Reviews

What if it's Us — Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera

October 4, 2018

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TITLE: What if it’s Us
AUTHOR: Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera
RELEASES: October 9th, 2018; HarperTeen
GENRE: Contemporary
AGE RANGE: YA

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.

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When Becky and Adam announced that they were teaming up to write a story, I was so excited. At the time, I’d only read one book each of theirs. While I found Becky’s writing lacking, I enjoyed her characters and loved what I’d read of Adam’s work, so it was easy to buy into the hype. As its release date grew nearer, I attempted to read two other works by Becky (both failures) and read another book of Adam’s (a massive disappointment), but I still held out hope that their teamwork would be exactly what I wanted in a cute rom-com contemporary.

I just think you’re meant to meet some people. I think the universe nudges them into your path. Even on random Monday afternoons in July. Even at the post office.

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Unfortunately, most of my worst fears for What if it’s Us came true. While the characters have their cute moments, there’s no real plot besides the romance, and worse still, the romance falls short due to a COMPLETE lack of chemistry. The initial meet-cute in the first chapter was sweet and fun, but it immediately went downhill once any semblance of a real relationship began to form.

“Infinite do-overs.” “I like that,” he says. “It sounds like us.”

As you can gather from the synopsis, there’s space between their meeting and their reunion, in which Arthur is brought to the point of slightly stalker-like tendencies in his obsession to find “Box-Boy”. There are some secondhand embarrassment moments and a bit of development into their respective friendships, but beyond that, it felt like a placeholder. Given how long the book is for a YA contemporary, you’d think that timeframe would have involved some legitimate drama, but it’s mostly just a lot of repetitive moments with Arthur pining over Ben, while Ben pines over his breakup.

I barely know him. I guess that’s any relationship. You start with nothing and maybe end with everything.

Once they reunite, the painful absence of chemistry between them is like a train wreck. I thought at one point that the whole synopsis was one big “gotcha!” and they were about to go their separate ways and find their real love interests. Ben spends most of this part of the story treating Arthur like crap. I hated Ben’s perspective chapters for most of the book, because the way he views Arthur is terrible! He’s constantly reflecting on how Arthur is too short, or talks too much, and there’s the fact that there is an entire chapter dedicated to Ben whining internally about how bad Arthur is at arcade games—when Arthur never even wanted to go to the arcade, and Ben only dragged him there because it was somewhere Ben used to go with his ex.

(I’m getting pissed off writing this review because it’s reminding me of how much I can’t stand Ben’s character. I think I just accidentally lowered my own rating another star.)

All I can think about are all the things I want to know about him.

They do eventually reach a cutesy point, but it’s too late, it never feels authentic, and then the ending? I have never raged so hard at the ending of a fluffy contemporary book. I was LIVID over this ending. If you’re going to try this hard to convince me that these two kids need to be together, you had finish on a higher note than this garbage.

I’m right for him and he’s right for me and that feels beyond right—the universe knew it was love before we did.

On a less rant-y note, there are elements that I enjoyed. Dylan—Ben’s best friend—is hilarious and incredibly awkward. I loved the moments with him and his love interest, Samantha, and I loved the fact that he felt like a fleshed-out character who was going through his own issues and growing pains. On Arthur’s side, I thoroughly enjoyed every single scene with his father, who felt like a total homage to Simon’s dad in Simon vs., as he’s super supportive and well-meaning, and really wants to get hands-on and involved in helping Arthur find a boyfriend (that Craigslist scene killed me).

I don’t like that the same world that brought us together is also scaring him.

I also have to mention the representation: Arthur is gay and Jewish, and has ADHD, while Ben is gay and Puerto Rican. There’s not much time spent on Arthur’s family being Jewish, but we do get to spend a little time reflecting on how Ben feels about being Puerto Rican, the pride he takes in his heritage, and how painful it is to have your culture erased because you’re white-passing. There’s also a moment where the boys have to face off against a homophobic father on the train, which is painful, but necessary, as it shows Arthur that there are bigots everywhere—not just in the south, where he’s from.

People like me should come with a mute button.

