Let me be clear about something: I wasn’t intending to write and post a review so soon after posting my last one. I really wasn’t. I've been lazy about writing reviews lately, and I struggled a lot to make myself finally buckle down and review The Brilliant Death, a book I adore and will happily recommend to anyone I meet.
After posting the review, I told myself, “Okay, review done. I finally have permission to sit down with another great book and read to my heart’s content. I am not going to review this next one. Nope. Need a break.”
The problem is, the next book I read was What If It’s Us, a book cowritten by one of my favorite queer authors, Adam Silvera, and Becky Albertelli, author of Simon Vs the Homosapien Agenda (you know, the book that got adapted into the film Love Simon).
I started the book mid-afternoon on December 26th, and finished it at 1:09 AM on the 27th. So uh. I have no chill, and I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about this book. I’m writing this review as much for myself as anyone else.
What If It’s Us is the best-selling meet-cute that LGBT readers have been waiting for. Arthur, a sixteen-year-old from Georgia, is living in New York City for the summer and interning at his mom’s law firm. He’s on his morning commute when he stops at a post office on a whim. This is where he meets Ben: a NY local toting around a cardboard box filled with his ex-boyfriend’s things. Arthur’s immediate reaction is full-on heart eyes, while Ben’s is…a tad more complicated. The two clearly have mutual chemistry, but they fail to get each other’s phone numbers, resulting in the two trying, and failing, and trying some more, to find each other.
The two eventually do reconnect, and through a lot of trial and error, try to figure out if a relationship is something they both want—complicated by Ben’s recent breakup, and Arthur’s impending move back to Georgia.
As a fan of Silvera, I could immediately tell who wrote which character point of view: Silvera wrote Ben’s, and Albertelli wrote Arthur’s. Silvera’s style is so distinctly him. It’s not just in the diction, or the similarities in the ways he characterizes his protagonists (which I love, by the way), but the sort of dark, complicated twist of emotions lurking beneath the surface of his characters.
Silvera writes about queer boys who grapple with their inner desires, with their self-perception, and even with giving themselves permission to be happy. I found Ben to be deeply relatable, on an almost uncomfortable level, because I’ve experienced how much a bad breakup can leave you questioning how good you are at relationships. I can also relate to how much it sucks to be starting a new relationship that you know is probably only temporary, and how difficult it can be to let yourself be in the moment, and just have this before it’s over.
To read Arthur’s point of view is to fall in love, both with Albertelli’s writing and with Arthur himself. At least, that’s what happened to me. Arthur is my musical-loving, opinionated, anxious, adorable son, and I would defend him with my life. Arthur spends most of the beginning of the book feeling homesick for his best friends and his hometown, wishing New York would get a move on and start living up to how it’s portrayed in movies and on Broadway.
Albertelli and Silvera both capture two very distinct, very teenaged perspectives, and the teenager in me really appreciated that. With teenagers, you often get miscommunication, assumptions, and a lot of insecurities. Add in a cast of Ben and Arthur’s friends, who are struggling just as much to make things work, and you can imagine that there are some roadblocks these kids face.
This book explores ideas of fate and complicates Arthur and Ben’s beliefs about what romance and a relationship should entail, because it’s messy, and complicated, and beautiful. Teens need books that explore the nitty gritty of what it’s really like to start a new relationship, while juggling the expectations of friends, school, and the looming future.
I could also go on at length about how great the pacing is, but I think the fact that I stayed up until 1 AM to finish this book speaks for itself. Both authors do a great job of making NYC come alive through Arthur and Ben’s eyes, and it really is the perfect setting for their whirlwind of a summer.
I won’t spoil the ending by getting into specifics, but I loved it. I really, really loved it. It’s hopeful, and real, and gorgeous, and it makes this book a perfect stand-alone (even though I would adore reading more books about these two). Please, do yourself a favor and get yourself a copy of What If It's Us. You won't regret it.
What If It's Us is available for $18.99 at Barnes and Noble.
Writer, reviewer, bookseller, book nerd extraordinaire. Fiction reader at Waxwing Magazine.