What If It’s Us by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli
★★★★★ | 9 October 2018
“I guess that’s every relationship. You start with nothing and maybe end with everything.”
One of the unexpected sweetest books I’ve read all year about failing at perfection, but finding something close anyway.
What If It’s Us follows two characters on a summer in New York forming a very-imperfect and very-cute relationship.
✔Ben – Written by Adam Silvera. Puerto Rican and gay. Way too relatable. Thinks about prices more due to being from a low-income family. Just went through a breakup where he was the dumper but also feels like he was the one who cared more. Basically the epitome of thinking fate is fake and wanting to believe in love but also not really believing in love. His dynamic with Dylan, Hudson, and Harriet was so great, and his family dynamic is so sweet.
✔Arthur – Written by Becky Albertalli. Jewish, gay, and has ADHD. Did not enjoy as much at first and then he grew on me. His paranoia over his guy best friend, Ethan, being subtly homophobic was way too real; I loved his relationship with him and Jessie, and with his parents, and most importantly, with two interns at his parent’s workplace. I felt his complex around everyone finding him too enthusiastic so hard; I feel like my persona on this website is the most enthused version of myself and I love her, but trust me, I am not as much like this with the general population in real life.
I feel like all of Goodreads has been waiting for this all year – a collab between two of our most popular authors!! This is the fourth book for both of these authors, and having read all of Adam’s previous work (and most of Becky’s) I was of course hyped. But I was also concerned. I love Becky’s sweet books, but they often have a certain lack of plot structure. And I love Adam’s sad books, but they often get caught up in the sad of it all. Most of all, I worried that the two halfs of the book would not blend.
That was not the case. Actually, I think this book was the best of both worlds, and it is perfect. Becky’s tone falls closest to her cute but realistically flawed Leah on the Offbeat and Adam’s closest to my absolute favorite book of his, They Both Die at the End. I feel like Becky is generally a much more fun writer, while Adam has a bit more of that quality factor; here, I felt like their different stiles both got those good qualities. I never once found myself thinking about Becky writing one chapter and Adam the next.
And I think their collab lends this book a unique tone; both of these characters are flawed, their relationship is flawed, and things aren’t ever perfect, but things don’t always suck, either. I absolutely adored the balance between realism and subversion of typical romantic tropes – their first date is awkward, their first kiss is not magical – and dramatic romantic gestures – a two-sided search through New York, a romantic last-date scavenger hunt, and THE DOUBLE CHOCOLATE COOKIE.
Can I just emphasize that even with the nice rom-com tropes, it reads very realistic? The characters do struggle with jealousy, and with miscommunications, but it always read as fairly real to me. The three-part structure of this book is excellent on this front as well – each one has a different “goal” for the characters that then lends itself to a now-what question. It feels like a really good representation of the tumult of life. I feel like the pop culture references in this will be somewhat polarizing – I thought they were cute. Like, yeah, I think saying they went a little overboard is fair, not all of them completely rang true, and I think I once had the thought that not even theater kids think about the line “not throwing my shot” this line, but on the whole I was quite pleased by the dialogue and banter of this.
And I have now seen several reviews saying this was meant exclusively to appeal to “booktubers,” which, I’m sorry, are booktubers the only people who like Harry Potter………? ?
[No spoilers here, but if you really want to know nothing, skip this.]
And last but not least, fuck you ALL for making me think I would be mad about the epilogue of this. May I just state right now and forever: the epilogue is absolutely fantastic. I heard “realistic” and I was expecting “tragic” as in they lose touch and I cry for years. That was not what I got. The epilogue is so strange because it’s not a typical happy ending, but it made me happier than almost anything else I’ve read this year. This went from a rounded up 3 1/2 to a solid five exclusively because I adored the epilogue so. much. It’s absolutely what will keep this book stuck in my head in six months; the perfect acknowledgment that not everything always ends perfectly, but sometimes you can find something even better.
TW: racism, homophobia, panic attacks, past cheating.
✨Arc received from the publisher via Edelweiss for an honest review. [ releases: 9 October 2018.]