Funny story, I actually had a brief Twitter conversation with the very lovely Sophie Gonzales about this book and how, while it is a romance, it isn’t a rom-com, as many are expecting. I thought this misapprehension was due to a combination of the cartoon-y cover and the glowing blurbs that all accentuate how light and adorbs it is — the kind of stuff you’d see in the marketing for a rom-com. And now I’ve read the book, and can confirm that while there are definitely humorous parts in the prose (mostly courtesy of Angel and Jon,) this book is definitely on the more serious side of YA romance.
Essentially, Ruben and Zach are members, with the afore-mentioned Angel and Jon, of the mega-selling boy band Saturday. Ruben has been told by Chorus Management, the company that basically runs Saturday’s entire existence, to stay in the closet despite being openly gay for years. Since each of the boys in the band is meant to fit an appealing archetype, Ruben acquiesces, comfortably enough filling the Nice Guy role while wishing he had more chances to showcase his vocal abilities. The Nice Guy, ofc, doesn’t get the starring roles, despite the stage-trained Ruben easily having the best vocal range of the group. Chorus assures him that this is all temporary but Ruben is starting to have his doubts.
Zach is the Bad Boy, tho in reality he’s the quiet one with the dream of becoming a singer-songwriter in the vein of the pop punk bands he admires. Alas that Chorus prefers to go with more easily palatable pop music for Saturday’s repertoire. But they do encourage him to keep writing, in hopes of eventually snagging some songwriting credits. Zach is also straight… he thinks. When he finds himself attracted to Ruben, he starts having to reevaluate everything he thought he knew about himself, as well as everything he thought he’d be able to put up with as the price of being part of Saturday.
As Ruben and Zach fall in love, the pressures to keep their relationship quiet and not rock the boat begin to get to them, even as the pressures of being in a boy band start to wear on all its members. With media rumors rife about (fake) feuds and (even faker) girlfriends, can the four guys who originally started Saturday out of friendship and a shared love of music find a way to hold on to their bond and their band without losing their integrity?
I really enjoyed the dual perspectives of this novel, with Ms Gonzales writing Ruben and Cale Dietrich writing Zach, both harmonizing beautifully to tell a messy but relatable story of imperfect people doing their best to nurture their love. There were absolutely times that I wanted to smack either Zach or Ruben — I am begging everyone in the entire world to stop expecting their loved ones to be psychic — but overall, I absolutely wanted their love to thrive. Ruben’s mom was a very believable villain, as well, tho perhaps not in the ways you’d expect. I also really enjoyed the look into body image given here, as well as the strong relationships between all the boyband members (plus, Angel and Jon are HILARIOUS.)
Where this book didn’t convince me was in the mechanics of the boyband itself. I feel like the choreography aspect it spends a large part of its time on became passe once the dance-agnostic One Direction took over the world. While girl bands and K-Pop bands of all genders are certainly still required to have great choreo, 1D and their successors in the West just… aren’t. Saturday, in fact, feels very much like a late 20th century throwback instead of a modern group. Seriously, look up some of what the members of 90s boyband 5ive said when they heard about 1D’s far more relaxed schedule than their own and tell me Saturday isn’t more the former than the latter. And sure, I believe that management would try to keep band members closeted to enhance their appeal, but the band itself felt less realistic to me than, say, the guys of Fever Dream featured in Zan Romanoff’s 2017 novel Grace And The Fever which, while it had its faults, certainly felt far more rooted in recent history.
I feel like a killjoy for criticizing this book over that, and if you don’t care about the evolution of modern boy bands, then you likely won’t care enough to be bothered by what are essentially just decorative details. If This Gets Out is otherwise a smart, often funny, occasionally painful look at discovering yourself while in the public eye, perfect for fans of mlm romance.
If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich was published December 7 2021 by Wednesday Books and is available from all good booksellers, including