Published by Penguin Australia on April 24, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
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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.
This review contains spoilers for the first book in the series, Simon Vs the Homosapiens Agenda. Check out my review for that book, if you haven’t picked it up yet!
Abrasive, sarcastic, pessimistic and witty, it was really refreshing to hear from Leah Burke, who is Simon Spier’s best friend. Everything around her is so picture perfect – happy couples everywhere, people with perfect families and students who have all worked out their futures. It was nice to hear from Leah in this picture perfect world – she kept it real.
I liked how Leah is so unashamedly confident in who she is, even though she’s far from perfect. She’s proud of her fat body image (and isn’t focused on dieting or losing weight), comes from a single parent family and is completely comfortable in being bisexual, although she hasn’t come out to anyone but her mother. While she can certainly come across as quite harsh sometimes, especially when confronting her friends or calling them out on their bullshit, she definitely has a few demons of her own. She might be in love with a straight girl who has just broken up with her boyfriend, and it threatens to tear their friendship group apart.
There’s some things that Leah does that feels incredibly forced – for example, she calls out a friend for making a racist comment about assuming that someone has gotten into college just because of their skin colour (and not based on merit). I liked the fact that there was an important discussion on it, especially highlighting how racist and ignorant that comment was. But for it to come up 3 or 4 times during the course of the book, and for Leah to hold such a grudge and to not forgive the person even after they had learnt their lesson and had apologised felt like a bit of a stretch.
I also felt like the romance was incredibly forced as well – everything felt so picture perfect and incredibly cheesy. Leah on the Offbeat is important because it features two bisexual characters in a f/f romance, one still working out her feelings and one who already knows her identity – but both of them haven’t come out yet. Despite this, there were definitely a few problematic things with it – I didn’t like how Leah lead on one of her love interests just because “she liked the idea of being pursued”, and then policed another girl’s identity just because she came out as “low key bi”. Like it’s said in the book – it’s not okay to police someone else’s identity and label, especially when they’re still figuring things out and I never felt like this was addressed outside of that.
I hate when assholes have talent. I want to live in a world where good people rule at everything and shitty people suck at everything.
The fact that everything turned out perfectly despite Leah’s behaviour was kind of infuriating – it felt like Leah could say or do whatever she wanted (just because that’s how she was) and could do no wrong, because everyone else around her are sweet cinnamon rolls.
As a direct sequel to Simon vs the Homosapiens Agenda, it was super cute to see Simon and Blue together and for all the characters in the first book to appear, but it is very much a Leah story. It was great to see a cynical, fat, bisexual main character star in her own story, but then again a lot of the issues were only touched upon and not really explored (like her relationship with her mother who had her as a teen).
It’s like it doesn’t even matter if I like my body, because there’s always someone there to remind me I shouldn’t.
Leah on the Offbeat is an adorable book with a fat, bisexual and unapologetic main character at its heart. I loved how it tackled issues to do with representation, coming out while you’re in the final year of school. It’s a really engaging, adorable read with a sharp, snappy character and I’m so glad we got to see the story from Leah’s perspective.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Thanks to Penguin Random House for sending me a review copy!
Leah on the Offbeat is available from Australian bookstores for $RRP17.99.