“Everyone wants the world to see them as they are. The truth isn’t the problem. The problem is that the world doesn’t always make the truth safe for us to share.”– Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich, “If This Gets Out”
I hadn’t planned for this to be the first book I finished in the new year. I had already started The Personal Librarian. But often, I find that I get distracted from books by other books, and this one was so good that I couldn’t put it down. My library loan was about to expire and I hadn’t even cracked this one open, so I put down my kindle and picked this one up. And I didn’t put it down until I was finished. (Well, okay, maybe I ate and did some other human things, but I didn’t want to put it down.)
If This Gets Out is told from the dual perspective of Ruben and Zach, two members of the sensational hit boy band, Saturday. Essentially, they’re an American version of One Direction. Along with Angel and Jon, Ruben and Zac formed the band three years ago at a music camp and Jon’s dad became their manager. The book opens as they finish the American leg of the tour to promote their latest album and prepare to go on a whirlwhind tour of Europe. Unfortunately the schedule is so packed that there’s no time for sight-seeing or anything adventurous.
Just how they’re not allowed by their management company to explore, none of the boys are allowed to be who they truly are either. Their outfits and personalities are all curated and designed to be as massively appealing as possible. Every potential teenage girl has at least one boy in the band she could find appealing to crush on. Ruben isn’t allowed to be out and proud, although he has wanted to come out as gay since he was sixteen. Zach is always dressed in black, as the “bad boy” of the bunch, even though he’s the biggest people pleaser of them all. Angel is styled as the platonic virgin that fathers would love for their daughters to bring home, even though he couldn’t be farther form that if he tried. And Jon is always forced into revealing clothing and sexualized choreography, even though he’s more comfortable in sweaters and out of the direct spotlight.
The first few chapters of the book were a mixture of intrigue and heartbreak. I loved learning about the music industry from this perspective, but I hated how hemmed in Ruben felt. Not only could he not be openly himself, but he couldn’t acknowledge his never ending crush on Zach, his bandmate and straight best friend. But the real heartbreak came from Zach’s inner monologue. One night on tour, while drunk, Zach does something he never would have done while sober and it threatens to tear his friendship with Ruben apart. I’ve never read a scene where a character agonizes over questioning their sexuality. Characters I’ve read about have always been sure one way or the other, or figured things out in a way that didn’t involve too much angst. I feel like Zach hits the nail on the head for what it feels like to question one thing about yourself and suddenly begin to question everything, before realizing that you’ve lied to yourself for a long time because maybe that was easier. But easier isn’t always easier – it doesn’t stay easier once you realize the lie.
I liked that Ruben and Zack weren’t the only bandmates facing serious issues. Angel’s partying and issues with being caged might break the band apart before Ruben and Zach can screw anything else up. And even though Jon’s father is the manager, that doesn’t mean Jon gets it any easier than his friends.
I was blown away by this book. The plot flows seamlessly. The unrelenting pace of the tour keeps things moving, even as the characters are in their own heads, so to speak. The novel is so much more than a contemporary queer romance. It’s an exploration of friendship, communication, freedom, self-advocacy, and courage. I only wish the book would have acknowledged that when parents or loved ones struggle with someone else coming out, they take the moment and make it about their struggle, about them, which is frankly, disgusting. Please don’t ever be that person.
“The smile he gives me kind of makes my life.”– Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich, “If This Gets Out”
- fast paced – those 416 pages will fly by
- excellent for sparking family conversations about the significance of not making other’s moments about ourselves, about freedom, and about communication
- friendship that will make you jealous
- fully fleshed out main and side characters
- unique setting within a boy band (that somehow avoids being cliché or cheesy)
- some allusions to sexual content (almost fade to black but not quite) that might make some readers uncomfortable – new adult, not young adult
- you’ll want a sequel immediately because it hurts to say goodbye to these four boys
“The freedom to be ourselves, and express whatever truest version of ourselves we know of to the world as we see fit, is the most important freedom we have.”– Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich, “If This Gets Out”
- upper high school or college age adults
- the entire rainbow mafia
- those who want to understand what it feels like to question your sexuality or those who need some validation in their exploration
- those who have queer loved ones and want to understand what it means to come out or question
- anyone looking for a book with strong friendships
Books to Read if You Loved If This Gets Out:
- Perfect on Paper by Sophie Gonzales (same author!)
- Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
- Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
- Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
- They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera (if you want a book that will rip your heart out)
Let’s Discuss! (Pick a question and drop a comment with your reply!)
- How do you feel about the phrase, “I love you, no matter what”? What other messages might that sentiment send other than unconditional love?
- Should coming out to someone you love be a “non-event”?
- How do our relationships suffer when we assume the other’s motivations or desires?