Monday, May 18, 2020

Ten Reasons I Love Becky Albertalli

I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week we're giving reasons why we love a particular book, author, or genre. Anyone who's been around here long enough knows that I am a complete fangirl for Becky Albertalli, so it only seemed right that I give you ten reasons why.

1. Non-clich├ęd romances
It is hard to find a YA romance that doesn't make me roll my eyes, but Albertalli's romances don't involve love at first sight or crooked smiles. They involve real teenagers trying to figure out who they are and how they feel about other people, and it makes the happy ever after that much sweeter.

2. Underrepresented protagonists
Albertalli's main characters are Jewish, Muslim, bisexual, gay, fat, and anxious. They reflect the diversity of real teenagers, and not in a way where the whole book revolves around their identity as A Lesson — it's just part of who they are.

3. Three-dimensional side characters
The protagonists' friends, families, and love interests feel like real people, and they too reflect the diversity of the real world in a way that feels authentic and not tokenized. (Also, if a character is white, Albertalli says they're white; it's never left as the "default.")

4. A real world that's just real enough
Albertalli's characters aren't there to teach a lesson about racism or homophobia, but they also don't live in a fantasy world where those things don't exist. Her books include realistic depictions of microaggressions that hopefully give privileged teen readers some insights and empathy, but those incidents never derail or weigh down the plot (because people with diverse identities deserve to see themselves represented without always having to wade through 300 pages of the world's worst reactions to their identities).

5. Great side plots
Even though Albertalli writes romances, her books also show teens dealing with challenging relationships with their friends, siblings, or parents, and it's just as satisfying to watch those relationships strengthen as it is to watch new romances develop.

6. Happy high school memories
I admire an author who can make me feel like I'm back in high school again, but let's be honest, sometimes I don't want to dwell on the awkwardness of being a teenager or the memories of fighting with friends or feeling rejected by crushes. Albertalli also lets me re-experience the good parts, like when her characters pile into a booth at Waffle House after a football game or work together to pull off a school musical.

7. Relevant references
From my admittedly limited vantage point as an adult, it seems like Albertalli — also an adult — has managed to not only give me flashbacks to my own high school experience, but also reflect the experiences of high schoolers today, like dealing with the mean comments on an Instagram post. (It makes me glad that texting and social media weren't a thing when I was that age.)

8. Amazing humor
I laugh out loud so much when reading Albertalli's books. On at least one occasion I have been laid out on the floor crying I was laughing so hard. That is hard to achieve!

9. Lovable families
Too many YA books have parents who are largely absent, or else their terribleness plays a central role in the plot. In Albertalli's world, parents aren't perfect, but they try their best and love their kids dearly.

10. Collaborations
I'll be honest that so far I've liked Albertalli's collaborations less than her standalone books, but I still appreciate that she does the hard work of collaborating with other authors. Even though I think she does a pretty good job of writing diverse characters as a straight white woman, it's also nice when there is an #ownvoices perspective informing the characters who are gay/Latinx/Muslim.

Have you read anything by Becky Albertalli? What did you think?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: There's Something About Sweetie and Silent Spring
Five years ago I was reading: Gilead, George's Marvelous Medicine, and What If?
Ten years ago I was reading: The Children's Book

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