What If It’s Us Book Review


Kav Lakshmi, Online Editor

“I don’t know if we’re a love story or a story about love.”

What If It’s Us by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli is a young-adult contemporary romance about two teenage boys: Arthur Seuss, a 16-year-old Jewish, gay teen with ADHD, who is spending his summer in New York interning at his mom’s law firm when he meets Ben Alejo, a 17-year-old gay Puerto-Rican teen, who meets Arthur at the post office where he goes to mail his ex-boyfriend’s stuff back to him.

A co-written masterpiece, What If It’s Us is a messy, romantic, hilarious, deep, and purely teenage story about the love these two boys develop for each other. One of this author duo’s greatest assets is their ability to realistically depict teens.

When so many young-adult authors apologize for the teenage nature of their characters, these two celebrate it.

Arthur Seuss and Ben Alejo are the ideal opposites attract romance story. Arthur is a dreamer — he is purely good, seeing the world as a place with infinite opportunities to make his dreams come true. Ben, on the other hand, is a mess — he can be harsh and brutally honest, a product of the less-than-ideal circumstances he’s experienced throughout his life.

And, like the two main characters, their romance is by no-means perfect. It is messy and complicated, including a honeymoon phase, but unafraid to include the break-ups and make-ups too. Yet, as the reader realizes throughout their story, it so genuinely represents the main characters and is so genuinely teenage. The love between them is so palpable and their connection seeps through the pages so that the reader feels their emotions as they navigate their relationship.

But this novel isn’t just a love story between the two teens. It’s about Ben overcoming his struggles. It’s about Arthur’s character growth. And their friends and family are crucial to their development both as individuals and as a unit.

The parents are such integral parts of their journey. Arthur’s dad is one of the highlights of this novel. His love for his son just brings a smile to the reader’s face anytime he makes an appearance. Ben’s parents share that same love for their son, but my biggest compliment of them is how they are so steeped in their culture. I love how unapologetically Puerto-Rican they are, and it is a subtle pride embedded in this novel, but their pride in their identity is so important and meaningful.

Consequently, Abertalli and Silvera don’t shy away from celebrating platonic love either.

Arthur’s two best friends, Jessie and Ethan, make many appearances to listen to Arthur whine about Ben, along with his coworkers at his mom’s workplace, Namrata and Juliet, whose appearances bring such humor to this novel and helped keep the balance between light and fluffy and angst and tension.

Ben’s friends are equally present throughout the summer. His growth in his relationship with his ex-boyfriend, Hudson, was beautifully handled, but the friendship that takes the cake in this novel is Ben and his best friend, Dylan. The humor Dylan’s character brought to the page was beyond perfect and their friendship was so powerful. Showcasing an equally important friendship as a romantic relationship is a must-have in any good romance story.

Ben is a character who has to overcome many struggles. He is not well-off financially nor is he great at school, but, aside from all that, my favorite part of Ben was his interaction with his identity. Ben is undoubtedly proud of his culture and heritage, but he struggles with being white-passing and is also forced to confront the privilege he experiences as a white-passing person of color. Ben and Arthur share a supremely important conversation about Ben being Puerto-Rican, highlighting the realities of an interracial relationship.

Arthur is an imaginative child in the body of a 16-year-old. His ability to see the good in the world and dream big was a breath of fresh air. Arthur is forced to face obstacles throughout this novel, but he never sacrifices his hope and his goodness to overcome said obstacles.

What If It’s Us  can be seen as a basic and predictable rom-com, but in my eyes, it is a beautiful journey that balances happiness and heartbreak in realistic, messy, complex, cute, funny and inspirational manner, truly being not just a love story, but a story about love.