CW: homophobic comments (challenged)
I was actually very excited to read this book before it’s release but I somehow lost sight of it among all other new releases. When I was browsing my list of books to be read (which actually aren’t on my Goodreads tbr), I realized I had completely forgotten about this one and immediately decided to pick it up. And I’m so happy that I did.
I really loved the author’s The Brightsiders last year, so I was pretty sure I was gonna enjoy this book too. Imagine my surprise when I found this to be even more amazing. The pacing is quick and the writing so easy to get through that I literally flew through this book in just a couple of hours. I thought the author did a great job describing the awe that an aspiring artist might feel after arriving at Hollywood and all the scenes related to shooting and show running felt very authentic. The story is full of fun and heartwarming situations, the beginnings of first love and beautiful friendships while also tackling some very serious issues – I felt that the author did a brilliant job of perfectly balancing the fluff and social commentary. The book is also unapologetically queer af but I also expected nothing different from the author.
Bex is a great character to follow. She has anxiety and always overthinks everything, but she also has big dreams and works hard through her panicky feelings to achieve what she wants. From being embarrassed about her poverty and scared about coming out, to someone who stands up for herself and her community and owns her identity proudly, Bex has the best character development.
Shrupty is her love interest and I can’t describe the happiness I felt reading about a queer Indian girl on page. She is from a wealthy family and understands her privilege, but has made a mark for herself as a YouTube star and wants to be an actor. She is uber confident and never lets anyone get away with any offensive talk and I was completely in awe of her. I mean I have read many female characters like her but it’s just nice seeing a desi girl being shown that way.
I thought the development of their relationship was beautiful. The little flirtations, being unsure if the other girl likes you, getting to know each other and all the silly moments between them were a joy to read about and I had a smile on my face all the time. They are adorable together and I just had this feeling that they would be a badass power couple in the future.
The ensemble cast is amazing too. Parker is Bex’s cousin but they are as close as siblings and I loved their bond. Parker might call her out when she does something wrong but he is so supportive of her and it’s always nice to have someone who has your back. The actors on the series that Bex is working on, Will and Alyssa are wonderful friends too. Jane is an EP and the only woman in the production team, so I liked that she took Bex under her wing. It’s always lovely to see women is a good position mentor young women. There were other cameos from the cast of The Brightsiders and Queens of Geek and that’s always a lot of fun.
I obviously can’t not talk about the many important issues the author managed to talk about in such a fun and entertaining story. The one thing that really resonated with me was the importance of representation on the screen – how important it is to be diverse in the cast of characters, diversity is not a trend and it is just to ensure that what we see on screen or the cast and crew we hire should reflect the real world, and specifically the joy or watching queer actors play queer characters on screen. The author also manages to showcase the positive power of social media and fandom in the present day, and how they can be used to call out wrongdoings and hold people accountable, particularly those who are in a position of power.
The sexism and homophobia in the entertainment industry is also depicted very realistically and it was actually painful to watch people be openly dismissive and smug in their power, because they have always gotten away with bigotry before. We’ve only heard about instances like women having to compromise to be able to work, or their credit being stolen, but reading about how blatantly it happens was awful. And I think the author put this message across perfectly through the cast of characters that if we want change to happen, we all should stand up for ourselves or be allies to those who are fighting against bigotry and discrimination. As long as we tolerate it, nothing will change and people will get away with kinds of wrongdoing. And I think the best part of this book was that these people faced consequences for their actions – it might not always happen irl but hopefully the future will be better.
Finally, I have to say that if you’ve read and enjoyed Queens of Geek or The Brightsiders before, you are going to love this book. If you enjoy books which are entertaining while also tackling very important issues, then this is perfect for you. And if you happen to be a fan of books with a badass ensemble queer cast who are living their best life, then I promise that this has been written just for you. Going Off-Script is fun and fluffy and important and I really recommend it to everyone.