Overall, What if it’s Us is not a total disaster—and I think with my low rating, at 2.5 stars, I’ll be in the minority here. A lot of people love both Becky and Adam way more than I do, and those people will have a field day with this book. There are also endless references to Harry Potter and Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen, so if you’re into any (or all) of those fandoms, you’ll enjoy the in-jokes and trivia for sure (though I felt like it reached the point of oversaturation at times).

Sadly, the story overall just didn’t work for me. I feel like I wasted hours of my life that I’ll never get back, and it is with a heavy heart that I confess: I’m probably retiring from reading anything by either of these authors. I appreciate the representation they offer to the world, and I know their stories mean a lot to so many readers, but there are too many queer YA contemporary authors in the world who do a better job.

All quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release. Thank you so much to HarperTeen for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

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54 Comments

  • Reply flowersinthebrain October 4, 2018 at 5:08 pm

    Can’t wait to read this!

  • Reply Elizabeth October 4, 2018 at 5:08 pm

    This totally makes sense! To me, it read a lot like fan fiction, especially with the lack of a developed plot. And Arthur was so sweet! And Ben was kind of obnoxious and rude sometimes? Overall, I was disappointed, though I did enjoy a lot of the story.

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries October 7, 2018 at 3:15 am

      That’s such a good way of describing it, that it read like fanfiction! I could see that 100%. But yeah, I feel you, I was just bummed out overall. 🙁

  • Reply DeeReadsThings October 4, 2018 at 5:09 pm

    I was already excited about this one but this review just made me so much more curious to see what I think? I’ve never read a slightly more negative review that still made me want to read the book, so good job aha? Honestly though, great review. 💙💙💙

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries October 7, 2018 at 3:16 am

      Haha that is honestly SUCH a huge compliment, so thank you! Unless a book is just miserably problematic or something, I try really hard to point out the potential positives even in my reviews of books I disliked because I genuinely believe every book has its reader!

  • Reply thebibliophagist90 October 4, 2018 at 5:34 pm

    Oh man, lack of fully developed plot and characters would really bother me.

  • Reply Danielle Hammelef October 4, 2018 at 5:41 pm

    Thanks for posting this review. I need honest thoughts so I can choose my books wisely.

  • Reply Erin @ Pages of Milk and Honey October 4, 2018 at 5:53 pm

    I have honestly never seen a single person dislike either Becky Albertalli or Adam Silvera, which is what makes your review super appealing to me – it sounds really honest. I think a lot of books tend to become super popular not because they’re particularly good, but because they are written by certain people. I’ve only read one book by Adam, which I loved, and one by Becky, which I was only so-so on. One thing I disliked in both of the books I read was the pop culture references (which is not partial to those books necessarily, but tends to be my reaction to pop culture references in general – even if I am a huge fan of the things they reference themselves). I’m not sure if I will read this book because it does seem a little bland to me, but I haven’t ruled it out yet. Either way, your review is really valuable and I thank you for that!

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries October 7, 2018 at 3:19 am

      Yeah, I feel like they’re so popular that it’s almost a little nerve-wracking to admit that I don’t care much for either of them, lol! The pop culture reference thing you mentioned is a HUGE problem I have with both authors, and it is so overboard in this one. Like you, even if I love the thing being referenced, I just really don’t need a million and one references to that thing in my books. Sometimes I just wanted to be like, “OKAY BECKY AND ADAM, I GET IT, YOU GUYS LIKE HARRY POTTER.” Like… I’m going to sound so petty, but it doesn’t make you special for liking HP and being able to spout off some trivia about the most popular book series on the planet 😂 Sigh. ANYWAYS. If you do read it, I really hope you enjoy it more than I did, and thank you!

  • Reply pagesandpugs October 4, 2018 at 5:58 pm

    I got to read an early copy as well and did love it, but you make some really good points here. I had a lot of the same problems with Ben, I liked his chapters only because they got me to Dylan—Dylan felt like he had more of a complete story arch than Ben, and I would have liked to read a whole book about him.

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries October 7, 2018 at 3:20 am

      Thank you! I’m glad that even someone who enjoyed the book can see what I meant about Ben’s chapters, that makes me feel more validated in my opinions lol! I would also like a whole book about Dylan, honestly—I kind of wonder if that will happen since there were so many comments on his sexuality and whether or not he was actually straight, I could almost see a follow-up/companion novel about him exploring his sexuality more or something.

