Danger, Will Robinson
After finishing Leah on the Offbeat, I was reminded of that timeless classic, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” More specifically, the melodious and uplifting chorus of “for it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out at the old ballgame.” Becky Albertalli is on strike two, so I’m going to need her next book to be a grand slam home run, and not the one she co-authored with Adam Silvera because he has never failed me. If it isn’t, I’ll have to look The Upside and Leah in the eyes and say, “It isn’t you. It’s me, but really it might probably be you. Either way, I’m keeping Simon.”
Here’s the truth, Leah was an annoying riddle wrapped in an annoying mystery wrapped in an emotional wreck in Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, or so it seemed. It turns out that Leah isn’t a mystery or a riddle but an emotional black hole. She is also annoying and unlikeable. Despite Leah being emotionally unstable, unavailable, and unappealing she wins at life in Leah on the Offbeat. It turns out Albertalli wrote a story with a plot so convenient that it felt like reading wish fulfillment fan fiction, albeit high quality wish fulfillment fan fiction.
Honestly, I don’t have much to say about Leah on the Offbeat, so as usual I’ll make a list, which always ends up proving that I actually have a lot to say, but couldn’t be bothered with paragraphs. One last thing before we get to the list, Simon and Blue are without a doubt Albertalli’s greatest creations, and they are a gift to YA literature, so I’ll ask the Giant Lion Turtle for just one more thing (for now)—give me Simon and Blue the College Years; give me Simon & Blue the Married Years; give me Simon & Blue the Golden Years, but never again give me Unrequited Offbeats.
Tackling the belief that when it comes to college acceptance the best thing black and brown people have to offer is being black and brown people.
I understand being 17 and 18. I remember how in your own head you can be. I get the myopic worldview, but Leah is patently absurd. She isn’t pleasant or endearing. She isn’t the underdog. She isn’t someone you root for because she is totally defeatist. I didn’t enjoy being sucked into her suffocating orbit or trapped in her sunken place. I’ll leave that to Kanye.
Nick Eisner’s personality transplant. Where is the real Nick Eisner? I’ll tell you. He too became a plot device. He became a thing to service the wish fulfillment ridiculousness of this novel. You deserve better Nick Eisner.
Treating the racist ideology of black and brown people’s college acceptance as a throwaway to advance the plot. Don’t take important issues and make them a servant to your agenda.
Abby reaching mythic proportions. She is the perfect, curly-haired, magical brown pixie in even more perfect clothes. Although, she might be tall, it’s unclear because so effusive are the adjectives that try to capture her. She’s so good she’s better than #blackgirlmagic. I suspect we’ll eventually discover she is a daughter of Zeus blessed with every blessing of the Fates and the Furies and the Olympians and the Titans and and and and. There is nothing she can’t do! There is nothing she hasn’t done! If you need a dream girl, Abby’s your girl. If you need a multi-hyphenate superstar with the power to render mere mortals speechless, Abby’s your girl. If you need a Mary Sue that can simultaneously break and ensnare hearts, Abby’s your girl. But don’t you dare call her perfect because she doesn’t like that. She doesn’t like it because she has to work twice as hard just to get the same level of recognition. In the real world black and brown people do have to work harder to even get a seat at the table, but if that’s the message you’re trying to send you shouldn’t send a Mary Sue to do the job. Abby never shows her work.
The “I think life sucks until I find true love” trope. The “all I need is a love interest to take me from unappealing Eeyore to spinning in circles, arms thrown wide because the hills are alive with the sound of music” trope. This message isn’t damaging at all—of course not. When has defining yourself by being dateable and appealing ever been dangerous. What’s that you say? It’s always been dangerous. Yep, you’re right.
Hey Leah! Abby’s gets to define her truth, and you don’t get to crap all over it.
Really Abby!? That’s how you’re going to define your truth.
Did you really just try to pretend like there were things in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda that weren’t in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda? Whatever, your book—I’m just a reader with a brain and some degrees in English. By the way, Dumbledore totally agrees with me.
Believe it or not, I’m not blaming this one on my Reading Apocalypse. The same issues I had with The Upside of Unrequited are present here, and honestly I knew they would be because I guess I’m the type of person that believes in isolated magic and beginner’s luck. I also know we’re fighting now, so let’s dance because I'm approaching indignant.