Contemporary Literature · Romance · Young Adult

If This Gets Out

Ahhhh the dangers of working in a library. I was checking in books a few weeks ago and this was one of them…and instead of carting it to get it back on the shelves, I ended up taking it home with me. Whoops.

If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich

“At the crux of it, 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.”

If This Gets Out follows members of the *extremely* popular boy band Saturday as they head out for the European leg of their tour. The four boys (Zach, Ruben, Angel and Jon) met at a summer music camp and, after an impressive “end of camp” performance, were picked up as a group by an agency. Things have mostly been going really well, but during this tour, the cracks start to show. Zach and Ruben begin a relationship, Angel appears to be having a worsening substance misuse issue, and the connections amongst the boys are starting to show the strain of a constantly “on” schedule and a lack of (emotional, health) support from their management team. Will their bonds, and their fan-base, prove strong enough to survive coming out, getting help, and standing up for themselves?

This novel is told in alternating POVs, that of Zach and Ruben. As this was a co-written novel it seems like each of the authors was the primary “writer” for one of those two narrators. It was really interesting because I feel like that is such a cool co-writing concept, and addresses the fact that sometimes co-written works can be a bit jumpy. And yet in this case, I almost felt like the two voices were too similar – Gonzalez and Dietrich equally captured the teen boy voice so well, and in the same vibe, that I sometimes had to check back to see whose section I was reading because they blended together. I don’t necessarily think that was a bad thing, as there was great literary continuity, but I think it would have been nice to get a bit more distinction, since they (I assume) have different writing styles/voices IRL. Regardless, this was well-written, keeping me engaged and interested with solid character and plot development in parallel. And though there was a bit of drag towards the beginning, between Zach and Ruden’s first kiss and their follow-up discussions and decisions related to it, I overall felt like the pacing was good too. 

As far as the story itself, I have literally no frame of reference for this lifestyle, the press/image monitoring and true-self suppressing and every-minute-scheduled day-to-day realities (like how much does it suck to be traveling all over Europe but have no time to sightsee?!), etc. So, the accuracy/authenticity of it could be way off, but I bought into it – it felt legit to me, as a reader. On that point, the management company/team was the worst, like in a very real way. I mean, there was also quite a bit of teen angst and boundary pushing and other “normal” YA stuff that was real, but in a lower key and recognizable parts-of-growing-up way. And Zach’s “what do these feelings mean” feelings, as far as trying to understand his own sexuality, are complex, but really well written. However, the controlling of the boys by their team, forcing Zach and Ruben to stay closeted (and gaslighting them into believing it was for their own good) and the total ignoring of Angel’s clearly growing issues with substances, plus the overall way the situation chafed at the previously strong bonds amongst them, was so angering to read. Like, if any of that sounds triggering, please be careful with this read, because it was much more intense in that way than I’d expected. I was anticipating this being mostly fluff, as a reading experience (and looking forward to that), and it ended up being a lot more intense. I was super anxious for a solid chunk of the book, thinking about how claustrophobic the boys’ lives were getting, and anticipating how badly things would/could go when “it all got out.” 

I mean, there were definitely breaks in the tension where we got some wonderful butterflies-in-my-stomach vibes, the flutters during their first kiss were real, and there were a few other really adorable scenes as well, plus a few steamier ones (though all mostly “fade to black” when it came down to the really good stuff). And I really appreciated that once Ruben and Zach legit got together, they were totally together, swoonily-so (specifically, when they finally talk/share/figure everything out, it was *all* the butterflies), and then the stress transitioned to coming out/being overly managed. I am very glad we didn’t have to deal with both that and on-again-off-again teen relationship vibes. That would have been entirely too much anxiety and not enough romance, for me. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.

Though I think that the ending was perhaps slightly overly optimistic, considering everything, I did love the positivity I felt when I finished. The way the band supported each other through everything, no questions asked, was wonderful. I mean they each lashed out a bit when they were dealing with their own stuff, but when it came to being there for the others…they always were. That male friendship representation was super healthy and wonderful and I loved it. And was particularly important in the face of how much was stacked against them both publicly and privately (like, let’s take a moment to all hate on Ruben’s mom please – she was the worst.) There was also a very cool leveraging of the power of fandoms and social media to make the ending happen the way it did, which did feel super accurate and leant some credence to that too-optimistic situation. Plus, it was sweet, which was what my heart wanted, especially after the unexpectedly dramatic journey I took to get there.   

Well, this was a deeper and more emotionally complex read that I had been anticipating (talk about the “darker side” of fame, for real), with a sometimes suffocating feel. But the messages were important, regarding mental health and freedom of expression and parental expectation/criticism in the music industry, as we have seen in many real life situations over the past few years, and therefore very much necessary to recognize (and humanize). And in the end, the Zach-Ruben romance, all four bandmate’s support/friendships, and the slightly fluffy ending did deliver the uplifting feels I was looking for. I really enjoyed my time reading this.

And a couple standout passages:

“The thing about your dreams coming true is that, for a gold-spun moment, you catch a glimpse of what life could be like. Then when you lose it, and you crash back to reality, it’s from such a great height, all you can do is lie there, winded and bruised…”

“So, yeah, a part of me wants to protect him from the realities of what it means to be queer, and how it changes things in a million subtle ways. How it always leaves you a little uncertain if things are fair, or if there’s a tiny shred of hate underlying it all. How, much of the time, you can’t even call it out without turning people against you and calling you overly sensitive, because it can be so insidious, you’re the only one who notices it for what it is.”


2 thoughts on “If This Gets Out

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