      • Reply pagesandpugs October 7, 2018 at 12:20 pm

        I TOTALLY could see that too!

  • Reply ambsreads October 4, 2018 at 6:06 pm

    I absolutely love this review Destiny! I agree with everything. It’s also so good to see someone else who didn’t enjoy this book, I felt I was the only one who hadn’t actually enjoyed it.

  • Reply Kaleena @ Reader Voracious October 4, 2018 at 7:07 pm

    Excellent review, love, and so honest. The premise sounded interesting and I ALMOST requested it, but something niggled at me and I wound up not… which I think was the right decision.

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries October 7, 2018 at 3:21 am

      Thank you, lovely! Yeah, I honestly think you dodged a bullet. It’s been a couple of days since I finished it and I still feel grouchy when I think about it, lmao.

  • Reply The Hermit Librarian October 4, 2018 at 7:12 pm

    I can see where you’re coming from on certain points, though I’m not quite sure I agree. I just finished reading this yesterday and am working on my own review. Yours was thorough and well written. Thank you for giving us your insight. 🙂

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries October 7, 2018 at 3:22 am

      Thank you! <3 I appreciate you reading the review even though you felt differently and I definitely want to go check out your review for it, too! *scurries off to look*

  • Reply Tamika @paperback & flick chick October 4, 2018 at 7:37 pm

    I actually haven’t read a book by either of these authors yet! I am more of a fantasy person myself! great review!

  • Reply frayedbooks October 4, 2018 at 8:53 pm

    Thank you for the honest review! I haven’t read this yet, but it’s one of the upcoming ones on my list. I’m unsure of how I’ll feel about it!

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries October 7, 2018 at 3:38 am

      Thank you for reading! <3 I hope you like it more than I did. I'll be looking forward to your review!

  • Reply Eliza (@ElizaRapsodia) October 4, 2018 at 9:47 pm

    I read this book a while ago (e-arc as well) and I TOTALLY AGREE. There’s not plot beside the cutsy romance and a lot of references to Hamilton (sorry I haven’t seen that musical) but gurl it was a lot. I agree some parts are enjoyable but the rest is like a big NO FOR ME. I think I gave it like 2 stars. Thanks for your honest review!

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  • Reply Taasia @ librapaintspages October 5, 2018 at 1:58 am

    This is such an authentically honest review, and though I’m really hyped for this book, I may have to lower my expectations a little. I hope I still enjoy it though ..

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries October 7, 2018 at 3:43 am

      Aw, thank you!! I honestly hope you do like it. I think if you like both of these authors, you will most likely enjoy it more than I did!

  • Reply Laurie October 5, 2018 at 2:48 am

    I am getting so nervous to read this book. You either love it, or you hate it it seems. I really love Adam Silvera’s books, but I’m not sure about Becky. I mean, I love Simon, but the other 2 were less intriguing. In fact, I hated Leah. But, the fact that there is not much of a developed plot makes me really nervous since I really don’t like that.

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries October 7, 2018 at 3:45 am

      Since you love Adam’s work, I’m crossing my fingers for you that you’ll like this one, but yeah, the underdeveloped plot was a huge struggle for me! 🙁

  • Reply Taiwo B. October 5, 2018 at 11:39 am

    This review absolutely broke my heart 😔

  • Reply Indiana October 5, 2018 at 2:50 pm

    Aw I’m sad you didn’t enjoy this book as much as I did. Maybe I’m just blinded by how adorable everyone was to see the lack of a substantial plot. I do agree that Becky has been extremely disappointing in the past, but I felt like this book was a step in the right direction for her. The ending was probably the most disappointing part of the whole book, I really could’ve done without the horrid epilogue.

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries October 7, 2018 at 3:47 am

      Aw, I’m really glad it worked out better for you, at least! <3 Yeah, the ending honestly made me downright angry.

  • Reply booksandblends October 5, 2018 at 4:58 pm

    Oh shit! I didn’t have high hopes for this one, but MAN! Thank you for being honest in your review! If a book is heavy on the romance but there is no chemistry, then I can’t read it.

