What If It’s Us by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli
Spoiler Free Review
What If It’s Us is an LGBTQ YA novel from the author who brought us They Both Die at the End. I absolutely fell in love with that book so I decided to check out this one. Unfortunately, this novel isn’t half as good as the previous bestseller.
The title is a direct reference to the musical Dear Evan Hansen, because gays like musicals. It is a very good soundtrack though so I’ll give them that.
The story follows young Arthur as he interns at his mom’s law firm in New York City and Ben as he navigates post breakup life. They meet at a post office one day and completely botch exchanging information. They are left to attempt to find each other in one of the most populated cities in the world.
Since this is a romance story they do, of course, find each other. It’s all very serendipitous and love at first sight, really cute stuff. Unfortunately, the novel never becomes anything more. It’s all very naïve and immature love that still believes in magic and happy endings.
That’s fine, these kinds of candy coated books are fun once in a while. It’s nice to read a very quick sappy story just to turn your brain off and root for some kids who just want to be in love. They’re both inoffensive young men and it’s easy to say sure whatever let’s get em together.
The biggest problem with the book, besides its simplicity, is that both of the main characters’ voices are very similar. What If It’s Us is told through alternating perspectives chapter to chapter but it is difficult to tell who’s chapter you’re in. Their narration and inner monologues are nearly identical.
Additionally, this book mentions Harry Potter about every other damn page. I get it, they’re young they might like Harry Potter but at this point it’s pretty upsetting for an LGBTQ novel to give so much praise for a book written by a transphobic hate monger of an author.
I don’t like when books or any other media develop their characters around other forms of media. These boys already lack in personality and it’s just lazy to make the bulk of who they are about what movies they like.
What If It’s Us is a perfectly adequate young love story that will keep you occupied for a few afternoons but don’t go into it thinking it’s going to be anything more than fluff.
3/5 post offices 📨📨📨
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What If It’s Us Summary
Arthur is new to NYC. He’s staying for the summer to intern at his mom’s law firm. He wants to get into an ivy league college after he graduates and he’s very motivated. He’s also pretty lonely in this city without his friends. He just came out and is feeling isolated.
He goes to the post office on a work errand and chats with a very cute boy who he immediately falls in love with. They lose each other in a flash mob before they can exchange contact information.
Ben, the cute boy, has just been through a breakup and was at the post office to mail off his ex’s things. He panics at this boy talking to him and takes the flash mob opportunity to flee. In his rush he left behind a discarded packing label that Arthur snags and uses to start his stalking journey into tracking him down.
Arthur doesn’t know if the name and address are for the boy or his ex (spoiler, it’s the ex). Both boys want to connect, Ben regrets fleeing, but they are hesitant to do anything about it.
Through the power of internet stalking they get closer to finding each other. Arthur finds the ex and after scrolling through hundreds of posts finds Ben. In a creepy or romantic gesture he prints out the photo and posts a flyer to the bulletin board of the coffee shop which he remembered Ben wearing a shirt of when they met.
Ben finds this ad and freaks, as he should, but emails anyway. They connect and agree to meet up. The first date is super awkward and not all fireworks as they had hoped. They agree to a do over, a second first date. The theme of do overs is strong through What If It’s Us.
They spend time meeting up and being awkward and trying again and forcing the relationship to work beside the fact that Arthur is leaving in a few weeks. They have a double date with Ben’s BFF and his new girl friend. During this date is when Arthur and Ben share their first kiss.
After a few more dates they start to fool around a bit farther than kissing but Arthur gets nervous and ends it. He’s a virgin and is scared to move forward. I am glad that this book, featuring underaged boys, doesn’t venture to graphic full sex. I’ve read others that have and it’s a little icky. Yes teens have sex, no I don’t want to read about it in detail. So thank you authors Silvera and Albertalli for sparing us.
Drama hits when Arthur catches Ben in a lie of omission. Ben has been attending summer school with his ex boyfriend. Instead of talking it out Arthur dumps him and runs off crying. They are teenagers after all.
The boys both return to their respective homes and manage to piss off their best friends. Grief does cause these kinds of ripples. Ben runs off to his ex’s place because he feels out of places to run to. He just wants to reconnect as friends but the ex is rightfully confused about the motives of the visit.
Ben’s BFF from the double date before is then rushed to the hospital because of a pre-existing heart condition. Ben’s so scared that he texts Arthur. Arthur meets him at the hospital with zero hesitation. Which is very kind of him.
They make up and head back to Arthur’s place. His parents are out of town so he’s excited to bring Ben there, also it’s his birthday weekend, so he has high expectations. He gets an even bigger birthday surprise to discover that his dad flew his friends out to visit him for his birthday. This, of course, causes the friends to make up and become besties again.
Fresh from the hospital, Ben’s BFF and girlfriend join the party and it’s one big happy family. Ben and Arthur close the night by exchanging I love yous and then having sex, off page thank you very much.
For Arthur’s last day in NYC Ben plans a big romantic scavenger hunt and then they say their tearful goodbyes. This might be an impactful moment for some readers but I just think I’m too much of a realist, there was no way they could make it work, at least not yet.
The epilogue of What If It’s Us has Arthur at college, ivy league but not in NYC. Him and Ben are still in contact, good friends but not yet anything more. There is a sequel out for this book already so I expect that they do officially reconnect and try the romance thing again. I doubt I’ll read that one though because I was fairly underwhelmed with this one and don’t really care if they end up together or not. Sorry.
3/5 post offices 📨📨📨
For even more LGBTQ YA check out Camp (this is one with weirdly graphic sex, full penetrative anal in a YA novel is a bit much for me but y’know teens do be doing that)