of view in the historical terms. It also brought about some interesting situations in the novel as well as there being some really horrible behaviour from adults that bears talking about as LGBTQ+ issues are often glossed over or forgotten about if we’re talking anything before the 1800s but after the Romans.

Percy has epilepsy and this is going to sound bad but it was so good to read about because for 1: it’s not really mentioned in books; and secondly as it’s set before modern medicine it’s seen as like something supernatural and he needs to go to an asylum which I found really interesting to read because I’d never thought about epilepsy being understood as something that isn’t medical.

The whole adventure of this novel was wild from start to finish I had no idea what was going to happen next. It’s not often I say that because hey I read a lot I get pretty good at guessing. Because of how wild Monty is you never know what he’s going to get himself into next and how that’s going to change every thing. Things get a little farfetched at times but the author is so completely unapologetic about it that you get so swept up in the story that you forget that it’s unrealistic.

I think part of the reason I could not stop listening to this was because Lee really made me care for the characters. Monty is horrible, in a truly teenage boy way. But you really find yourself caring for him because he does silly things because he’s coming from a misguided place. When things head south for him you really worry about how things are going to work out.

Percy is my soft bean I love him so much and I just want him to be happy forever. And Felicity is so magical, she’s sarcastic, hilarious and smart and I’m really excited to read her spin off novel.

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Cheer by Mia Archer

Cheer follows a girl, Alex, as she realises that she might not be straight. She decides to join her best friend in becoming a cheerleader and falls for her but all the while another girl in her grade has it out for her as she seems to think that Alex is after her boyfriend. TW: slut shaming, casual homophobia, casual ableism.

I got this on a whim from a bookbub email so I honestly hadnt planned to read it any time soon. But then I got into a romance kick and I wanted to read a wlw relationship so this one was the one I spotted in my kindle library so went with it not expecting much.

I was pleasantly surprised though. Yes the writing could use some work and it’s your classic WLW romance in that a person comes out in the process of the story but it was honestly just super cute at times.

I loved reading the parts where the MC was struggling over her feelings towards a woman because I’ve been there I know what it’s like trying to convince yourself that you’re not feeling that way for someone of the same gender because sadly some people still find it taboo and thought things aren’t as bad as they used to be it’s still a possible struggle.

There were random moments where feminist ideas were brought in about both sexuality and gender and it was so good to read in a YA novel. I say this every time I read a YA novel with feminist parts but it just makes me happy to think of teenagers growing up in a world where feminism is more “mainstream” as it wasn’t when I was a teen and I was so misinformed and it was awful.

I might get around to reading more of Archer’s books as she’s now on my radar and honestly I love wlw stories and I can’t get enough of soft girls.

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