Leah on the Offbeat is a squeal to the novel “Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda”, that shifts the main focus onto supporting character Leah Burke, who the audience was introduced to in the prior book. The group of friends that readers got to know in “Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda” are now seniors in high school. They are applying for colleges and planning out what their futures are going to look like, while also worrying about maintaining their friendships and relationships through the shift from high school to college. In this novel, we get to know more about Leah’s character, including her family dynamics and her emotions toward aspects of her own and other’s lives. Through this, the author is able to effectively write about topics such as body confidence and single parent households. With prom and graduation quickly arriving, relationships within her friend group are tested. Leah is left not knowing what to do when her closest friends start to fight and grow apart. Among these new challenges, she finds herself developing feelings for one of her friends, which only serves to further complicate the many events going on in her life.
I deeply enjoyed the book’s plot, romantic story lines, and characters. All of the characters are done justice with effective character development and a compelling way of having the readers get to know the inner workings of each character. Though the main focus of the book is on Leah’s sexuality, I specifically enjoyed Leah’s story lines regarding her mother and her weight. The book shows a refreshing parent-child relationship with Leah and her mom, giving them a sweet and supportive, yet realistic dynamic throughout the novel. They aren’t perfect, but the two generally get along and are always very close and trusting with one another. The book also has a great approach to the topic of Leah’s weight. It is not the central part of her story, but it is mentioned throughout the book and we get to see how Leah feels about it and deals with it. The way other characters react to the fact that she is overweight is also represented in a realistic and convincing way. The book is emotional, comedic, realistic, and romantic all at once, and this keeps readers interested through the whole story.
The author wrote the book in a way that doesn’t over-dramatize any of the plot points, and allows the readers to connect more with the characters, due to the fact that the story is realistic. For example, no overdone or overt homophobia is pushed upon LGBT characters, and the way people treat them withing their high school environment is represented in a realistic way. Also, though the friend group does go through some ups and downs, there is never any kind of dramatic backstabbing or betrayal. The friends are kind to each other and defend one another the way true good friends would.
Reviewed by Ainsley Kreiser, Grade 7, Twin Hickory Area Library