“I swear, people can’t wrap their minds around the concept of a fat girl who doesn’t diet. Is it that hard to believe I might actually like my body?”
― Becky Albertalli,
You may remember Leah Burke from Albertalli’s debut novel, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Though the book focused on Simon, one of the most fascinating characters was his best friend, Leah. A girl band drummer and talented artist, Leah was the book’s best source of sass, sarcasm, and attitude. Now, three years later, Albertalli has taken us back to Creekwood High to tell Leah’s story. As a senior, Leah is dealing with all the stresses of coming to the end of her high school career; she’s busy making college plans, picking out her prom dress, and cherishing final moments with her friends. However, Leah also has a secret; none of her friends know that she’s bisexual.
Though I was intrigued by Leah in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, I didn’t particularly like her. She was aggressive and rude at times, and I didn’t understand her hostility towards certain other characters (especially Abby). By the end of the first chapter of Leah On the Offbeat, I’d completely changed my mind about our heroine. Sure, she was just as feisty as ever, but with the book being told from her perspective we see the reasons behind her snark. The more I read about Leah, the more I liked her, and came to realise that she’s so much more than Simon’s bitingly funny best friend. Leah is a complex character, and we see a lot of different sides to her personality.
She’s also one of the very few overweight protagonists I’ve come across. A self described “fat Slytherin”, Leah has her insecurities, but she’s ultimately comfortable with her body and I found this extremely refreshing. Though Leah is overweight, at no point does her size get in the way of her having an amazing life. Nor does it stand in the way of her love of quirky fashion! As Albertalli described Leah’s gold combat boots, cat shaped handbag and galaxy print dress, I found myself daydreaming about raiding her wardrobe. Ultimately, what I love most about Leah is what a unique heroine she is, I don’t think I’ve ever read about a character quite like her before, though she always felt completely real.
If I were to describe Albertalli’s writing in two words, I would say it was addictive and hilarious. It’s quite rare for me to laugh out loud when I read, but Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda had me chuckling all the way through. Leah On the Offbeat has a different, but equally enjoyable style of humour. While Simon is all about wholesome silliness, Leah has more of a self deprecating, dry wit. I found it quite clever that Albertalli was able to write both of their unique senses of humour. Her writing is also well paced, and I found it very hard to put the book down. On the day I got the book, I stayed up until 1AM reading. When I woke up the next morning, I picked the book up again and didn’t stop reading until I finished it. Then, my eyes got all teary, because I just love it so much.
In case you can’t tell from that last sentence, I absolutely adored this book. It was sweet, funny, and heartfelt. I haven’t said anything about the romance part of the book, as for me it was quite a surprise and I don’t want to spoil anything, but let me tell you, it was ADORABLE!! Just as precious as Simon and Blue in the previous Creekwood novel. Honestly, I think everyone should read the Leah and Simon books, as I just can’t fault them. I can’t think of a series that has made me feel happier or more entertained than this one. Personally, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Albertalli will continue expanding this series, as I can’t get enough of these characters!