Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli |#PrideBookClub | Yes, you can be lowkey bi

The Book: Leah on the Offbeat
Author: Becky Albertalli
Publisher: Penguin
Pages:
343
Genre & Themes: YA contemporary, LGBTQ+
Rating: 2.5/5

So, today I wanted to talk about Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli. This is the first book for the #PrideBookClub which is run by Penguin Platform and lasts all of July and August. There’s a different LGBTQ+ book to read each week – I won’t be taking part every single week, but there are a few books I definitely want to take part in the discussions of and read along.

And that leads us on to Leah…. which I finished a few weeks ago.

So, I have some issues with this book. I actually spoke about it in my Holiday Reads wrap up video, which you can watch here! But even after ranting about it to a camera, and to literally every single person in my life, I’m still angry about it. So, of course, I’ve taken my anger to blogging.

But let’s start with the positives!

Leah on the Offbeat is set in the same world as Simon vs. the Homosapiens Agenda. Having enjoyed Simon, I was quite excited to delve into this book, especially hearing that Leah, our leading lady, is bisexual.

I enjoyed that we were back in the Creekwood world again. I absolutely love Abby as a character, and I was so psyched that she featured in this book. However, Simon and Blue (no spoilers!), didn’t really feel much like three-dimensional characters. It almost felt like they were there because of the last book, but they didn’t add an overall amount to the story. It felt like they, especially Simon, were 2D versions of themself.

I also found Leah really hard to relate to. She was abrasive, bitter, and rude. There were some moments where I could see where she was coming from, but so much of the time, I was left frustrated by her narration.

With LGBTQ+ books, there’s a tendency and pressure to enjoy it, because there’s queer rep in it. I definitely do this, and I give books with queer rep the benefit of the doubt a lot more. Is this a good thing? Probably not. I guess it’s because there’s so little books with LGBTQ+ rep in, (BTQ+ especially), and so when a book has bisexual rep in, I really try to like it. But, nowadays, with more and more books coming out that have GOOD representation in, it’s our responsibility to call out when a book isn’t okay. And this book is one of those times.

There’s a scene in this book, where a character (no spoilers) comes out to Leah. Here it is, with the other character’s name changed:

[Leah] "So, wait," I say finally. "Can I ask you something?"
"Mmhmm."
"What did you come out as?"
*laughs* "What do you mean?"
"Well, last I heard, you were straight, so."
"I don't think I'm straight," she says and my heart almost stops. 
"I don't know," she adds finally, "I guess I'm like lowkey bisexual?"
"I don't think that's a thing."
"What? It totally is." She pokes my arm. "Lowkey bi."
"You're either bi or you're not. That's like being a little bit pregnant."

*a few lines later*

"Well I'm a little bit bi, and I'm sticking with that."
I sit up. "I don't get you."
"What?"
I shake my head. "Lowkey bi, a little bit bi. Just be bi. Like, come on."
"What? No." She draws herself up. "You don't get to decide my label."
"It's not a real label!"
"Well it's real for me."

*a few lines later*

"Jesus Christ." I press my hands over my eyes. "I want you to stop messing with my head."
"I'm not-"
"Seriously? Lowkey bi?" I laugh flatly. "Otherwise known as what - you're bi, but you don't want to admit it? I'm not saying you have to march in a Pride parade. You don't have to come out. But God. At least admit it to yourself."

HAPPY PRIDE EVERYONE!!1! Fucking hell.

This scene shocked me. I actually had to put the book down and process what I’d just read. Leah has always known she is bisexual, but for her to angrily declare that someone else’s sexuality isn’t valid is just. WHAT. I’m still shocked.

Leah is essentially saying that because this character hasn’t come out as fully-bi, she’s in denial about her sexuality. Just because someone doesn’t, at that moment in time, want to identify as bisexual, that doesn’t mean they’re in denial for fucks sake. It ignores the whole notion that sexuality is a spectrum, and not everyone’s sexuality is the same. It’s not a black and white issue; it’s a goddamn rainbow.

