Flash Review: What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera – Jennie Gouck

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From the blurb:

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it. Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when the boys have a chance meeting at the post office, they leave wondering what exactly the universe does have in store for them.

What if – in a city of eight million people – they can’t find each other again?

What if they do … and then can’t nail a first date even after three do-overs?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?

What if it’s us?

 

Review by Jennie Gouck:

If ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts…well, this novel would have a very merry Christmas.

Set in New York City, this collaborative title from (LGBTQ+) YA powerhouses Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera capture the essence of young love in one of the most vibrant places on earth.

Arthur Seuss, a dreamer and musical-lover from Georgia, is in the Big Apple for the Summer, having taken up an internship at his mother’s lawyer’s firm. He sees New York as a city of opportunity, the kind of place you can only look at with awe as your eyes drink in the bright lights of Times Square and dizzying heights of the skyscrapers on every corner. He dreams of seeing Hamilton on Broadway, of one day going to Yale, and of falling in love.

Meanwhile, Ben Alejo, a New York native from Alphabet City is more pragmatic. He’s been burned by The Universe one too many times and carries a hurt from his recent break-up with his boyfriend, Hudson. While he’s creative, privately writing his fantasy novel The Wicked Wizard War, school hasn’t gone so well for him, either, and he finds himself spending his holidays in Summer school in a desperate attempt to pass Junior Year and become a Senior with the rest of his friends. Ben’s Puerto Rican, working-class heritage is a sore-spot for him. Yale (or any college, really) is a pipe dream. Plus, he looks ‘too white’ and doesn’t speak enough Spanish to hang out with the other Puerto Rican kids, yet doesn’t feel at home with his peers who aren’t of colour. Ben, it seems, is an occupant of The Inbetween.

What If It’s Us follows Arthur and Ben as they attempt to navigate the beginnings of their relationship in the city that never sleeps, all the while tumbling toward Summer’s end. ‘Do-overs’ are a theme throughout the book; first dates and second-first-dates, writing and re-writing their story to find a scenario that matches who – and what – they want to be. The chapters alternate between Arthur and Ben’s point of view, sweeping us up in their whirlwind romance. The narrative is unstable. It’s rocky. It climbs to the top of the rollercoaster before throwing us through the loop-de-loop with reckless abandon. It reminds us that, even in New York, relationships aren’t what they seem in the movies. They aren’t Broadway musicals with a strongly defined beginning, middle, and end (although the tri-partite structure of What If It’s Us tries to trick us into thinking otherwise).

Most importantly, though, What If It’s Us is another book for the LGBTQ community – one which shows that not all queer narratives are ones laced with unimaginable sadness and hardship. The hardships here, from first date and first kiss nerves to meeting the parents, are like those faced in any other teenage romance. And that’s perfectly okay.

‘What If It’s Us’ (9781471176395) is due for release in the UK on 18thOctober 2018

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