Ok so I’ve been sitting on this review for a little while. I felt so conflicted upon finishing the book that I didn’t trust myself to write a honest review right off the bat. There was a lot that I liked here, but honestly there was a lot that I didn’t. I know the internet seemed to be really championing this book, as the authors are loved and the book features very inclusive characters, but unfortunately it didn’t really work for me.
Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office in New York, where Arthur is working for the summer. Arthur feels its a sign from the universe – he’s ready for his first big shot at romance. Ben doesn’t buy into the whole “the universe works in mysterious ways” – he thinks the way the universe works sucks. After all, the sucky universe is one of the reasons he is at the post office in the first place – to mail back his ex-boyfriend’s things. Arthur is determined to find the mysterious boy from their meet-cute, because he can’t help but thinking what if?
Will I like this?
You might enjoy this book if…
- You enjoy YA romance that is sweet with little to no steam
- You love books with inclusive characters of diverse backgrounds
- You enjoy having your romance rooted in realism
You might not enjoy this book if…
- You prefer a romance that is more new adult/adult
- You prefer more mature characters
- You prefer endings with a firm resolution
Spoiler Free Review
I want to start with what I liked. I loved the representation and inclusion in this book. This is a romance between Arthur, a Jewish boy who has ADHD and Ben whose Puerto Rican. It’s so important to write romance stories for everyone, and I love this book for its inclusivity. Also, it’s obviously a M/M romance, which is awesome! For this reason alone I wanted to absolutely love this book, but unfortunately, it just missed the mark in other ways for me.
I also loved how this book wasn’t afraid to tackle big issues. We’re talking everything from homophobia to anxiety to privilege. This book also features a host of secondary characters with diverse experiences and backgrounds. Truly, this book’s diversity is its strongest aspect in my opinion.
I also enjoyed the fact that this book was just plain ol’ realistic. The romance between Ben and Arthur felt real. There was no fairy tale aspect. There were times when things felt awkward between them or when things just did not work out the way they wanted them to. I appreciated this. I even loved the realistic relationship mirroring between Ben & Arthur and the relationship we saw in Arthur’s parents. While there were some points that I felt the parent’s relationship was a bit toxic, they also showed that a loving relationship isn’t always perfect.
Onto what I didn’t love. I hated all the pop culture references, I’m just going to say it. While I appreciate a few Harry Potter references (because, c’mon, I love HP), this book seriously went overboard. There were so many. So, so many. They were in every chapter and even became plot points in the book. (Honestly, I found this to be an issue in other Becky Albertalli books that I’ve read.) This makes the book feel so immature and young to me. While I appreciate that this is YA, the references just brought it down a level. Also, I feel like this dates the book. When people are reading this ten years from now, all the references can be isolating to a reader who wasn’t there to appreciate them. I’m down for a few, but this book overdid it.
Lastly, while I loved that the book was realistic, the romance honestly still felt forced and a bit off to me. It didn’t feel like a natural progression and it felt like both characters were trying to force their relationship to work because of all they went through to find each other again. It felt like a bit of “well after all that, we have to make this work!” Everyone was cheering them on and a fan of their relationship, so it felt like they were trying to hard to make it work because they felt like they should. I really wasn’t buying into it. As a book where the romance is such a huge focus, this is where it really brought it down for me. I think the book could still keep its realism, while injecting a bit more romance/friendship between the two. Sometimes felt like they were making it so awkward for the sake of being like “this is real romance! sometimes its awkward!” that they went overboard and lost the heart of the romance.
Overall, I give this a 3/5. I enjoyed reading the book, but there were minor issues that kept me from really liking it or even loving it.
What if It’s Us is a young adult contemporary collaboration between Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera. Becky Albertalli is author of the wildly popular Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda. Adam Silvera is author of the deeply emotional book They Both Die at the End. What if It’s Us released on October 9, 2018. It’s available to purchase now.
About the Authors: Becky Albertalli is a clinical psychologist who has had the privilege of conducting therapy with dozens of smart, weird, irresistible teenagers. She also served for seven years as co-leader of a support group for gender nonconforming children in Washington, D.C. She now lives with her family outside of Atlanta. She is an American author of young adult fiction, best known for Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, which was adapted into the 2018 film Love, Simon.
Adam Silvera is the New York Times bestselling author of They Both Die at the End, More Happy Than Not, History Is All You Left Me, and What If It’s Us with Becky Albertalli. All his novels have received multiple starred reviews. He worked in the publishing industry as a children’s bookseller, community manager at a content development company, and book reviewer of children’s and young adult novels. He was born and raised in New York. He lives in Los Angeles and is tall for no reason.
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