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What If It's Us (What If It's Us, #1)
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Book Discussions - 2019 > Final Thoughts - April

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Leander Public Library | 126 comments Mod
Our featured book for April 2019 was What If It's Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera. For all of our new members, please be aware that there will be spoilers for the book in this thread.

This month, our questions were written by a staff member. As always, the discussion questions are just prompts, so don't feel pressured to answer them! They're only there if you need them. Otherwise, we'd love to hear any of your thoughts, observations, and questions you had while reading this book.

1. Why do you think the authors chose New York City as the setting for this novel? Is there another place that you would’ve chosen as the setting?

2. Did you have a favorite narrative between Arthur and Ben?

3. Arthur tells the reader, “I believe in love at first sight. Fate, the universe, all of it.” Do you?

4. Both Arthur and Ben turn to social media in an attempt to find one another. What are your views on how social media and dating fit together?

5. What did you think of the book’s length? If it’s too long, what would you cut? If too short, what would you add?

6. Did you find the romance between Ben and Arthur to be realistic?

7. What is your opinion on the pop culture references throughout the story?

8. What do you think about the ending? Would you have changed it in any way?

We're excited to hear what you have to say about this book!


message 2: by Christine (last edited Apr 03, 2019 01:11PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Christine | 120 comments 1. Why do you think the authors chose New York City as the setting for this novel? Is there another place that you would’ve chosen as the setting?
Adam Silvera lives in New York City and was born and raised in the area. All of Silvera’s previous novels were set in New York City and include protagonists who were raised in New York City. I believe the novel had to be set in New York City to preserve this element of Silvera’s writing style. Beyond this reason, I think the authors chose New York City for the setting because New York City is huge so people do not accidentally run into each other like they would in a smaller town. "I don’t know how to find cute strangers in New York. I normally see them once and that’s that … This is New York, so Post Office Arthur won’t pop up into my life again."

3. Arthur tells the reader, “I believe in love at first sight. Fate, the universe, all of it.” Do you?
I struggled with how to answer this question. While I believe in attraction at first sight, I do not believe in love at first sight. I do not feel like I could love someone at first sight because I know nothing about them, except that they are physically attractive. My feelings for someone (whether a friend or a crush) grow as I get to know them better. It is hard for me to grasp how anyone could experience love for someone they just met. I read an article in Psychology Today about love at first sight. The article stated that people who say they have experienced love at first sight are not experiencing the same type of love as people who have been in committed relationships for years. Rather, people experiencing love at first sight are experiencing attraction which makes them open to pursuing a relationship with the person in question. Because I believe in attraction at first sight, then according to the article, I do believe in love at first sight. This is a complicated topic and I am interested to hear what other people have to say about the article and this discussion question.

4. Both Arthur and Ben turn to social media in an attempt to find one another. What are your views on how social media and dating fit together?
I really like this question. I personally have not used social media to find a date, but know many people who have used social media or one of the numerous dating websites to find their significant other. I have used social media to make friends. I think I talked about this in another post, but before I attended a conference, I was in a Facebook group where I connected with other conference attendees. When I got to the conference, I already felt like I knew the people. Even though we were meeting face-to-face for the first time, we did not feel like strangers. I think that maybe social media takes the guess work out of dating. Even if you go on a blind date with someone, you can still learn what they look like and what their interests are.

Maybe this isn't as much of a thing anymore since Facebook is waning, but there used to be something said to people being "Facebook Official". I know someone who got married a few years ago. She took a long time to announce to the Facebook world that she was dating her future husband. When it was announced, some of her friends acted as if their relationship was not official until she changed her relationship status on Facebook. My sister recently got engaged. I was guilty of this "Facebook Official" mentality. I wanted her to post pictures and announce to the world of Facebook that she was engaged, even though she was officially engaged no matter what her Facebook status stated.

