Recommended Age: 16+
Genres: Romance, Comedy
Tags: Diversity, Music
- Mature language: Consistent swearing, including many F bombs, as well as conversations addressing racism, body image, and privilege.
- Moderate sexuality: Multiple kissing scenes, sexual humor, and same sex relationships.
If you’ve read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, you’ll already know Simon’s best friend Leah Burke. Leah and her friends are in the last few months of their senior year, celebrating a series of last moments – last musical, last band rehearsal, last prom, and last chance to come out of the closet before they all leave for college. Leah’s an amazing drummer and artist, but social situations leave her feeling awkward and offbeat. She wants to open up about her sexuality and face her crush, but she can’t seem to find the words. As tensions run high, Leah has to decide what she wants her life to look like and how to put that into words.
“So, I guess we’re doing the whole lovesick-couples-in-front-of-Waffle House thing. Maybe Nora and I should make out now, just to stay relevant.”
Leah is honestly so relatable. Every teenager, and even adults looking back on their teen years, should be able to read this and feel a little more understood. Her deadpan sarcasm and cranky humor show her prickly personality and growing pains. This is such a high school story, with lurking around the drama and music rooms and awkward social dynamics and an obsession over prom and graduation. Teenagers are emotional and messy, especially high school seniors. Leah may be cynical and anti cliché, but she still feels the wistful pain of leaving behind her childhood and friends.
The relationships are so well done, with so many little details and mannerisms to show depth. It makes the characters more genuine, in both romantic and family/friend interactions. As if growing up isn’t confusing enough, romance makes everything so heightened and dramatic. We see how Simon’s courage in his love life pays off, since this book takes place over a year since Simon’s story. But Leah is still working on her happily ever after, though she would never utter such a sappy romantic sentiment.
Most of all, the friendships in this book are worth the read. Leah and Simon have been friends for so long, with the comfort of having someone who always believes in you. Leah’s friendship with Abby is much newer, with continual discoveries and surprises. Leah’s fellow band members and theatre friends have a fun dynamic that reminds me of my own experiences in music and theatre. Everyone is so earnest and insecure and young. High school has many cringe worthy moments, but there’s also plenty of heart. Growing up can be difficult and uncomfortable, but it’s much easier if you love yourself and surround yourself with people who support you.
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