Book Review: What If It’s Us

what if it's usWhat If It’s Us
by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
Young Adult Gay Romance
437 pages
Published October 2018

This was a super cute gay romance that I read for YA_Pride’s Twitter Book Club. The authors have separately written some pretty popular YA books; Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (Albertalli) and They Both Die at the End (Silvera), neither of which I have read yet, so I had no idea what to expect with this one!

The book alternates viewpoints between Arthur, a Georgia boy in New York for the summer who recently came out as gay but has not yet gone out on a date with anyone, and Ben, who recently broke up with the boy he lost his virginity with. The difference in experience between the two is a plot point, as is the temporary nature of Arthur’s visit to New York.

There is SO MUCH in this book. These are complex characters, and the romance between the two is simply the frame that the rest of the book revolves around. Arthur is still coming to terms with what being out means for him; he thinks his friends are being weird about it, his parents are fighting all the time, he’s never dated and doesn’t really know how to go about doing so. Ben is recovering from heartbreak with his first boyfriend. He’s Puerto Rican but can pass for white, so people forget and think he’s white, and that upsets him. His break up, and his best friend’s, has splintered up their friend group and he misses the group, and his best friend seems to have moved on and doesn’t have time for him anymore. He’s in summer school, with his ex, and is struggling to pass so he can continue to his senior year of high school, while Arthur is an amazing student who’s probably getting into Yale. All of this is set against the glittering backdrop of New York, seen as wondrous and new through Arthur’s eyes and boring and old through Ben’s. There’s just SO MUCH going on.

I did have to double-check a few times who was narrating the chapter I was reading, but Twitter said the audio book actually has separate narrators for Arthur and Ben. So if you like audiobooks, that might be the better way to go for this book.

I loved that this book didn’t just explore the romance between the two boys, but the friendships they had with each other and the people around them. More than a romance, I think this is a book about building your own family. People who will be there for you whether you’re dating them or not.

Twitter also mentioned that the book could be disappointing if you were reading it for either of the author’s signature styles. No one dies, and it’s not completely happy fluff. So definitely set aside any expectations based on their previous books. I hadn’t read them, so I enjoyed it for itself.

The next YA_Pride book club pick is This Is Kind Of An Epic Love Story, and we’ll be talking about it on Twitter at 8pm Eastern Time on Thursday, November 29th, using the hashtag #YAPrideBookClub. Join us!

From the cover of What If It’s Us:

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 on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?

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 show?

But what if it is?

Best friends Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera combine their talents in this smart, funny, and heartfelt collaboration about two very different boys who can’t decide if the universe is pushing them together – or pulling them apart.

Book Review: Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns

pradaRevenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns
by Lauren Weisberger
433 pages
Published 2013
Modern Fiction

I probably should have read The Devil Wears Prada first – I haven’t even seen the movie! I do know the basic premise, though, and reading this book does make me want to see the movie sometime soon. Perhaps I’ll check Netflix for it. (Though I just went to the library and brought home a new load of books, so perhaps not!)

It was an okay story, I suppose. Not my usual fare, though. Andy Sachs, the unfortunate assistant whose story was told in The Devil Wears Prada, returns, a decade after the events of the first book. She’s started a wedding magazine with her best friend, and it’s become wildly successful. Then Elias-Clark, the publishing company headed by Miranda Priestly (the “Devil” from the title), makes an offer to buy the magazine and it goes downhill from there.

I really was not thrilled by this book. Miranda only makes a few appearances, and while her influence is felt through the entire book, it’s more Andy’s fear of her that permeates the book rather than Miranda’s own driven personality. I wanted to see more of the Devil herself!

Reading other reviews on Amazon, I’m not alone, and apparently the first book was FAR better. Which is good to know, I suppose, but I still probably won’t bother to read it. I might watch the movie – I remember the previews were hysterical – but I won’t waste the time on the book. That’s also my recommendation for this sequel. Don’t waste your time.