5. What did you think about the book’s length? If it’s too long, what would you cut? If it’s too short, what would you add?
I read an advanced reader copy of the book digitally that did not have page numbers. I was actually surprised when the physical copy of the book released that the book had more than 430 pages. What If It’s Us ended up being the longest book I read in 2018. Relatively speaking, this is a long book for a YA contemporary novel. Out of the six other books the authors have written, 5 of them are shorter than 350 pages. So while I was not personally bothered by the book’s length, I do not think the book should have been any longer.

8. What do you think about the ending? Would you have changed it in any way?
I don’t like the ending because it did not provide closure. I wanted Arthur and Ben to end up together, or at least be happily dating other guys. However, in the end, Ben is still pining after Arthur hoping they will end up together someday.


message 3: by Kristen (last edited Apr 03, 2019 06:36PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kristen | 136 comments I have to admit that I struggled with this book (I gave it 2 stars.) Like I mentioned in my First Impressions post, I don't have a lot of experience with either author, save for Albertalli's Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, which I gave 3 stars.

Considering that I read the book only a few weeks ago, I'm surprised that its finer points have already fled my mind. So I'm really relying on the discussion prompts this time around.

1. Why do you think the authors chose New York City as the setting for this novel? Is there another place that you would’ve chosen as the setting?'
Like Christine mentioned, I think the reason for setting the novel in NYC is due to its large population and overwhelming amount of tourists year-round, much less during the summer months.

It also served to give a little bit of a background characterization to the characters; Ben, who has dated before, was considerably more worldly than Arthur, who was inexperienced with dating, inexperienced with the big city, and just a little awkward in general.

2. Did you have a favorite narrative between Arthur and Ben?
Between the two of them, I'd have to say I tended to favor Ben's narrative, and that's after taking into account that I never really felt connected to either of them. Out of their narratives, I felt like Ben had a little more depth, as he struggled with his ethnic identity as a Puerto Rican who is fair-skinned, and therefore assumed to be white, as well as his confusion over his first love and his new feelings for someone different. Arthur, on the other hand, was just nerdy and awkward and your good ole Midwestern boy who felt bland overall.

One major positive that I'll say reading this book is that the narratives were cohesive but had different voices. I'm sure the reason they sounded different was because each author primarily penned one point of view. According to what I've seen in various places, each author wrote in the narrative of the person with the other's initials (Becky Albertalli [B.A.] wrote Arthur Seuss [A.S.], while Adam Silvera [A.S.] wrote Ben Alejo [B.A.]) The cohesiveness, though, can only be due to the friendship and talent between these two authors.

3. Arthur tells the reader, “I believe in love at first sight. Fate, the universe, all of it.” Do you?
This is definitely an interesting question, and I have to answer it in two parts: yes and no.

On the "love at first sight" front, I can't say that I believe in it truly. Like Christine said, it's more of an instant attraction, not a true, deep feeling of love. Which brings into question: what is love? (I can't refrain from saying, "Baby don't hurt me." It's ingrained. Please ignore me.)

It's hard to empirically study emotions, as they aren't tangible things. I did find the article Christine gave (and it's original text) to be very interesting and believable. Basically, it says that the emotion people are identifying as Love at First Sight is primarily a feeling of intense attraction, and not a feeling of love, and that in most cases reports of this feeling is one-sided. (There's also a bit where it mentions that men report love at first sight more often than women, which opens up a whole can of worms into evolutionary psych, which was totally my favorite elective while in college. But I digress.)

However, I have to admit that I'm not so quick to deny a belief in "fate" or "the universe." It brings to mind the age old debate between free will and fate, or, as philosophers call it, "determinism." Basically, for hundreds of years we can't seem to agree on whether we are actually able to make choices, or if all the things that happen to us are predetermined, based on a whole bunch of factors. You know, basic stuff.



Anyway, I do find it to be possible that certain events in the world are fixed. Perhaps we do have choices, but how much of those choices were influenced by predetermined factors, and even then, how do we know that we weren't always fated to make a certain "choice?"

And now I feel all academically engaged and my brain might explode because of all the thoughts floating around in my head (psychology is my thing, philosophy not so much.) So for the safety of everyone involved, I, again, digress.