  • Reply Charlotte Annelise October 6, 2018 at 1:51 am

    I thought the same about this book, it was definitely lacking in plot and chemistry. Once they got together I thought the story was boring and there was nothing making me want to keep reading. Great review 🙂

  • Reply Norrie October 6, 2018 at 5:04 am

    Great review!
    I love how you mentioned those details you didn’t like, it kind of gives me a better idea about the book. I wanted to read it, but i think all those things about Ben and how he behaved with the other guy is just too much to handle for me right now. I still want to see this for myself, but will read it, once i’m more calm and won’t likely flip out 😀

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries October 9, 2018 at 12:53 am

      Thank you, Norrie! <3 Yeah, it was just so 'meh' and honestly even now, almost a week after finishing it, I feel kind of pissy about certain things with the characters and how it all ended. I hope you like it more than I did if/when you do pick it up!!

  • Reply Evelina @ AvalinahsBooks October 11, 2018 at 4:43 pm

    Now I’ll be wondering about that ending. Although I’m not surprised, Silvera is kind of a master at horrible endings that ruin everything xD it’s why I didn’t like TBDATE and why I didn’t want to read anything else of his after that. It’s just too depressed. I don’t want to read stuff that is sad in a pointless way – like if someone dies purely because of an accident – without any meaning. That’s what life is for. I don’t want to also read about it. It’s what I’m escaping from with reading xD

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries October 12, 2018 at 11:30 am

      Lmao, you are so right about Adam’s endings! I did like TBDATE but the ending pissed me off, too. I honestly think, if I read it again now, I’d take it down to 4 stars just because of how unfairly awful it was. 🙁

  • Reply Kathy @ Books & Munches October 12, 2018 at 6:12 am

    At first I was sooo ready for these authors working together. I did like Albertalli’s two books and.. well.. Silvera is still a 50/50 one so I hoped? Your review made me go completely “NO THANKS” though and that’ll probably stay that way. Especially since the same issue occurred as in History is All You Left Me and.. well.. I don’t really need a repeat of that one. I have another Silvera book on my TBR and I’ll give that one a shot but if it’s a fail, that’ll just be it for me. Albertalli is one I’d like to read more of, but it won’t be this one – that’s for sure. :’)

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries October 12, 2018 at 11:54 am

      Right? I thought it could have been so great! But… nope. Yeah, I don’t blame you. :/ I have his book More Happy Than Not on my shelf and I’m torn between if I want to try it or not. I mean, at least his books are quick reads…? Sigh. I actually gave away my Becky Albertalli books when the whole #bookishwish thing was going on over on twitter, though. :/

      • Reply Kathy @ Books & Munches October 15, 2018 at 4:25 am

        I have the same one! So either we have to read it at the same time, or one of us will read it first and pretty much decide whether the other will read it or not. 😂
        #bookishwish is such a.. mess now.. I wanted to use it to get rid of some books but now I’m like “yeah nvm”

        • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries October 16, 2018 at 12:15 am

          😂😂 Let’s be honest, you are WAY better at reading your backlist than I am with mine, so I’m going to go ahead and accept defeat and assume that you’ll beat me to it and tell me not to bother. 👀😂
          Oh no! I haven’t been on there in weeks. What happened?

          • Kathy @ Books & Munches October 16, 2018 at 6:15 am

            Hahahaha. You’re secretly hoping I’ll tell you that so you can just kick it off without getting the disappointment to deal with! 😂
            Ehh, last time I checked it turned into a “RT/F if you want to have a shot at one book off your bookish wishlist #bookishwish” thing and that ruins the whole freaking purpose of the tag..

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  • Reply Samantha Duffy November 1, 2018 at 12:56 pm

    I have been trying to figure out what was missing from this book and you hit the nail on the head! The two main characters really did not have much chemistry did they? You want so badly for them to work out but its so painful because they are so dry together. I kinda liked that they don’t necessarily work out in the end, because that is super realistic but other than that I agree. I think that so much more could have been done with this book that it was a bit disappointing that is what we ultimately end up with.

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries November 2, 2018 at 11:02 am

      Thank you, Samantha! I’m so glad it wasn’t just me that felt this way. You’re right, though, them not working out was a bit more realistic, especially based on what a rocky “relationship” they had to begin with. :/

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