After reading Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, I decided to delve into the Simonverse of books by Becky Albertalli and check out the sequel, Leah on the Off Beat. The Leah we meet in the preceding book is a bit standoffish and actually does not appear super frequently within Simon’s story. For those of you who have seen Love, Simon this version of Leah is a lot different than the one we see there. While both do get upset when they feel left out, the Leah in the book often disappears and hides when faced with conflict or when she is struggling to deal with something. I will admit that while reading Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda I didn’t particularly like her. As soon as I began reading Leah on the Off Beat I found myself understanding and connecting with Leah and her internal issues.
Set roughly one year after the events in the first book, Leah and Simon’s friend group are all getting ready for the end of the year. There are college visits, prom, and graduation on the horizon and all of this has Leah a bit on edge. Not only that, but her mom is dating and every time Leah has to spend time with Wells she just can’t bring herself to like him. So much of these feelings rise out of Leah feeling replaceable and like she isn’t good enough. All of this is compounded by feelings Leah has been trying to suppress toward one of her friends, well someone she thought she used to be friends with, Abby. While the two might be in the same friend group, for the past couple of years Leah hasn’t felt like they are actually friends, but that slowly begins to change. What no one knows, well except for her mom, is that Leah is bisexual and she has had feelings for Abby since before she and Nick ever started dating. What complicates all of this even more is that Garrett, one of the soccer guys that is a quieter part of their group, has a crush on Leah and is trying his best to spend time with her. Leah thinks he’s nice, but when she starts spending more and more time with Abby she doesn’t know what she should do, especially since she doesn’t want to hurt Nick or do something to ruin their friend group before graduation.
Leah’s struggles to figure out what she wants and come to terms with who she is was something I felt was very similar to my own coming out. While Leah is out to her mom, she can’t bring herself to tell her friends, even though she knows they will still be friends with her and will accept her. I came out in reverse to Leah and had friends who knew I was bi, but I was so nervous to tell my parents. The more I thought about telling them the more I would get super nervous and often snippy or just annoyed, which had nothing to do with them and everything to do with me not knowing what to do. Leah is having these same sort of reactions, though in this case they are often directed toward her friends, especially Abby, because she can’t find a way to come out or to explain her feelings. Once I understood that Leah was having these same internal struggles I felt so much differently about her character. I love the journey she and Abby wind up going through and I also love that Leah is just casually bisexual. Her mom is totally comfortable with her daughter’s identity and just wants her daughter to find someone who is good for her. Even if you didn’t read Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda you will still enjoy Leah on the Off Beat.
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