“What If It’s Us” by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli, brings a diverse angle to the literary world, which is nothing shy of a refreshing perspective within today’s culture. The novel marks the first-ever collaboration between the two young adult fiction authors to create an equally amusing and touching story, featuring gay protagonists who can’t decide if the universe is pushing them together—or pulling them apart.
Silvera and Albertalli are well-known amongst readers for individually keeping their finger on the otherwise thready pulse of LBGTQ+ representation in the fiction realm. And together, they are a force to be reckoned with. If either one of the author’s names sounds familiar to you, it is most likely Albertalli; who is the author of “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda,” the book upon which the breakthrough film, “Love, Simon,” that premiered a couple of years ago was based upon. “What If It’s Us” was highly anticipated by both of the authors’ fans, when it was catapulted into the literary world at the end of 2018, and for good reason. While at its center the book is a heartfelt teen romance, it explores the depth of what it means to be gay in the 21st century and does not shy away from discussing many of the real-world problems associated with it.
The two protagonists, Arthur and Ben, could not be any more different from each other. Arthur is only in New York for the summer, interning for his mom at a branch of her corporate law firm. He is in awe of the magic of New York City and being ever so steadfast in his idyllic Broadway musical fantasies, believes that his showstopping romance can be found around any street corner.
Meanwhile, Ben is jaded from his first boyfriend stomping all over his impressionable heart. Having grown up surrounded by the city’s lights, he doesn’t believe that the universe has any involvement in bringing certain people together. If it did, love wouldn’t be as disposable as styrofoam coffee cups.
However, a chance encounter at the post office could change everything. It becomes obvious that fate is pushing Arthur and Ben together for some inexplicable reason after they continuously get separated only to reunite again. In spite of the cruel judgment from passersby, as a result of them being innocently open about their budding relationship. And when both characters are shaken to their core, they find love in the most unexpected of places.
But life isn’t like a Broadway show where things, against all odds, come together at the end. And true loves are destined to ride off into the sunset. Arthur has to return to his life in Georgia at the end of the summer, and Ben will remain in New York. Their romance was encapsulated on borrowed time, and what if this brief moment in time to be together was all that fate had in store for them? Will they make the decision to let go of what could be, and learn to be content with what they’ve had? Or will the universe bring them together one final time?
The book is comprised of chapters told from both the perspectives of Arthur and Ben. And while similar storylines have been recounted before, very few have been broached in this fashion. For me, as well as many other young adult fiction fans, novels like this one are enjoyable to read because they give a new height to the world of literature. It is a tangible representation of a type of love that still gets scorned upon in many aspects of society. It also provides hope to the younger generation of LBGTQ+ readers that we will one day live in a world where a homosexual romance can become just as stereotyped as a heterosexual one.
Email Joanna at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @JBuoniconti