From the back of Revenge Wears Prada:

Almost a decade has passed since Andy Sachs quit the job “a million girls would die for” working for Miranda Priestly at Runway magazine—a dream that turned out to be a nightmare. Andy and Emily, her former nemesis and co-assistant, have since joined forces to start a highend bridal magazine. The Plunge has quickly become required reading for the young and stylish. Now they get to call all the shots: Andy writes and travels to her heart’s content; Emily plans parties and secures advertising like a seasoned pro. Even better, Andy has met the love of her life. Max Harrison, scion of a storied media family, is confident, successful, and drop-dead gorgeous. Their wedding will be splashed across all the society pages as their friends and family gather to toast the glowing couple. Andy Sachs is on top of the world. But karma’s a bitch. The morning of her wedding, Andy can’t shake the past. And when she discovers a secret letter with crushing implications, her wedding-day jitters turn to cold dread. Andy realizes that nothing—not her husband, nor her beloved career—is as it seems. She never suspected that her efforts to build a bright new life would lead her back to the darkness she barely escaped ten years ago—and directly into the path of the devil herself…

Book Review: The Golem and the Jinni

golemThe Golem and the Jinni
by Helene Wecker
484 pages
Published 2013
Urban Fantasy (of a sort)

Update: The sequel, The Iron Season, is due out sometime in 2018!

Yet another fantastic debut novel! My husband picked this up at the library; the dark blue edging on the pages had caught his attention, as well as the gorgeous blue and gold cover with its enigmatic title. I am very glad he brought it to my attention, as it was a beautiful, touching read.

The Golem and the Jinni is the tale of two immigrants in early 19th century New York. These aren’t your typical immigrants, however. The Golem, created by a mystic in Poland, was made-to-order by a man wanting a wife. He died on the voyage over, hours after awakening her. With her original master-bond broken, the Golem is learning her way around New York and human society, with the help of an old Jewish rabbi who recognized her for what she is.

The Jinni, on the other hand, has been bound in a bottle for close to a thousand years, and is released accidentally by an Arab tinsmith. He is also learning about New York and human society, but where the Golem is coming at it from a place of innocence, he is jaded and old. The two eventually meet, recognizing each other for non-human, and begin a wary friendship built on their mutual lack of needing to sleep and hatred of boredom.

As the novel progresses, their lives begin to intertwine in unexpected ways, and we learn more about their histories from flashbacks; in the Golem’s case, the flashbacks are of her creator’s life, since we see the beginning of her own at the start of the novel.

As the novel progresses, it builds up momentum until it seems an unstoppable force heading to its surprising conclusion. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and find myself surprised it was the author’s first. It brushed on philosophical questions, moral questions, societal norms – and all of it so naturally. The book delved into human nature and the nature of free will, with both main characters unsure of their own capability for free will for different reasons, and fighting those very limitations on their individuality.

I discovered in a Q&A on Wecker’s website that she is Jewish and her husband is Arab-American, which explains partly why she was able to blend the two cultures’ mythologies so easily (and to wonderful effect!) in this book.

I’ve been having wonderful luck with debut novels lately, I wonder how long that can hold out?

From the inner cover of The Golem and the Jinni:

“Helene Wecker’s dazzling debut novel tells the story of two supernatural creatures who appear mysteriously in 1899 New York. Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a strange man who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York Harbor. Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian Desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. 

Struggling to make their way in this strange new place, the Golem and the Jinni try to fit in with their neighbors while masking their true names. Surrounding them is a community of immigrants: the coffeehouse owner Maryam Faddoul, a pillar of wisdom and support for her Syrian neighbors; the solitary ice cream maker Saleh, a damaged man cursed by tragedy; the kind and caring Rabbi Meyer and his beleaguered nephew, Michael, whose Sheltering House receives newly arrived Jewish men; the adventurous young socialite Sophia Winston; and the enigmatic Joseph Schall, a dangerous man driven by ferocious ambition and esoteric wisdom.

Meeting by chance, the two creatures become unlikely friends who tenuous attachment challenges their opposing natures, until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds. But a powerful menace will soon bring the Golem and the Jinni together again, threatening their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.”