4. Both Arthur and Ben turn to social media in an attempt to find one another. What are your views on how social media and dating fit together?
We like to joke that the world is changing drastically from one generation to the next, but it certainly has its points. Technology has made what used to be unfathomable possible, and online dating is just one of those things. It used to be that you met possible romantic partners solely in person, or through mutual friendships. Relationships are (still) primarily based on proximity, but the world has arguably gotten larger with the invention of the internet. Now, you can talk to people you never would've been able to talk to before. A whole new system is implemented for relationships. We've talked a lot in book club about the internet, online relationships, etc., but we haven't really talked about online dating, which I think is such an interesting topic.

There are so many dating websites, and I guarantee that you know a person (or five, or more) who have met someone online. Regardless if they dated or eventually got married, the first stepping stone in their relationship was an online connection. People who were born in the late 80s and after have technology and the world wide web ingrained into their beings; they've never really had to live without it in some way or form. To me, it makes sense that the first thing two teenage boys--who have never lived in a world where a massive amount of information wasn't only a few keystrokes away--would turn to is the internet and social media. Honestly, using the computer is an immediate reaction for me. I don't know the answer? I Google it.

5. What did you think of the book’s length? If it’s too long, what would you cut? If too short, what would you add?
Honestly, I am not a fan of very long contemporaries. It's not a set prejudice against long books, but rather a belief that character-driven novels (like most literary and contemporary fiction) should be concise. I don't like to feel like I'm going around in circles with characters.

This was indeed the case for me with What If It's Us. I felt like there was too much back and forth for Ben about his feelings for his ex, Hudson, and for Arthur. Too much of the same thing (weren't there like, three lame dates?) and too much inner monologue on trivial things.

That's not to say that I can't enjoy a long contemporary; I just don't think that the length of this novel was suitable, and it could've been slimmed down to make a novel that flowed better overall.

7. What is your opinion on the pop culture references throughout the story?
Pop culture is a tricky thing to include in a novel, because who knows how long it'll actually be pop culture? Certain things (like 80s music, superheroes, etc.) are long-lasting, while others have a short shelf life (particularly things like memes). Things like television shows, movies, and music have the propensity to fall in either direction. Broadway and musicals as a whole are understandable, but certain lines and scenes from "Dear Evan Hansen" and "Hamilton" were lost on someone like me who 1) has never seen the play, and/or 2) has no interest in it. It felt a little like it was playing with fire, as some of the pop culture references, specifically the "Arthur's fist meme," are now considered horribly out of date. Only heathens would still use it.

8. What do you think about the ending? Would you have changed it in any way?
I have to disagree with Christine a little, because I thought that the ending was fairly realistic. Ben and Arthur had a whirlwind summer fling, one that changed their perceptions on themselves and romance in general. But they didn't end up together forever, and that happens in real life. Sometimes you meet someone who you feel is meant to be, but over time you realize that you needed them at the moment, but they weren't your forever.

I found it interesting that Ben and Arthur still had a few lingering feelings for each other (more on Ben's part, I think) and that the ending was sort of open-ended; perhaps they will end up together again, but maybe they won't. In the meantime, they're free to date other people, further building their views on romance and what they need in life to feel happy and fulfilled. It's a learning game, especially when you're young.


Elvia Palacios (elle1221) | 16 comments 2. Did you have a favorite narrative between Arthur and Ben?

At first, I really enjoyed Arthur's voice but after a while it became a little annoying with so many pop culture references.

Ben was a pretty good contrast to Arthur's dorkiness but he ultimately felt flat to me throughout the book, even with his whole thing of trying to figure out his identity as Puerto Rican who passes for white. I kind of felt like that was tacked on to the character just to give him more depth.

3. Arthur tells the reader, “I believe in love at first sight. Fate, the universe, all of it.” Do you?

I do. I've never felt it romantically but I have fallen in love with people at first meet/sight on a platonic level. Many of my best friends to this day were the ones I pursued because I *wanted* to involve said friend into my life. So I find it interesting that love at first sight is usually equated with physical attraction because that is not necessarily the case for me.

