- Title: If This Gets Out
- Author: Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich
- Genre: contemporary fiction
- Intended audience: young adult (16+)
- Format read: eARC
- Publisher: Wednesday Books
- Pub date: December 7, 2021
- Content warnings: underage drinking, drug use, drug addiction, homophobia, forced closeting, toxic parents, car accident, eating disorders, racism
- Rating: 4/5 stars
As a note to potential readers, I would say that this book straddles the line between young adult and new adult. The characters are 18, and while there is no explicit sex or even much cursing, there are lots of more mature topics. I would recommend it for readers 16+.
Eighteen-year-olds Ruben Montez and Zach Knight are two members of the boy-band Saturday, one of the biggest acts in America. Along with their bandmates, Angel Phan and Jon Braxton, the four are teen heartbreakers in front of the cameras and best friends backstage. But privately, cracks are starting to form: their once-easy rapport is straining under the pressures of fame, and Ruben confides in Zach that he’s feeling smothered by management’s pressure to stay in the closet.
On a whirlwind tour through Europe, with both an unrelenting schedule and minimal supervision, Ruben and Zach come to rely on each other more and more, and their already close friendship evolves into a romance. But when they decide they’re ready to tell their fans and live freely, Zach and Ruben start to truly realize that they will never have the support of their management. How can they hold tight to each other when the whole world seems to want to come between them?
I will be completely honest: I went into If This Gets Out quite skeptically. The set up to this book is…well, it’s the set up to this book. I was not sure how the “two boys in a boy band fall for each other” thing was going to go over, and I knew it definitely had to be written well for me to think it was good. However, I am quite pleased to say that my expectations were wrong, and I definitely enjoyed If This Gets Out.
The thing that hooked me was Ruben and Zach’s relationship. As a romance reader, I loved it. Then once they got together, I really enjoyed their relationship dynamic. The romance is really what got me into the book and held me there until I got invested in the other parts of it. I also really related to Zach and the grappling he did with his identity.
That being said, I think it’s important for any readers going in to understand that while this is undoubtedly a great queer romance, it is also much more than that. If This Gets Out tackles a lot of important topics, most of them involving how getting famous at a young age can affect people, and the way the music industry mistreats both young artists who don’t know enough to fight back on their own, and the way it treats queer people. There are a lot of heavy discussions, so I definitely wouldn’t label this as a cute, fluffy romance.
One theme that is notable from the beginning of the book is the fact that, to some extent, all the boys are forced to repress their true personalities for the sake of marketing. Ruben is forced to keep his gay identity in the closet, Jon is constantly asked to do things he is clearly uncomfortable with, and Angel isn’t allowed to be his true self. Because they are touring without their parents they are on their own, and are instead being controlled by management. While some readers may not approve of all the boys’ actions, I think it is very noticeable that they are doing the best they can. This is a group of 18-year-olds who, although they know they are being treated unfairly (sometimes even deplorably), they don’t know how to change it. They don’t have the life experience, legal resources, or support necessary to handle the situation that they are in. And while this is fiction (and I by no means keep up with the inner workings of the music industry), I would say that the experiences these characters face are probably not very different from some actual young artists in the music industry.
I know others have raised issues on how drugs and drug addiction were handled in the book. Honestly, I do not know enough about this issue to have an opinion on it. One issue that I do think they handled well was toxic and abusive parenting.
I cannot even count the number of young adult books I have read where the parents exhibit toxic or emotionally abusive behavior throughout the entire thing, but it is brushed off at the end with a deus-ex-machina apology. So I was so relieved when that didn’t happen! Ruben’s mom constantly criticizes him, and basically acts like he is never good enough for her. And although she does give a typical apology, the book acknowledges that this doesn’t really change much. She still exhibits the same harmful behavior, and Ruben continues to contemplate the best way to deal with the situation. I just really liked that Ruben isn’t forced to brush off the way she treated him.
My deepest issue with the book comes from pacing. While the first half of the book certainly isn’t slow, I believe that it could have been faster, and that would have allowed for a more fleshed-out second half. In general, the first half should have done a better job of setting up the second half. I would have liked more time with all four of the boys as a group, and there were still some issues that weren’t quite fully addressed. Namely, Zach’s potential eating disorder.
While it certainly has some problems, I still really enjoyed If This Gets Out. It has both a great MLM romance and deals with many relevant, important topics, and I would recommend it if you are interested in reading either of those things.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for gifting me an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review.