In honour of Pride month, it seems only fitting to discuss Becky Albertalli’s coming-of-age novel Leah on the Offbeat. Releasedin 2018, Albertalli treated fans once again with her quirky narrative style. Serving as a spin-off to her smash hit Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda in 2015, Albertalli shifts the focus from Simon Spier to his best friend Leah Burke as she navigates the pressure of being a teenager as she prepares for college. It isn’t just Leah’s anxiety about her future however, but her sexuality which she has kept secret from her friends, not being encouraged to come out as Simon did two years previously. To cover up her feelings, Leah hides behind a mask of deadpan humour and sarcasm as she struggles to cope with her bisexuality. When she realises she likes Abby as more than just a friend, Leah begins to discover her identity and deal with her insecurities as a bisexual woman.
With Leah on the Offbeat, this was the perfect opportunity to give a voice to a rarely seen supporting character from the first novel in the “Simon-verse”. As the first novel revolved around Simon, it was refreshing for Albertalli to step back from his narrative to explore Leah, a character I was always intrigued by in Simonbecause she seemed so mysterious. You could never tell what Leah was thinking, and once you have read Leah on the Offbeat, you realise how misunderstood she is by her friends and family. In this way, we can finally empathise with Leah, rather than brush her off as ignorant as she often comes across in Simon.
Personally, I love Albertalli’s writing style, especially when it comes to representing the LGBTQ+ community. Although Albertalli is a straight author, she is able to capture the internal struggle of the LGBTQ+ voice, portraying realistic storylines which make you do nothing but root for the protagonist, whether that be Leah or Simon. Not to mention Albertalli depicts the scary excitement of first love, which acts as the heart of Leah on the Offbeat.
You can purchase the book here.
Words and photo by Kate Dunkerton.