Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertali | Book Review [Spoiler Free]

NOTE: This is spoiler free but there will be spoilers for Simon VS the Homosapiens Agena.

There’s a lot of pressure when you have high expectations for a book and you’re 90% sure that it’s going to be good. A pressure because a part of you knows you shouldn’t have such high expectations, no matter what the book is, but the other part of you simply can’t help it. That was the case for me with Leah on the Offbeat.

Earlier this year I re-read Simon VS the Homosapiens Agenda which is a favourite of mine and also the prequel to this book. Reading Leah on the Offbeat wasn’t something I planned because I didn’t own a copy at the time of finishing my re-read of Simon, however, while I was on holiday at the end of June I walked into a bookstore and right there on the shelf was one copy of Leah on the Offbeat. One copy? Of course, I had to buy it. It felt like a sign.

It was just that easy to get through as Simon, partly because I knew these characters (to some extent) but also because the structure and pacing of Leah on the Beat is really well done. There’s such an obvious push forward that nothing seems to drag but it never feels like the story is being rushed. Every time we move from one part of the story to another, it feels natural. There was never a point where I questioned why something was happening or how we got to that moment.

Honestly, if you’ve read Simon VS the Homosapiens Agenda and you loved Becky Albertali’s writing, then you’ll love this. It’s set in the same world (a little over a year after the events of Simon) and it does a great job of expanding that world while also keeping this story as its own thing. Now, you don’t necessarily have to read Simon to read this but it will spoil a lot of things for you that might ruin your read through of Simon if you decide to get it to later. (That’s why there’s a spoiler warning at the start of this review!)

I loved all the little moments about the other characters that continued on from the previous book. It was great to see Simon and Bram’s relationships and how that’s developed since we last saw them but it was even better because it didn’t take over and was simply a background thing. It was also nice to see a lot of Bram by himself because we didn’t really get that in Simon (we saw him as Blue in the emails and such but we never got to see Bram quite like we see him in Leah on the Offbeat). There are many other characters that we see and mentions of past events that make this book feel nostalgic but as I said before, none of it takes away from the fact that this story is about Leah and is its own thing.

Leah Burke was a character I immediately fell in love with in Simon. I wanted to know more about her straight away and this book certainly delivered. She’s everything she was in Simon and more! Leah is so unapologetically herself and it’s awe-inspiring. For the most part, Leah knows who she is and she isn’t afraid to be that person. It was so great to read about a character who might not want to tell everyone everything, but she’s content with at least admitting who she is to herself.

Leah on the Offbeat made me smile, laugh, even get a little teary-eyed on occasion, but for the most part, it was just a genuine pleasure to read. I will always be thankful for character’s like Leah and I can’t wait for more writing from Becky Albertalli.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / 5

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Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli | Book Review [Spoiler Free]

This is the second time I’ve read this book and I loved it, even more, this time around.

For those of you who don’t know Simon vs. the Homosapien Agenda follows sixteen-year-old Simon who is gay but hasn’t come out yet. The only person who knows is Blue, a boy from school, who Simon has been emailing although neither boy knows the other’s real identity. However, Simon’s emails fall into the hands of another student, Martin, who blackmails him into being his wingman otherwise Simon’s sexual identity will be revealed to the world.

Sounds kind of heavy, right? It is, in some ways, but it’s also very light and happy in places too. This entire book is funny, adorable, and breathtakingly emotional. There were times where I wanted to laugh and times I wanted to cry (sometimes for good reasons and sometimes for bad reasons). Becky Albertalli does such a fantastic job of balancing the upsides with the downsides. Every the upsetting scenes in the story feel necessary and are incredibly well done. And the funny moments? They’re genuinely good and are perfectly placed throughout the book.

Simon has such an interesting plot with great pacing and structure. It’s one of those stories that has you hooked from start to finish, and you’re thrown right into the action almost immediately.  By the time you reach the end, you feel satisfied, especially considering everything closes up so neatly and pretty perfectly. There’s plenty of room to see more of these characters in the future but it doesn’t leave you with a ton of unanswered questions that demand a sequel (although technically there are two sequels, they’re just not about Simon although he does make appearances).

