REVIEW: What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera (+ Giveaway)

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Title: What If It’s Us
Author: Becky Albertalli, Adam Silvera
Format: E-ARC
Publication: October 9th 2018 by Balzer + Bray and HarperTeen
Source: Publisher via blog tour (thank you HarperCollins and JM @ Book Freak Revelations!)
Genre: Fiction—Contemporary, Realistic, Romance
Other classifications: LGBTQIAYoung Adult

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound | National Book Store

Synopsis

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?

Review

I received a review copy from the publisher which in no way swayed my opinion about the work.

Welcome to the last day of the #WhatIfItsUs International Blog Tour!

Funny, charming, and heartfelt, What If It’s Us captures the nuances of relationships—both romantic and platonic.

Sixteen-year-old Arthur, a “five-foot-six Jewish kid with ADHD and the rage of a tornado,” is living in New York City for the summer while interning at his mom’s law firm. Having recently come out to his best friends back home in Georgia, he is ready to find out whatever the universe has in store for him. Ben, Puerto Rican and a native New Yorker, is an aspiring fantasy writer stuck in summer school with his ex-boyfriend who cheated on him. He thinks “the universe is an asshole,” while Arthur believes “in love at first sight… [f]ate, the universe, all of it.” But what if they meet at the post office on a random Monday afternoon? What if they get separated anyway and then reunited? Long time fans of Becky and Adam are in for a treat as the duo’s writing both shine and complement each other in this gem of a summer romance.

“But Arthur? I barely know him. I guess that’s any relationship. You start with nothing and maybe end with everything.”

Ask someone in the book community who even remotely knows me what book they associate me with and chances are they would tell you Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. And for good reasons, too. I have read and loved Becky’s debut when it came out in 2015 and have never quite shut up about it. The same can be said of Adam and More Happy Than Not, which sucker punched me one too many times in the same year. And in What If It’s Us, the two team up to deliver a heartwarming tale of missed connections and cute boys believing in the universe. Of first dates and do-overs. Of missteps and grand gestures. Of families and friendships. This is a seamless collaboration, a thoughtful blend of each author’s signature style (Becky’s is often smile-inducing; Adam’s gravitate towards heartrending). And perhaps there was a lot of work behind the curtains to make that seem effortless, but it does seem effortless. You feel Arthur’s giddiness over New York and a budding romance, you feel for Ben and the sting of a recent break up, you share their hopes, and you root for them. Arthur is such a Becky Albertalli character—smart, eager, hilarious, and endearing. Ben, on the other hand, grounds the narrative. Adam Silvera’s imprint. Bit of a nerd, video game-playing, angsty, and all cynicism. At one point, he has a conversation with Arthur about being Puerto Rican but also “being so white and not speaking Spanish,” and I think it invites the reader to a bigger discussion about color and race.

“If I’m going to feel something, I want to feel it.”

As with the authors’s other titles, friendship is central to the story in this novel. And there is quite a cast of secondary characters, all as well written and diverse. Ben’s “bromance” with his best friend Dylan is probably my favorite. It is one of support and utter affection. And outside of Ben and Arthur, their scenes together are some of the ones I enjoyed the most. There is Jessie and Ethan, Arthur’s best friends back in Georgia, and I don’t know what this tells you about me, but there is this confrontation between the three, and it is one that has stuck with me and one that I bring up in conversations. Further exploration of friendship includes how people in one have to make room for romantic relationships and how people navigate shifting friendships because of break ups within a circle. There is of course the present parents, too, which we are increasingly seeing more of in YA. I appreciate how involved the Seusses and Alejos are in their children’s lives, of which the former provides a messier look at marriage.

“But maybe this isn’t how life works. Maybe it’s all about people coming into your life for a little while and you take what they give you and use it on your next friendship or relationship. And if you’re lucky, maybe some people pop back in after you thought they were gone for good.”

What If It’s Us is also just ridiculously charming. There is a line in the book that goes, “I’m smiling so hard my jaw hurts.” And that is such an accurate image of my reading experience. The banters, as well as pop culture references, are aplenty and Arthur has no chill that his chapters are often laugh-out-loud funny. But if there is one thing about this that I’m not a fan of? It is the epilogue. It seems gratuitous, to me at least, and I would much rather we skipped it altogether.

In the Venn diagram of Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera fans, the overlap tends to encompass a larger area. And What If It’s Us will certainly delight those who find themselves in that area. But on the off chance that I’m wrong and it doesn’t quite live up to your expectations, remember that you’re not obligated to like it, though you would be wrong not to.

4.5 out of 5

Author

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Becky Albertalli is the author of the acclaimed novels Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (film: Love, Simon), The Upside of Unrequited, and Leah on the Offbeat. She is also the co-author of What If It’s Us with Adam Silvera. A former clinical psychologist who specialized in working with children and teens, Becky lives with her family in Atlanta.

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Adam Silvera was born and raised in the Bronx. He has worked in the publishing industry as a children’s bookseller, marketing assistant at a literary development company, and book reviewer of children’s and young adult novels. His debut novel, More Happy Than Not, received multiple starred reviews and is a New York Times bestseller, and Adam was selected as a Publishers Weekly Flying Start. He writes full-time in New York City and is tall for no reason.

Facebook | Twitter | Website

You can read What If It’s Us, too! Enter THIS giveaway for a chance to win one (1) finished copy. Entries are open worldwide (with the exception of the UK, South Africa, Australia, and India due to publishing/selling rights) and will be accepted until 11:59pm (PHT), October 19th.

BUT! What if you have two (2!) more ways to score a copy? Massive thanks to HarperCollins International and their generosity and incredible support, you have! Head over to JM’s Instagram and Twitter accounts, which you can find HERE and HERE, respectively, to find out how. And good luck! Maybe the universe wants you to meet Arthur and Ben. The universe definitely wants you to meet Arthur and Ben.

Check out the rest of the tour stops!

October 5
Reading Through Infinity
Aimee, Always

October 6
Struggling Bookaholic
Kath Reads

October 7
Drizzle and Hurricane
The Ultimate Fangirl

October 9
Book Freak Revelations
Chasing Faerytales

October 10
The Bibliophile Confessions

October 11
Bentch Creates
Hollie’s Blog

October 12
Read by Nicka

Have you read What If It’s Us? Is this the cutest or is this the cutest? And with whom did you relate the most: Arthur or Ben? If you haven’t read it yet, talk to me about your favorite Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera books instead! Sound off in the comments below!

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REVIEW: Black Wings Beating by Alex London

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Title: Black Wings Beating
Author: Alex London
Format: ARC, 421 pages
Publication: September 25th 2018 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Source: Gifted by a friend (thank you so much, Hazel!)
Genre: Fiction—Fantasy
Other classifications: LGBTQIAYoung Adult

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound | National Book Store

Synopsis

The people of Uztar have long looked to the sky with hope and wonder. Nothing in their world is more revered than birds of prey, and no one is more honored than the falconers who call them to their fists.

Brysen strives to be a great falconer, while his twin sister, Kylee, possesses ancient gifts for it, but wants to be free of falconry altogether. She’s nearly made it out, too, but a war is rolling toward the Six Villages, with a rebel army leaving nothing in its wake but blood and empty sky. No bird or falconer will be safe from this invasion.

Together, the twins must embark on a journey into the treacherous mountains to trap the near-mythic ghost eagle, a solitary killer and the most feared of the Uztari birds of prey. They each go for their own reasons: Brysen for the boy he loves and the glory he’s long craved, and Kylee to atone for her past and to protect her brother’s future. But both are hunted by those who seek one thing: power.

Review

Alex London explores queer heroism and complex sibling relationship in Black Wings Beating—an epic, gripping, and exceedingly original opener to a new fantasy series.

In the Six Villages, nothing is more revered than birds of prey, and no one is more honored than the falconers who call them to their fists. Kylee possesses ancient gifts for falconry, but wants nothing to do with it. Brysen longs for the glory his sister refuses. But rumors of war approaching threaten the twin’s home and the freedom they have worked hard for. And things get more tangled when Brysen gets swept up in Dymian’s, his boyfriend and trainer, debts and agrees to capture the elusive ghost eagle, a solitary killer and the most feared of the Uztari birds of prey. And that is at the core of Black Wings Beating. It is a story of power and bravery. Of longing and heroism. Of hurt. Of betrayal. Of forgiveness. It is a story of political intrigues and the fierce, complicated bond between siblings. All grounded in love.

“But he knew this was what he was meant to do. This was what his father never could. He’d gone into the mountain filled with rage, and it had been his death. Brysen would go as an act of love, and he’d survive.”

I am always drawn to stories about families, especially the beautifully complex ones. And the author certainly delivers. Brysen is this loyal and unrelentingly romantic sibling. He yearns for glory and will do anything for the boy he loves. He is reckless like that. And if it isn’t obvious, he is gay. So I won’t lie; I came to the party for Brysen. What I didn’t expect, however, was to end up being more invested in Kylee. Who is fierce, sensible, and equally loyal. Who thinks about her brother more than anything else and is ready to protect him no matter the cost. Kylee, who evidently harbors a secret of her own. And that is what’s so compelling about the book, to me at least. That in the quieter moments, you see Brysen and the lasting effects of abuse. You see him struggle, “fighting against the weight of a world that dragged down boys who wanted to fly.” You see Kylee deal with the guilt she carries. You witness how the twins hurt each other, often unknowingly, at times purposefully. But you also feel the undeniable love between the two.

“He wanted to be the hero of this story, and a part of her wanted him to be, too. She herself was no hero.”

In a Mashable article that was released in June, London said that for the Skybound series, he “wanted to try not only to write queer heroes, but to write queer heroism.” Adding, “there is a challenge in fantasy—especially epic fantasy—that even with queer heroes and romances, it can still operate in the same hetero and patriarchal modes: a hero has to stab stuff with pointy things to dominate the bad guys and win.” And this translates really well into his work because Black Wings Beating is queer in the most beautiful of ways. The author not only uses love and gentleness as sources of power, he centers both in a brutal world. And I am so ready for more conversations about this that don’t necessarily revolve around toxic masculinity.

“All things were bound to their opposites. The hawk didn’t always win against the mouse, and brutality didn’t always conquer gentleness. It was rarely celebrated, but sometimes gentleness won.”

There are also the unique world-building and thrilling battle sequences. As well as matriarchal owl cults and a giant killer bird. But more than anything, it is the diverse cast of well-written characters that makes London’s return to YA a must-read. Like Brysen’s goshawk, I needed no tethering. I was drawn to the story—a raptor trained to return to its master.

Do not let this fly under your radars!

5.0 out of 5

Author

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Alex London has written books for adults, children, and teens. His young adult debut, Proxy, was an ALA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers, a 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults, a Rainbow List Selection, and a 2016 ALA Popular Paperback, and appeared on state reading lists across the country, from New York to Texas and California to Arkansas. At one time a journalist reporting from conflict zones and refugee camps, Alex lives with his husband in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Twitter | TumblrWebsite

Hey y’all! Yes, I’m still alive! How have you been? Have you read the Proxy duology? Are you going to pick up Black Wings Beating anytime soon? Have I convinced you to? No? What are some of your favorite YA fantasy series? Sound off in the comments below!

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Breaking Down the ‘Love, Simon’ Trailer

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via

As one does.

Okay. First of all, I think the trailer does a fantastic job of setting up the tone for this funny, poignant, and just heartachingly good story of coming out and coming of age. Second of all, whatever little uncertainty I had—uncertainty I have with book-to-film adaptations in general—Greg Berlanti (Arrowverse, Political Animals) threw out of the windows. And since gifs, memes, and what have you are beginning to pop up all over the interwebs, we might as well break down the trailer and discuss all its important—and maybe not so important—moments. Grab a pack of Oreo, kids.

