Book Reviews

What If It's Us (What If It's Us 1) by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera at HarperTeen

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Young Adult / Romance
Reviewed by ParisDude on 18-August-2022

Book Blurb

A smart, funny, heartfelt collaboration about two very different boys who can’t decide if the universe is pushing them together—or pulling them apart.

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 nail a first date even after three do-overs?

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?

What if it’s us?

Plus don't miss Here's to Us! Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera reunite to continue the story of Arthur and Ben, the boys readers first fell for in What If It’s Us.


Book Review

YA novels are a matter of taste if you’re not a young adult yourself, I reckon. Maybe even if you are a young adult. Some like them, some loathe them. I count myself lucky because I simply adore them if they’re well-written. Now, Becky Albertalli is no stranger to me, in the readers’ sense of the phrase, because I already read (and loved) ‘Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda’. Loved the book, loved the movie (and for the record, Keiynan Lonsdale, who played the love-interest Bram, is outright hot in my humble opinion!). So, I opened this novel, written together with another bestselling writer of queer-themed YA books, Adam Silvera, with no qualms whatsoever, despite some rather negative reviews on Goodreads.


It tells the story of Arthur, a sixteen-year-old gay boy from Georgia who spends his holidays in New York together with his currently jobless father, a computer programer, and his mother, who is working for a big law firm. They’ve all moved to the Big Apple for the summer because she has to deal with several cases that demand her presence in the local branch. For good measure, she has also secured a place as an intern for her son, who thus spends his time in his mother’s office sorting out legal documents. While on an errand, he stumbles upon a breathtakingly handsome young man, whom he follows into a US Post Office on a whim. He even finds the courage to chat the guy up, finding out that he’s gay, too, and has just split with his ex-boyfriend, but before they can exchange their phone numbers, the young man disappears. Which leaves Arthur on edge because how can you find another person in this huge city even if you have the nagging feeling that that person could be your soul mate?


In fact, that handsome guy, Ben, is also attracted to Arthur, despite his being an emotional wreck right now. His boyfriend Hudson has cheated on him, kissing a total stranger, so he ended their a little bit less than satisfying relationship with a bang. As for the last year, Ben spent more time hanging out with Hudson than paying attention at school, he is obliged to attend summer school. Fortunately, he can count on his best friend and his parents to cheer him up. And to talk him into trying to find the proverbial needle in the haystack—that cute young guy called Arthur. But when he finds him, what then? Is he ready for a new commitment?


This was a heart-rending, heart-warming, cute, funny, quirky read—in heaps! I sped through the book in only two evenings, I was so caught up in the story, the atmosphere, the tone. Kudos to the two authors. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to write a book four-handed, and to pin down as a writer the messy, sometimes contradictory thoughts, emotions, and actions of two teenage boys although you’re an adult is certainly even harder to pull off. There are, I’m sure, traps left, right, and center. The characters could turn out whiny, unengaging, plain silly, unauthentic. The dialogs could try too hard to be funny. The plot could become too messy, or too weighty, or too simple. The tone could seem too adult, or to childish. It’s all a question of balance and equilibrium. And talent.


With this book, I got the confirmation of Becky Albertalli’s talent and discovered that, undeniably, of the hitherto-unknown-to-me Adam Silvera. They created a fabulous universe where New York itself played an important secondary role, being more than the mere setting or background. The whole book reminded me of movies and other books that did the same, and which all have fed the imaginary and dreamlike, almost ideal New York that is now known all over the world and which adds so much atmosphere when it’s skilfully exploited in fiction.


The two main characters Arthur and Ben, who tell the story from their very personal first-person perspective in alternating chapters, were easy to like, easy to follow, easy to understand, even in their multiple self-induced mini-crises. Because I remember very well how I felt when I was that age, how huge everything felt, the good and the bad; how insurmountable any obstacle, how exhilarating any moment of happiness, how intense any quiver of the heart. All this shines very clearly through in the writing, and I swear, while following Arthur and Ben’s tribulations, their constant ups and downs, their self-questionings, their doubts, their insecurities, I was in turn Arthur and Ben myself. I was sixteen again. I was falling in love. I bled, and I laughed, and I bantered, and I cried, and I sang Broadway songs.


This was one of those books I closed with a sigh (a sigh of contentment) and with stars in my eyes and tears in my heart because the ending… No, no spoilers. Suffice it to say that there’s a second instalment waiting for me on my Kindle, and I would have been very cross with both authors if they hadn’t written it. For lovers of young romance with a whirlwind of twists and turns and little heartbreaks here and there, this is an absolute must-read.





DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the author. This book has been purchased by the reviewer.


Additional Information

Format ebook, print and audio
Length Novel, 480 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 09-October-2018
Price $10.62 ebook, $ 10.99 paperback, $25.10 audio book
Buy Link