Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera combine forces for a powerhouse novel in WHAT IF IT’S US!
Arthur Seuss is visiting New York for the summer with his parents, interning for his mother’s high-powered law firm while she focuses on a big case. As soon as he sees the mystery guy at the post office, he’s convinced that their encounter is fate. That mystery guy is Ben Alejo, a New York City native fresh off his breakup with his first real boyfriend. While he thought Arthur was adorable, he’s not quite sure that the universe is conspiring to bring them together… especially after he got cold feet and ran out of the post office. But maybe there’s more to a missed connection than they think as one quick encounter turns into a relationship built in fits and starts, simply complex and perfectly imperfect.
What If It’s Us is typically described as a story of missed connections, but also of two different people negotiating the new elements they bring into each other’s lives. Arthur comes from a well-off Jewish family from Georgia. He’s an eternally optimistic Broadway addict with no chill, his heart set on attending Yale in a little over a year. Meanwhile, Ben is a pragmatic New Yorker through and through, a fantasy writer just trying to deal with recent changes to his social circle following his breakup and the shame of summer school. After nearly impossible odds of reconnecting, they’ll have to battle against their own self-conscious thoughts as they face these differences and realize that sometimes, a couple’s story is much bigger than their backgrounds.
If you’ve ever read their other novels, you know that Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera have very recognizable literary voices. What If It’s Us is no exception. Their characters feel like their characters (or in Silvera’s case, his characters in the moments when they’re not making you sob uncontrollably), but each author is also very good at mimicking the other’s tone– Arthur still feels like the same character when we see him from Ben’s POV and vice versa. Both characters have interesting narratives and bring their own flavor into the story, but I think Arthur’s brand of eternal optimism charmed me the most.
There is also a vast wealth of secondary characters to enjoy, from the boys’ parents to their friends to a couple of hilarious cameos. I really liked Ben’s outrageous best friend Dylan, who’s so nerdy and obnoxiously over-the-top that you somehow almost respect it. Other friends including Samantha, Jessie, Ethan, and Arthur’s co-workers at the law firm have some great moments too.
With these characters, Albertalli and Silvera create a story that’s simplistic at its core, but so heartfelt and charming that is makes for an incredibly fast read. I found myself goofily smiling throughout the book. It was great to read a novel with gay MCs in which the characters being gay or coming out isn’t the focus or a problem to be worked through. In both character’s cases, it’s a known and accepted fact within their families and social circles. Instead, it’s a truthful look at how relationships come together that feels far more realistic than most novelistic concoctions. There’s curiosity, messiness, imperfection, and that stubborn need to keep trying that allows these characters to grow into something bigger together.
As for the ending, I won’t say too much other than that I was satisfied with how it all went down and I think other readers will be as well. For some reason my brain can’t get this book all the way to five stars. It’s fun and romantic, but it was missing that spark that really lit up my soul. Still, it’s such a solid read and I recommend it to fans of these two authors without hesitation!
RATING: 4.8 OUT OF 5 STARS
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?