If this scene was readdressed later on in the novel, and Leah realised how unaccepting, rude, and frankly harmful she was being, it wouldn’t be an issue. That would show that the narrative, and Becky Albertalli as the author, knows that Leah’s problematic attitude is that, problematic.

But it doesn’t do that. This scene isn’t addressed again. Leah angrily storms away from the conversation, taking it as a personal attack that this character isn’t sure about her sexuality.

This complete unacceptance of someone questioning their sexuality was so unnecessary. It’s the kind of thing you just wouldn’t see with an own voice novel. As someone who lol hi family that read this and are surprised is currently questioning their sexuality, and thinks of themselves as low-key bisexual, it was shitty to read.

It’s so important for all authors to write diverse characters, but it’s even more important for CIS/white/straight authors to really do their research and consider what they write really carefully, as writing in harmful dialogue for a plot point that is never even addressed again is just shitty. It shows that they weren’t really aware that the dialogue was harmful to begin with.

Overall, this book really disappointed me. Sure, the book was an easy read, and it was fun to be in the Creekwood world again, but I definitely won’t be recommending it to anybody any time soon.


Have you read Leah on the Offbeat? What did you think about it?

16 thoughts on “Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli |#PrideBookClub | Yes, you can be lowkey bi

  1. I haven’t read Leah but I enjoyed Simon so this is sad to hear (although I did have some issues with Simon, tbh). This definitely should have been addressed in the novel, or not even been in there at all. Especially since it could hurt the audience. Definitely important that you’ve pointed it out!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I had a few issues with Simon as well tbh – especially when his friends were so not understanding about the fact he’s being blackmailed. Like yikes.

      Yeah I agree, it really just shouldn’t have been included. Thank you, though. I felt like it was important to talk about.

      Jaz x

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Portia - The Owlery Reader

    This is disappointing. I haven’t read Leah or Simon but I know how popular these books are, and I know a lot of straight (or potential questioning) people that have read these books, so it’s worrying that this kind of attitude is presented as somewhat acceptable. Big yikes. But the photo you took (the first one with the flowers) is dead cute so!!!! At least that’s a good time even if the book wasn’t lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I was so so disappointed. I’ve seen a few other reviews talk about this issue, but not as many as I would have thought. If the whole conversation had been addressed, I wouldn’t have an issue. But because it was never addressed again, it was just super upsetting.

      Big yikes indeed. And hahaha, that actually made me laugh out loud. Thank you so much! There’s always a positive somewhere

      Like

  3. Great review, I absolutely agree with you about this book. I actually (somehow) ended up reading Leah before Simon, and while I enjoyed Simon a lot more (although I also had issues with it too) Leah drove me a bit mental. She’s a really hard character to like and I know she has her reasons; life hasn’t been easy, and there is a lot of insecurity that comes off as rude, but I felt it was a bit of a chore tbh. Reading that scene you posted is *so cringe* 🙈

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Yeah I also had some issues with Simon too. And I completely agree – she was such a hard character to read, and she was very entitled and felt like she had the right to be annoyed at anyone. As you said, some of this is rooted in insecurity, but it was hard to read. Especially in the scene I spoke about here.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, definitely. I found it a bit ironic that she acted so entitled and shitty with everyone, but she would give everyone else such shit for doing the exact same thing. Especially with her mum and her boyfriend 😅 I wanted to slap her (softly, but still) lol

        Liked by 1 person

  4. “With LGBTQ+ books, there’s a tendency and pressure to enjoy it, because there’s queer rep in it.”
    This is me in a nutshell.
    The way you’ve broken down those scenes where Leah is berating Abby for being “lowkey bi” really p****s me off now.
    When this came out, I was SO caught up in the excitement of Becky FINALLY writing a wlw book that all of this completely washed over me. It’s now only upon reflection that I realise just how toxic that is.
    Thank you for sharing such a thoughtful and honest review. 💜

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for commenting!

      Literally, the whole scene made me so angry, it’s such thoughtless writing. I can understand how easy it is to get caught up in the excitement though, I’ve definitely done the same in the past.

      Honestly, we need more people like you, who are happy to reflect on their experience and not get immediately defensive so thank you 💛

      Like

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