Sigh. I don't know why there always has to be a follow-up to a popular book before an author can work out the kinks and or think to themselves is the book in question necessary. "Leah on the Offbeat" was not good. This book ruined characters from the first book in the series "Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda." Leah is also a jerk, I didn't like her and I wasn't rooting for her at all. There is still an issue with the author not really getting African American communities at all and how they are towards those who identify as gay. It's not realistic to just keep showing things as perfect. It just feels like there are blinders up in order to force fit a HEA that doesn't work for the book.
Leah who was introduced in the first book is dealing with the fact it's senior year and all of her friends seem to be moving on. Even her mother seems to have found someone to be with and is moving on from her father leaving them both years earlier. We quickly find out though that Leah has a crush on someone (that comes out of left field) and makes zero sense in context to the first book. So the entire book is just Leah thinking about this person, obsessing about this person, and getting mad this person isn't doing what Leah wants them to do.
I hard cringed though this whole book. There is no there there with Leah. The Leah in the first book was a drummer, into magna it seemed, and was fierce about her friendships with Nick and Simon. This Leah doesn't play the drums once in the whole story. Is totally absent from Nick's life it seems, and only seems to talk to Simon here and there. She's also fighting with her mom and her friends from the band. Everyone seemed to have a total personality transplant and it was maddening.
Nick doesn't feel real anymore, not even Abby or Morgan, Nora, etc do. Instead these are just people moving in and out of Leah's story. I don't know if Albertalli meant to do that, but it really felt like Leah had no one really in her life.
The romance felt forced in this one instead of like a happy surprise that it was when we were following Simon and Blue. It didn't feel real or earned and I hated that Leah had the nerve to argue that someone should be forced to come out before they were ready when she hadn't even told her mother or friends about her liking this person or even hinting that she could like girls. It was like Albertalli forgot what a garbage person Martin Addison was for blackmailing and then outing Simon in the first book.
I also feel frustrated because I really wanted a book that accurately portrayed the lengths the African American community needs to still go with regards to accepting and acknowledging LGBT people.
The book taking place in Georgia once again didn't seem to be that realistic. It's 2018 and the book references Hamilton and other things that show it's taking place in our here and now, but not very well. There is a whole sub-plot about Leah calling out someone from her friend group for being racist and I kid you not it didn't seem believable to me at all. It felt shoehorned in there so Leah could be a better person, but even I got sick of her self righteousness after a while. This person eventually apologizes to Leah saying she needed to be a better ally and I rolled my eyes.
The writing felt more empty this time. There are not emails going back and forth between love interests. Just Leah moving through her day and getting texts here and there. There is eventually a road trip that also didn't help matters. I felt like I was in a totally different book.
The ending was a joke. We have a time jump so we don't get to see the immediate fall-out to Leah and her new love interest. Instead we get an email (finally) between Leah and Simon and Leah is just giving a quick recap on people who once again don't feel real. I can say that the friendship between Simon, Leah, and Nick seems to be over and that made me sad.
I really enjoyed "Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda." Even though it was short, Albertalli did a great job of making all of the characters in this story feel like three dimensional characters. The only reason why I didn't give this story five stars is that Simon's love interest is of a race that often treats gay men terrible. I don't know how realistic it was that everything ended up with hearts, kittens, etc. since this story also takes place in Georgia. I am not going to complain though since it was nice to just read a LGBT story with a happy ending.
"Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda" is about 16 year old Simon Spier. Simon is gay, but hasn't come out to his family or closest friends. When he forgets to log out of his email account one day at the school computers, a guy from his school (Martin Addison) finds out his secret. Martin blackmails Simon into helping him get with Abby Suso who is close to Simon's friend group. Things go awry and Simon is afraid that his email relationship with the guy he calls "Blue" could end.
Simon was wonderful. I really enjoyed this character. I sometimes have trouble with Young Adult books since the teens portrayed are often whiny or just jerks. Simon was a really good kid who is scared that coming out to his family and friends will change things and cause them to turn away from him. His long standing friendship with his best friends Nick and Leah is going through some upheaval since Nick has a crush on Abby Suso and Leah is jealous of their tight threesome breaking up.
Simon's parents were hippies on overload. They love Simon and his two sisters. They do fun family activities.
Simon and Blue's email exchanges are sweet and also full of longing. I can't imagine trying to hide who you are from your family and friends. They both give each other advice and are there for each other.
I loved the other characters we see in this book, NIck, Leah, Abby, Blue, Simon's two sisters. Albertalli does a good job of having them in the story and providing enough details that they feel real.
I would say that the character of Martin Addison is going to make you grind your teeth. He is garbage and I hated how I still don't think this character thinks he did anything wrong. You eventually have things coming to a head, but I hated how it was resolved.
Albertalli does a good job of showing how far people still need to go without bullying people who are different from them too. I loved the teachers in this one, for once we didn't have a Young Adult book where I wondered if all of the adults were terrible.
The writing was really good and the flow as okay too. I think the only thing I really didn't care for was when Albertalli went into the whole trope of Simon having a crush on everyone thinking they can secretly be Blue. It was beyond annoying after a while.
“I actually think people would be cool about it,” Martin says. “You should be who you are.” I don’t even know where to begin with that. Some straight kid who barely knows me, advising me on coming out. I kind of have to roll my eyes."
Yeah my thoughts too.
"I take a sip of my beer, and it’s—I mean, it’s just astonishingly disgusting. I don’t think I was expecting it to taste like ice cream, but holy fucking hell. People lie and get fake IDs and sneak into bars, and for this? I honestly think I’d rather make out with Bieber. The dog. Or Justin."
I just laughed.
“Good-bye, cute Simon,” says Peter, hugging me, and then kissing me on the forehead. “Go be seventeen.”
That was so sweet.
The setting of Georgia seems a bit removed from a Georgia that I know of. It seems like most of the students at the school Simon goes to are white. And though Albertalli shows some incidents of kids bullying Simon, I have to wonder about what happened with Simon's love interest. Everything tied up way too neatly.
The ending was very sweet and hopeful.
What is this book? I don't know what happened but we had some truly unrecognizable people in this one. Reading Simon and then this next really showed the flaws in book #2. No spoilers on Leah's love interest, but it came out of nowhere, didn't work at all and I started to get really annoyed by her and her love interest.
This book right here is a good point for not doing sequels to popular first novels/series if you are going to just rewrite/change up characters the readers already know in order to throw shocking twists at readers that make zero sense based on what you already know. Looking at you Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.