It’s been a while since I read YA contemporary. There was a time when it was the only genre I wanted to read, but now I’m in my early 20s I’ve had a more difficult time finding characters I could root for, characters whose plights I cared about without rolling my eyes at unwarranted teen angst. Luckily, What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera was so well-written and believable that I became hopelessly invested in it. It was cute, it was funny, it was heartbreaking, and, spoiler alert, I loved it.
What If It’s Us is told from the alternating points of view of two boys: Arthur, in New York for the summer working an internship at his mother’s law firm, and Ben, getting over a bad break-up and trying to survive summer school. After a chance meeting at the post office where the two spark a connection but don’t get as far as exchanging details, they both set out to find each other again.
I’d heard about this book when it first came out, but for whatever reason I’d been reluctant to pick it up. I visited my local Waterstones recently but couldn’t find anything from my list of books I wanted to buy, so when I spotted this one I thought I’d give it a chance. I read the first chapter there in the shop. The writing is so engaging that I couldn’t stop turning the pages. The story was heartfelt enough that by the time I got to the end I felt like my emotions had been trampled on, but there were plenty of moments that made me laugh too.
My main problem with contemporary is that I sometimes feel that the references to real-world things draw me out of the story. Arthur speaks copiously of Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen, and even though I’m a big fan of musicals, the constant mention of them took me away from the plot. Broadway is definitely a key feature of Arthur’s character but I thought it could have been mentioned much more seamlessly, instead of being wedged in for the sake of it.
Apart from a possible overuse of references, I adored What if It’s Us. It was a real rom-com plot that felt more realistic than the films ever do; the characters all had their flaws, but they were written in a way that felt authentic; and, overall, it was a really adorable story. If you’re like me and you’ve fallen out of love with YA contemporary recently, fall back in love with it with this beautifully unique novel.