What If It's Us

Book review by
Rachel Sarah, Common Sense Media
What If It's Us Book Poster Image
Two boys fall for each other in cute queer teen romance.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Teens will learn a great deal about what it's like to live in New York City, go to summer school, struggle with ADHD, come out to your friends, and break up and start over.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about the importance of being vulnerable and true to yourself. This is a story about the honesty between teens in a romantic relationship and the power of first love. There's also a lot about the importance of LGBTQ teens having supportive families.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Both Arthur’s and Ben’s parents are supportive of their sons and encourage their relationship. Arthur's dad tries to give dating advice ("This is your first date, and I want to hear all about it"), and Ben's mom listens to her son when he opens up about this feelings. 

Violence
Sex

Kissing and make out scenes between Arthur and Ben, with buildups to sex without the graphic details. There are many references to sex (i.e., bumping butts "as a sexual activity"), although there's not actual play-by-by sex.

Language

Strong language includes mentions of: "a--hole," "d--k," "s--t," "f--k" and its variations. 

 

Consumerism

Brands mentioned include: Harry Potter, the musical Dear Evan Hansen, Toy Story, Netflix, Craigslist, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Facetime, Skittles, Swedish Fish, Coke, Frogger, Google, J. Crew.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

There's one scene of underage drinking, and mentions of drinking and smoking pot at parties.  

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that What If It's Us, the first novel co-written by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera, is a sweet contemporary romance told from the alternating points of view of two teen boys. Arthur (written by Albertalli) is Jewish and only in New York City for the summer; he struggles with ADHD. Ben (written by Silvera) grew up in New York City with his Puerto Rican family and is getting over a recent breakup. There's some strong language (including f--k" and its variations, "s--t," and "d--k"), as well as references to teens dating and having sex. Parents should be prepared to have conversations about coming out, staying friends with someone you've broken up with, and having sex for your first time.

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What's the story?

WHAT IF IT'S US tells the story of two teen boys who meet each other at a post office in New York City before a flash mob separates them. The novel alternates points of view between Arthur, who's in New York City as an intern at his mom's law firm, and Ben, who's recovering from a recent breakup. Arthur's family has money, and he wants to go to Yale, although he struggles with ADHD. Ben is Puerto Rican, definitely not well-off, but more sexually experienced. The story begins with Arthur trying to find Ben, the cute boy he met briefly, and follows what happens after they finally connect.

Is it any good?

This cute, feel-good story about acceptance and love does a good job of highlighting real issues. It address what it's like to come out to your friends and date someone whose family might have more or less money than you. The romance is very sweet, with many fun pop culture references, yet the storyline remains light, like an adorable Hollywood romcom. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how sex and losing your virginity are dealt with in What If It's Us. What do you think of how Ben and Arthur's sexual relationship is presented? Does it seem realistic?  

  • What do you think of how What If It's Us depicts diversity? How do Ben and Arthur differ from the standard teen protagonists you often find in young adult novels? Why is it important to read both about people who are like and also those who are unlike you?

  • Are the friendships in What If It's Us believable? Which ones seem the most true-to-life?

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