I recently read both of these books for #LGBTQmonth, and they both have the same, but kind of opposite, problem. I gave Pink ★★ because the problematic elements are never addressed, but it started out good. I gave Leah on the Offbeat ★★★ because I did like it, but Leah pissed me off at one point, which is the main point of the post. Both books have characters who are figuring out their sexuality. The former straight up refuses to acknowledge bisexuality, while the latter uses the word about 100 times, but then shames a character not being bi enough.
In Pink, Ava wants to go to a new school where she can be “normal.” She wants to wear pink and be girly and maybe date a boy. I’m sure you can see why this would be problematic, but I assumed the author would address these things, and Ava would learn something. Nope. Ava is very quick to point out when others are being sexist, racist, misogynist, etc, but she never looks at herself.
At the end of the book she says that, “And I don’t know whether that means I’m straight or gay, or gay with a twist of straight or what.” I think that means BISEXUAL. Or maybe polysexual or pansexual. But most likely…BISEXUAL. It’s not a dirty word.
In Leah on the Offbeat, Abby comes out to Leah as “lowkey bi.” Leah who is bisexual (and uses the word many times) is outraged at this label. I can kind of understand this because bi erasure is a thing, but that’s not what Abby was doing. This girl just realized that she also likes girls, but she clearly isn’t sure about the label. Maybe she’s not, and just likes Leah? Who knows. But it was upsetting to read Leah’s reaction. It’s not up to her to judge Abby’s choice of label, especially when it’s very clear that she’s still figuring this all out.
Leah never examines her reaction. She never apologizes. She’s just glad when Abby switches to “really bi” at the end. Does the modifier really matter that much?! Abby was trusting Leah when she came out to her, and Leah blew it and never had to say sorry or look any deeper at herself. She just wanted her crush to have a label that she wanted. Not okay.
Can you see why I think they have the same but opposite problem? It just really bothered me how bisexuality was handled in both. Pink had more problems than just bi erasure, but Leah On the Offbeat could have earned another star if Leah’s reaction had been explored more.
Have you read either of these books? Or others that deal with characters realizing that they’re bisexual?