What If It’s Us Book Review // The One with Too Many Harry Potter References

“I believe in love at first sight. Fate, the universe, all of it. But not how you’re thinking. I don’t mean it in the our souls were split and you’re my other half forever and ever sort of way. I just think you’re meant to meet some people. I think the universe nudges them into your path.”

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

what if it's us book cover

Genre: YA, Contemporary, LGBT, Romance

Goodreads: 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?

REVIEW

… And I thought Twilight was bad. Okay, I didn’t hate Twilight that much, I quite enjoyed the films. But this? Whew. Okay. Deep breaths. This did not spark joy. Well, it did at first, but it got progressively and diabolically cheesy, the dialogue became increasingly unbelievable (seriously, nobody is this try-hard witty ever, and these characters are no Tyrion Lannister’s to pull off effortless wit) and insanely predictable. The last part was a whole ‘I love you so much because’ rambling fest, but, worst of all, the Harry Potter references took over half the book. I have only ever hated two other books: The Secret History and A Court of Thorns and Roses, and now I’m adding this book to that tiny pile.

What I Didn’t Like

The never-ending stream of Harry Potter references: It took a huge chunk of the book. That chunk could have been better used on exploring the characters and on a well-developed plot. I was enjoying the book at first and I, surprisingly, found myself laughing which was great because most books aren’t funny. But once Ben and Arthur’s romance started developing, an avalanche of Harry Potter references were released. You know when you’re in a snowball fight, and you find yourself surrounded and you’re being attacked left, right and centre? Yes, I was being attacked by Harry Potter references. Now, it could have been styled out well if Albertalli and Silvera had something interesting to add like the Hogwarts gangbanger theory in The Hate U Give, but, instead, they talked a whole lot without actually saying anything like it was a school assignment and they were writing minutes before the deadline. I hope we can, one day, move beyond YA authors paying homage to J. K. Rowling like they belong to the church of Harry Potter and if they don’t, it’s blasphemy or something. This isn’t fan fic, after all, this is your own book!

But they did manage to say one thing that didn’t line up at all:

“Okay, remember that moment – they were playing that Chris Brown song, and we walked off the dance floor to protest…” [p. 308]

Prior to this, Albertalli and Silvera engage in undeserved Ron-bashing and Hermione worshipping which is why the afore-mentioned dialogue is ironic. Jessie, Ben’s friend, protests a Chris Brown song being played, but where was their protest when Hermione beat up, nay, battered, Ron with birds in a jealous outburst? I can understand Hermione’s jealousy, but not her reaction. Sure, magic can make abuse seem remote, but abuse is abuse even if it is a woman committing the abuse. We see sheer and audacious double standards at play here. Or do we ignore abuse if the character is considered powerful, intelligent and, my oh my, reads books? Not only are the authors hypocritical, the plot could have been better developed instead of the stagnation that was offered if they invested in a plot instead of fantasising over Emma Watson’s non-existent lips (no offence, Emma, my lips are non-existent too).

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Zero Chemistry: Ben and Arthur were so unsure about each other that at many points I wanted to scream at them to tell them to give it up already since Arthur is leaving New York soon anyway. The romance escalated so quickly with only a tiny fraction of reference to Ben’s ex-boyfriend who he had very, very recently broken up with and with whom we was attending summer school. And then we get a bucketload of cheese-fest and it was, frankly, sickening. There’s such a thing as too much fluff and this was it.

The Ethan Conundrum: I would have liked to have seen more of Dylan, but, halfway through, it became such a raging bore and a repeated ‘I love you because’ refrain that I was skimming just enough to find out what Ethan’s problem with Arthur is. It was obvious from the start that it had nothing to do with Arthur’s coming out and more so with Jessie with whom Ethan seemed particularly close, but I wanted to be surprised. I wasn’t. That’s how predictable the plot was. As was the ending. Absolutely nothing new or even remotely exciting to see here.

What I Did Like

The Characters: I love that Arthur was pro-Hamilton (the musical), pro-love and possessed zero chill. Arthur is the kind of person who would stress over anything, but make up for it in his adorkableness. In a way, he reminds me of Sam Thompson, Made in Chelsea reality star. My knowledge of Hamilton is zilch and I’m not even counting Lin Manuel Miranda because, yes, I know he is associated with musicals (right?), but that’s just about it. So, I wouldn’t have minded more discussion regarding the musical. But here’s the thing: there’s a whole lot of talk, but Arthur doesn’t really say anything interesting about it other than: zomg it’s so good! And… okay? Cool? That’s not much to go on, Arthur. Tell me more about it, hon.

Ben, on the other hand, is a fairly realistic character. He does project an air of reserve and coolness, but I am struggling to remember much about him other than the fact that he loves Harry Potter and is writing a fantasy novel about a wizarding war. I can’t say that after 400+ pages that I know much about Ben because I don’t. His friend Dylan, on the other hand, was far more interesting! Impulsive, romantic, logical, but then not so logical; his relationship with Samantha was more down-to-earth than Ben and Arthur’s and that’s even after Dylan called her his future wife on the first/second date.

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Sexual Consent and Diversity: Something I loved was that Ben made sure to ask for consent during the more intimate scenes and I will give an entire star for demonstrating responsibility. I, also, enjoyed the diversity rep, particularly the subtle way Ben’s Puerto Rican heritage was explored, and I can say that I learned more about how Puerto Rican men and women can feel disconnected from their racial identity if their skin tone can be passed off as white and the privileges that may come because of it. Take, for example, Sal Vulcano from Impractical Jokers, I didn’t realise that Sal is of Puerto Rican heritage until it was mentioned (or I had read about it).

