The kids of Creekwood are back in this follow-up to Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda that follows the crew one year later as they deal with the relationships that formed (and didn’t form) in the first book and navigate prom season. If you haven’t read Simon (or seen the movie Love, Simon) there will be spoilers for that going forward so maybe just trust me that the books are good and go pick up Simon right now.
Anyway, Leah on the Offbeat takes place a year after the events of Simon vs and follows Leah Burke, Simon’s overweight, music-loving best friend that had a crush on him for years before she found out she was gay. But Simon wasn’t the only one she had a crush on. She also briefly had a crush on Abby. Yes, the Abby that ends up with Nick at the end of Simon vs. But with prom season on the horizon and college not far off, relationships are getting confusing and Leah is trying to understand how to navigate her bisexuality in a group of friends that would no doubt be supportive but what if everything gets even more complicated? Plus, Leah’s mom is dating this guy, Wells, and Leah’s not really sure how she feels about that. Throw in a band and catty female friends and it’s a whole thing.
So I loved Simon when I read it and really enjoyed the movie, but I’m going to be totally honest that I was never that interested in Leah as a character. She’s barely a character in the original book, TBH. Like yes she plays a role as Simon’s best friend but she didn’t have much personality. All that changes in this book. She’s jumping off the page with her love for Harry Potter and her bisexuality and her attitude with her mom. It seemed like music was going to be a big part of Leah and her personality and story because she’s like…in a band at the beginning of the story but that pretty much gets forgotten. I thought it was going to be critical part of the story since the title implies music but…nope. Oh well. I was really frustrated with the whole thing with the male love interest in this book, but I think that was kind of the point. Also, Leah’s a total bitch to her Mom sometimes but I was definitely the same towards my mom in high school sometimes so who can blame her. I think the delicate handling of Leah being less financially stable or well-off than her friends is nice and the scene in Target really warmed my heart.
The romance in this is really sweet. We get to see relationships strengthen and fall apart and begin and it provides a nice little window into high school craziness that I am so glad to have behind me. It’s not too full-steam ahead and has lots of (realistic) stops and starts which is far better for me as a reader than those perfect storybook contemporary romances because come on, let’s be real. Also yes prom is so cliched but like it’s also realistic: it actually happens at every high school in America pretty much, so I didn’t mind too much.
Overall, this is the perfect follow-up for people who loved Love, Simon or Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda and I’d love to see a movie version of it. Reading this was a nice reprieve from all the nonfiction I’ve been listening to!