Two incredibly well-received young adult authors known for their novels that depict the struggles of traversing and maintaining gay relationships come together in the colorful, vibrant gem that is “What If It’s Us.” In this incredibly compelling novel, both authors place two unsuspecting boys on the backdrop of always chaotic, never paused New York City, and the love story that follows is something that truly cannot be missed.
Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera, authors of the New York Times best-selling novels ‘Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda’ and ‘More Happy Than Not’ respectively, try their hand at co-authoring a novel that’s admittedly right in their ballparks. With the premise of boys falling in love, both authors clearly set out to add an empowering gay novel for their young audiences. However, upon completing the novel, readers will surely discover that ‘What If It’s Us’ is something much more than a simple coming-of-age story like so many other LGBT books.
In fact, and possibly the most refreshing thing about this novel, neither Author nor Ben, the story’s titular characters, are faced with the task of coming out to their loved ones. Rather, the novel picks up with both characters running into each other in a clichéd meet-cute situation with both parties fully aware of their sexualities and willing to explore and celebrate their attraction to the same sex.
This is something that may be new to those that have not perused Silvera’s works, as all of his characters face detrimental or even dire situations rather than having to face the reality of their sexuality. Combining Silvera’s more stoic, cynical plots with Albertalli’s more uplifting themes and bright characters, the two create a story that will plaster a smile on readers’ faces at each dramatic turn of the story.
Though ‘What If It’s Us’ may begin on a rough note with its first chapter, the two well-weathered authors demonstrate their writing prowess through the cast of lovable characters that simply cannot be overlooked. Almost as if they are the stars of their own television program, Ben and Author’s frantic search of New York City for each other seems to take a back seat to the colorful personalities of Dylan and his escapades and Author’s sassy co-workers.
As pressing as Author and Ben’s love story may be, Dylan’s panicking over how he’s going to find a wife at the age of 17 is a hilarious venture that begs for a spin-off novel. Meanwhile, every interaction with Author’s co-workers, Juliet and Namrata, will leave readers in stitches as they always seem to have some quick quip for every situation. Even Ben’s ex-boyfriend Hudson redeems himself in a heartfelt journey of his own.
The love story that Author and Ben share is truly something that feels like a game-changing storyline for the YA genre as its nothing extraordinary or filled with impossible feats. Rather Albertalli and Silvera tell of a compelling romance that seems so set in reality, anyone can and will relate to either side of this unbalanced equation.
As any real relationship goes, Author and Ben are riddled with scars and faults that shine even after the two do the impossible and track down each other in New York City. The authors don’t make it easy for their characters to become attached to each other as Ben must face his past head-on rather than deflecting from it, and Author is tasked with fending off his jealousy long enough to hold his boyfriend’s hand. However, once the two get together, their love blossoms, spilling off of the page and becoming a tangible force that demands to be felt and ingested.
Nostalgia races through the veins of this novel as the two jump from one stage to another in their developing relationship. The awkward first date, the impossibly tense first kiss and the meeting of parents all take place throughout the novel, and each scene brings back a breath of the past. This novel truly captures the sense of what a new relationship feels like and projects the excitement and exhilaration of finding “the one.”
“What If It’s Us” represents all that is good about the YA genre, exposing young adults to a normal, sometimes dysfunctional gay relationship. As readers begin to understand the scope of what is at stake as Author and Ben enter this relationship, it becomes clear that this is not a book about being gay. Rather it’s a novel that simply tells of two boys’ fleeting love in a city of lights and dreams.