OVERALL MOOD:

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It took two months for this book to arrive (a message from the universe) and I’m so glad I borrowed it from the library instead of purchasing it. What a waste of money that would have been!

1/5 stars, and I’m disappointed in myself for buying into the hype, but all the book reviewers I love had rated it highly. Is Simon even worth reading? If it’s anything like this, I think I’ll pass.


What are your thoughts on What If It’s Us? What do you make of Harry Potter references in books? What would you have changed about this book? Is Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda any better? Let me know in the comments!

Sophia Ismaa

23 Comments

  1. Great review!
    I can’t say I have an opinion on it as I haven’t read it but from what I’ve read of your review I don’t think it would be my cup of tea (stereotypical British thing to say 😂)
    Have a great day xo C

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think you might actually like it, people do tend to like it, it just wasn’t my cup of tea! You might be annoyed with one of the characters though, I have a feeling, and he’s a main character lol. Thank you, you too! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha I’m an expert on getting annoyed at main characters its kinda my thing. After being a walking talking hazard haha! My friends get really annoyed at me when I reveal things about specific characters that I don’t like but hey what can I say? I’m a critic when it comes to books 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Paha, if you do read this, I can’t wait to see what you think of Arthur, I’ll eagerly wait for your review of him specifically lol. 😂 Nothing wrong with stating your opinion! In fact, we need more honest opinions. As long as they’re logical, of course, and not all “we must believe” nonsense that sweeps issues under the rug. Speaking of which, are you reading anything recently? I would love to see more of your reviews.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I am I’m reading the Subtle Knife part of the his dark materials series.
            Do you think I should do a post on Arthur? I’d be more than happy to do one I’ve been stuck with writers block for a while and can’t think up of new ideas…

            Like

  2. Yikes. If it’s on the pile with ACOTAR, you’re serious about hating it! I totally agree with the Harry Potter thing though. Can’t authors just let Harry Potter exist and not refer to it in the hopes of attracting Harry Potter fans to their un-Harry Potter-like books?! Nothing will ever be as big as Harry Potter! Create something new!

    I really hope Simon is better than this one because it’s on my TBR!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I personally wouldn’t mind if they’re referring to Harry Potter as pop culture references are realistic in today’s society, if it can be kept to a one mention minimum or if they have a new angle, then go for it! I think the authors got together and just fangirl’d in this book instead of focusing on an actual interesting plot.

      I am yet to see a bad review of Simon, but then again I only saw one bad review of this one, but I do have a feeling that Simon will be alright… although Tam did mention that the MC is quite whiny. I guess you’re going to have to see for yourself! HP references aside, I hope you enjoy it when you read it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Paha, no worries, but I have to say that I’m in the minority, so you might enjoy it! And thank you for not liking ACOTR, I just don’t get it (you’ll be surprised that there are quite a few bloggers who don’t like it!) 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. So sad that you don’t like this book- I was so excited to read it. Well, simon was a little slow in the start but I ended up loving it as the story progressed
    It wasn’t insta love and well, there was quite some development in the characters and relationships so I hope you’ll like it!!
    Xx

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hi Soph!

    I haven’t read What If It’s Us and don’t intend to just ’cause it doesn’t seem to be in my range of preferred genres.

    As for Harry Potter references, let’s put them in the broad category of pop culture references. 20 years ago, when I was an English major then a Master’s student, being able to find, write about, and expound upon great numbers of pop culture references in literature, film, and popular music was not just an essential skill but worthy of the highest professorial praise. In fact, one of my favorite professors, who unfortunately wasn’t my graduate advisor, was so impressed by my observations about popular music’s incorporation into contemporary television shows that he enthusiastically encouraged me to make it my thesis topic. Sadly, my vain, self-absorbed dickhead of a graduate advisor wouldn’t let me pursue that and ultimately ended up being one of the reasons I decided to give up my pursuit of an MA & eventual professorship.

    All that to explain this: I believe pop culture references in general (not just HP references) have become badly overused and vastly overblown, leading to a destructive self-referential loop that contributes to keeping us from practical learning and an ability to look forward.

    I suspect WIIU contains more than only HP references. Whether it does or doesn’t, though, the inclusion of too many pop culture references will cause me to throw a book aside in disgust and label it as DNF.

    Good to hear from you, and happy reading in 2019!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would have thought you’d be able to have greater freedom when choosing a topic for your thesis, that’s strange, so long as it’s related to the subject. I’m sure if your professor saw the over-abundance of pop culture references in young adult literature, he would have agreed with your choice of topic.

      I agree! There’s a certain unhealthy indulgence in reliving past memories. It’s completely strange to do it in your own book, a story, not an essay (the latter would make sense). The Hamilton references were fine, though they could have been expanded upon. I don’t agree with pop culture references for the sake of it, why talk a lot, but say nothing of value? It’s difficult to not consider the authors rather silly and foolish, and dare I say it, I’ll say it in colloquial terms: a total beg. But for the mystery regarding the MC friend, I would have DNF’d a lot sooner.

      Aside from this, have you, out of curiosity, read Ready Player One? I know it’s focused on classic games, but I can see it as one instance where it can work properly. I haven’t read it, but I have the copy, so I will read it soon!

      Thank you, and you too, Denny. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I enjoyed Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda though honestly her more recent books have not been so good. It does have a lot of the things you mention but not to the extent. Unpopular opinion I liked Love, Simon the movie better than the book. So maybe see how you feel about that if you haven’t watched it already?

    Enjoyed your review though!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m guessing Albertalli’s poor writing is more a recent change, so, in that sense, I can trust Simon to be a good read. I’ll take your word for it! I’ve heard great things about the film and it looks pretty upbeat, I like that.

      Thank you. 🙂

      Like

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