Fate is a little harder for me to accept. Most days I feel like the master of my own destiny. Other days not so much.


5. What did you think of the book’s length? If it’s too long, what would you cut? If too short, what would you add?

Too long. I would have cut the Missing-the-Hamilton-show scene. I rolled my eyes through most of it. Actually I think this story would have been a much better read if it just followed one perspective, Arthur's or Ben's, throughout. Anyone else kind of agree with this sentiment?

7. What is your opinion on the pop culture references throughout the story?

I like a good pop culture reference as much as anyone, but too many and my inner editor tsks at how dated the book will be months after it's published. I don't know it takes me out of the story a bit by making me feel like I'm between to fanboys geeking over *insert something popular here* and I'm in the middle of it not caring.

8. What do you think about the ending? Would you have changed it in any way?

I wouldn't change it but I didn't enjoy it. Arthur and Ben had a type of Summer Lovin' romance that I could get behind, but this one left me feeling dissatisfied and wasn't that memorable to me.


Kristen | 136 comments Elvia wrote: "I've never felt it romantically but I have fallen in love with people at first meet/sight on a platonic level. Many of my best friends to this day were the ones I pursued because I *wanted* to involve said friend into my life. So I find it interesting that love at first sight is usually equated with physical attraction because that is not necessarily the case for me."

You know, I didn't even think about it with a platonic mindset at all, but I agree with you a bit here. I'm a big believer in "vibes," and I tend to decide quickly if I think someone would make for a good friend. It's a bit of a mix between first impressions and my sorta belief that people exude certain types of energies/personalities. Sometimes you just know that your personality is not going to mix well with that of another person, and other times there's an immediate connection.

I don't know if I'd necessarily relegate it to "love at first sight," though. The term just doesn't seem quite right, if that makes sense. What would be a better term? Other than "because I want that person to be my friend," that is.

Elvia wrote: "Actually I think this story would have been a much better read if it just followed one perspective, Arthur's or Ben's, throughout. Anyone else kind of agree with this sentiment?"

Once again, I didn't think about it that way but you totally have a point. I think for a book with two authors, two perspectives is perfect--you get that nice, clean divide between voices that way. But there's something to be said about a single perspective, and I do think that this book would've been vastly different--maybe it would've even benefited--if that had been the case. Choosing one POV would've been great for deepening the characters and their bond, instead of mixing together a whole lot of half-attended issues across two families, two groups of friends, etc.


Elvia Palacios (elle1221) | 16 comments Love at first sight doesn't sound right, I agree. But I wonder if that is because we automatically equate this saying with only romantic/erotic type of love, so it just sounds kind of squiggy to apply it friends.

Kristen Wrote: "Choosing one POV would've been great for deepening the characters and their bond, instead of mixing together a whole lot of half-attended issues across two families, two groups of friends, etc."

Exactly, you summed up my thoughts very well with that statement.


Kristen | 136 comments Elvia wrote: "Love at first sight doesn't sound right, I agree. But I wonder if that is because we automatically equate this saying with only romantic/erotic type of love, so it just sounds kind of squiggy to apply it friends. "

First of all, I have to say that I laughed at the word "squiggy" because it's perfect.

But also (and this is going slightly off-topic here) what do you think about friendships that turn into romances? Arthur's two friends (whose names I can't remember) were friends first, and then later began dating. Do you think people could say that it was love at first sight and they just didn't realize yet? Is that even possible?


message 8: by Christine (last edited Apr 29, 2019 12:33PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Christine | 120 comments Kristen wrote: "Ben and Arthur had a whirlwind summer fling, one that changed their perceptions on themselves and romance in general. But they didn't end up together forever, and that happens in real life."

That's true. I guess I just had different expectations for the book. From reading Becky Albertalli's previous books, I was expecting a happily ever after (or at least happy for now) ending. Because this book doesn't have that, it's technically not classified as a romance, even though that is a popular Goodreads tag for the book. I thought this Book Riot article did a great job of explaining the definition of romance novels (i.e., a love story with "an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending").


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