Every character is fun to read about and almost all of them are lovable (there are the obvious exceptions). Each of them, even the minor characters, feel fleshed out and unique. Simon is by far one of my favourite characters of all time. He’s relatable in a lot of ways, very lovable, and is perfectly flawed. It’s impossible not to root for Simon and care about him as we go through the story. It’s so great that when he messes up, it’s not brushed over, but actually addressed which makes him feel very real.

I loved reading about all of the characters in Simon, even the ones I didn’t like very much. The writing and the plot made that possible. There’s something so very special about Simon vs. the Homosapien Agenda and I can confidentially say that I will love this book more and more each time I read it.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ /5

I have reviewed Becky Albertalli’s other two books that are set in the same universe and both take place after Simon, those are Leah on the Offbeat and the Upside of Unrequited.

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera | Book Review

If you’re someone who generally avoids reading blurbs then you should probably skip this review.

A few moments ago I finished reading They Both Die at the End and I knew straight away that I had to come and write this review which (after hugging the book tightly to my chest) is exactly what I did. Usually, I like to take some time to really let a book sink in so I can really figure out how I really feel about it, however, I don’t need to do that with this book.

I was drawn to They Both Die at the End the moment I saw the cover (the one pictured in the featured/header image) and even more so when I read what it was about. It practically guaranteed an interesting read. Between the blurb and the title, the book really does give you a lot of pre-warning, but those things in no way ruin this story. For those who don’t know, They Both Die at the End is about two boys, Mateo and Rufus, who both receive a call from Death-Cast telling them that they’re going to die today. The two of them meet through an app and they become each other’s Last Friend.

Continue reading “They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera | Book Review”

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness | Book Review [Spoiler Free]

A Monster Calls follows a young boy named Conor who is visited several times by a monster, only it’s not the monster he expects, the one from his nightmares. This monster is different and it wants the truth. I won’t tell you much more than that, the book is only just over 200 pages (the edition I read was 214) and some of those are strictly (or mostly) illustrations so it won’t take you long to read it. In fact I  read it in a couple of hours. For that reason I think you’re better off going in only knowing the basics and nothing more.

I’d picked up this book from the library because everyone seems to rave about it. I saw it sitting there on the shelf and I had meant to pick it up a long time ago, now I didn’t have an excuse.

a monster calls

Oh boy am I glad I pick this up. From the moment I started reading I just didn’t want to put it down. I’d just finished another book and I was very much still in the reading mood, so I grabbed this from my desk to take with me to go see my Nana. I sat on the couch and opened up the book while she and my mum busied themselves, and I got so into it that when it was time to go I just couldn’t until I finished the chapter. The moment I got home I got comfortable and opened the book back up again.

I would say I’m sad I finished the book so quickly, but I’m really not. I didn’t feel like I rushed it. The length, the pacing, everything like that was just perfectly timed. By the time I finished I felt so satisfied. Just like after you watch a really good movie, if it’s done well, you don’t feel disappointed that you got through it in one sitting, instead you feel good at the end.

A Monster Calls is a very interesting read. It does a great job of blending the fantasy elements with the real, every day life. The fantasy side sometimes felt very real, like you could believe it was all happening and that it could maybe happen to you some day, but it was also very good at blending in and being very plausible, blurring the line of how real it really is or not.

At it’s core this book is a simple, but powerful idea that is told in this most uncomplicated, simplistic way. Patrick Ness never seems to go out of his way to throw in too much detail or throw a lot of words around, instead he sticks to the point, but still offers up enough to really capture the fantastical. The writing over all is very good, it was easy to read and there were points where the writing was beautiful, but not over done.

The same goes with everything in A Monster Calls. The characters are intriguing, but not complicated or over done. The emotions portrayed are strong and important, but they never go off and completely overshadow the point. Overall the book stays in check, everything about it is important and powerful and relevant, but nothing is ever complicated or over done, nor does it overstep any kind of mark. Everything is constrained, but still manages to create a beautiful story. It’s the perfect show of discipline.

I really loved this book and I would highly recommend it to anyone. If you were unaware there is also going to be a movie, for me in the UK it comes out in January 2017, but for some it comes out later this year. There are several trailers online, but if you haven’t read the book I wouldn’t recommend watching them until you have.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ /5