YA Review: What If It’s Us?

Title: What If It’s Us?
Author: Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

YA Review: What If It's Us?

This is a sweet YA LGBTQ+ romance with possibly the best meet-cute I’ve ever read! Arthur and Ben meet in a post office in New York. Ben is posting a box of belongings back to his ex-boyfriend, and Arthur can’t resist saying hi. Ben lives in New York, and Arthur is only in the city for the summer, as an intern at his mother’s high-powered law firm. When the meet-cute ends (spectacularly!) without an exchange of contact details, Arthur decides to track Ben down. In a city the size of New York, how is he going to make contact?

What follows is a wonderfully realistic story. Disastrous dates, romantic plans gone wrong, and touchingly clumsy attempts at intimacy as Ben tries to move on from heartbreak, and Arthur navigates a relationship with his first boyfriend. Both boys have best friends who involve themselves in their romantic planning, and bring relationship dramas of their own to the story.

There’s a maturity about the book that reminds me of Forever by Judy Blume. Despite the amazing meet-cute and all the attempts at a successful date, there is no sense of a pre-destined future for Arthur and Ben. Throughout the book they are aware that Arthur will leave New York at the end of the summer, and this is not presented as a tragedy or a cause for heartbreak.

This is a sex-positive story, while being refreshingly messy and rejecting the idea of a perfect relationship. It doesn’t push the idea of an ideal partner, or a forever love-match, but allows the characters to enjoy the time they have together.

And what if it is going to work longer term? At least the boys understand that romance isn’t all hearts and flowers, and relationships require effort from both sides. A refreshingly down-to-earth story, and a romance without exaggerated drama.

Have you read What If It’s Us? What did you think of Arthur and Ben? Did their story feel real to you? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

YA review: What If It’s Us? cross-posted to GoodReads.

Please keep your comments YA appropriate. Be patient! We want to hear from you, but comments are moderated, and may take some time to appear.

YA Review: Wonderland

Title: Wonderland
Author: Juno Dawson

A retelling of Alice in Wonderland with a transgender narrator and a cast of rich kids enjoying sex, drugs, and murder at London’s most exclusive party.

Alice is trying to fit in at her very expensive girls’ school. She’s the first transgender girl at St Agnes, and outside the staff room no one is supposed to know. She’s also the daughter of a successful novelist, so her New Money background sets her apart from the Old Money heiresses in her classes. When her friend Bunny goes missing, Alice discovers an invitation to Wonderland among her belongings. With no idea what she is heading into, and armed only with a credit card and a designer disguise, Alice uses the invitation. She throws herself down the rabbit hole and into an exclusive Old Money world where anything can happen, and the usual rules don’t apply.

Wonderland is an extravagant party. Alice feels like an outsider from the start, hiding behind her disguise and trying to look as if she was invited. People keep judging her on her outfit, trying to work out who she is and whether she is on the guest list, and she constantly invents lies to justify her presence. As she explores the party, always looking for Bunny, Alice meets some familiar characters – a top-hatted boy at a drug-laced tea party, twins who spike her drink and try to assault her in a hot tub, another gatecrasher dressed as a cat who keeps turning up when she needs help, and the Red Queen, who controls everything at her own private party.

Alice’s anxiety about being discovered as an imposter in Wonderland parallels her anxiety about being outed at school. The tricks she plays at the party – with clothes, her avoidance of questions, and avoiding detection – mirror the measures she takes in real life to keep anyone from questioning her gender. Alice is right to be concerned – Wonderland is a dangerous place, and her secrets are not as safe as she believes. But Wonderland is also a place of freedom from everyday rules, and Alice finds acceptance as well as threats at the party. The two consensual sexual encounters in the book affirm her gender, and demonstrate other people’s acceptance of the body she is trying to change. Her partners are kind, attractive, and attracted to her, even when she feels self conscious and out of step with her physical appearance.

This retelling of a familiar story as a fable about identity, navigating written and unwritten rules, and finding your value when other people want to exclude you. It is an effective use of the Alice in Wonderland concept, with the dream-logic of the original mirrored in the drug-fueled, alternative reality of the party. Alice is an engaging narrator – smart, funny, and determined to claim her place in the world without apologising for who she is. It’s a refreshing, affirming read, with a relatable transgender narrator and positive portrayals of characters of a range of genders, sexualities, races, and class backgrounds. Like Alice after the party, I’m still trying to process everything that happened, and how I feel about it. There’s a lot going on here, and the themes will resonate with anyone who’s ever felt as if they didn’t fit in. A feel-good book about assault, discrimination and murder? Anything’s possible when you fall down the rabbit hole …

Have you read Wonderland? What did you think of the story? Do you think it worked as a reimagining of Alice in Wonderland? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.

Please keep your comments YA appropriate. Be patient! We want to hear from you, but comments are moderated, and may take some time to appear.