In the rare case that you haven’t read Becky Albertalli’s debut yet (please re-evaluate your life decisions), I would have to ask you to skip now. Because this post contains a spoiler or two. You’ve been warned.

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The Opening Scene
If you think Simon and Leah lying on their backs opposite each other looks familiar, I’m pretty convinced I know exactly what you’re remembering. A couple of years back, 20th Century Fox—the same studio behind Love, Simon—brought to the big screens this book you might’ve heard of. It’s called The Fault in Our Stars, and its official poster has a very similar vibe, except in it it was the boy (Gus) who was upside down. Okay? Okay.

“Hour to Hour, Note to Note” Scribbled on Simon’s Bedroom Wall
It is no secret ‘Waltz #2’ is our homeboy’s favorite song by his favorite artist, Elliott Smith. In fact, this line from the song is also his e-mail address. And then we spot Radiohead on the wall much later in the trailer.

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“I Like Your-Your Boots!”
I mean, this scene right here. We all are Simon Spier trying to flirt with someone, aren’t we?

All the Hoodies
I love that Nick Robinson is in a hoodie in almost all of his shots. Because, to quote Simon himself, “There are only two kinds of weather: hoodie weather and weather where you wear a hoodie anyway.” And the creatives behind the movie were obviously paying attention. Robinson is seen in nine different hoodies, in case you’re wondering, which, duh, OF COURSE you are. That and two denim jackets.

Simon Jamming to Violent Femme’s ‘Add It Up’
Granted, this wasn’t referenced in the novel. But I did a quick Google search and I can definitely picture Simon listening to this.

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Bram Kissing a Girl
Or so he appears to be. This has gotten a lot of traction since the trailer premiered on Tuesday. And here’s what I think. I suspect they added this scene as a nod to Keiynan Lonsdale (who plays Bram) being bisexual. Because, unlike Simon, Bram doesn’t have an ex girlfriend (to my knowledge). It also cannot be in Simon’s head because in his head, Blue = Cal. Not Bram. Hence, the kissing under the mistletoe daydream/fantasy sequence, which I’ll talk more about in a second.

Oreos
Enough said. (Yes, B, they’re original.)

Simon and Cal Price Kissing Under the Mistletoe
Calm down, Simonites*! You think you missed this even after your sixth reread of the book. You didn’t. You couldn’t have. I’ll let the director explain: “There’s this one section of the film where Simon imagines this one boy and imagines them kissing underneath the mistletoe at Christmas.” That’s all this is.

Or is it?

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We are Still Getting a Theater Production!
And the EYES. It won’t be Oliver! like in the novel. But, hey, the EYES.

Jake and PB from ‘Adventure Time’ Making an Appearance
By way of figurines. Which is a nice touch, because Simon and Nick (played by Jorge Lendeborg Jr. in the movie) at one point (Chapter 3, to be precise) watches an episode of the Cartoon Network animated series on Simon’s phone.

Simon’s Best Friends Coming Out as Straight…
In one of his e-mails to Blue, Simon wonders, “Why is straight the default?” You bet your waffles I was thrilled to learn they explored this in the film with the gang coming out to their parents as straight! Abby’s mom’s reaction? Oh gosh.

…But Also, Leah Coming Out as Straight
But Leah is bisexual! I know. Relax, here:

TO SUM UP, REMEMBER: WE DON’T ACTUALLY KNOW HOW MUCH ‘LOVE, SIMON’ WILL DEPART FROM ITS SOURCE MATERIAL

But that can be and is a good thing. There will be room for surprises.

Love, Simon is set to hit theaters on March 16, 2018. Maybe consider gifting someone a copy so they can read it before the movie comes out?

Amazon | IndieBound | Fully Booked

*This is what we call ourselves in the fandom.

Now tell me: how many times have you watched and rewatched the trailer? ❤

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

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