We all have our missed connections, and what makes it romantic is that they’re usually left untouched by reality. We revisit them in our fantasies and dwell on what could have been. But what if you did actually meet the person again? That’s the kind of stuff YA authors Becky Albertalli (Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda) and Adam Silvera (They Both Die at the End) wanted to explore in their new book, What If It’s Us.
The book centers around Arthur and Ben, two boys who meet-cute at the New York post office (of course) and somehow find each other again. There’s a will-they-won’t-they feel to it, and both Becky and Adam reveled in how magical it was to write this book together. “The fact that this book happened is still so mind-blowing. We’re two very busy people and three books had to happen for the both of us before we could make this one,” says Adam. Becky adds, “We would be texting each other, and we would screenshot those texts and be like, ‘Put it in the book.’ And we did!”
Young STAR sat down with the pair during their Manila visit with National Book Store to talk about their own meet-cute stories, what it was like working together, and the importance of this book today.
Missing links: The new book by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera was years in the making.
YOUNG STAR: How did the story come about for this book?
ADAM SILVERA: A couple months after we sold our debut novels in the same week, Becky was telling me a story about this cute guy she’d seen, wanting to try to find him online and failing to do so. And it just sparked this idea: “How would it be if we wrote a book like that but you actually find the guy, and what happens when you do?”
Do you guys have any particular meet-cute stories of your own?
BECKY ALBERTALLI: Well, this is not my story, but I was a part of the universe in this one. So, there’s a story we don’t usually tell when we tell about my Craigslist missed connection, (because) I had one that did not pan out. It was very gross and NSFW! I was definitely the type of person that would read those missed connections and check them. It takes a certain kind of person, and that’s a hundred percent who I was in my early 20s. (Laughs) And I actually found somebody who was looking for my roommate, so I was the one who was able to present this to my roommate and they actually went on a date… and now they’re married. I’m kidding. They had one date and he was terrible!
ADAM: Which makes it even funnier, because it’s tragic.
What was it like working with each other?
It was so fun, and now we look back at this book — and while it wasn’t always easy, it always felt substantially easier than our individual works. A lot of that was because we were able to turn to each other when we were struggling with it, and also because the book was just so much fun and we love these characters so much. These are the characters we talked about for three years before getting to really sit down and hear their voices officially. I mean, I am so grateful for this experience and I love this love story so much, and it was really the most fun I ever had writing a book.
The characters in your books are usually part of the LGBTQIA+ community. How do you give a voice to these characters that would feel the most true to life?
That’s tricky because we can’t write a single character that can represent the entire community. But we do our best to make sure that we are staying true to the characters that we are writing, and if you don’t necessarily feel like your own background mirrors that character, or you may have a different impression — that’s fine, and that’s okay. We are all so many different shades in our respective communities but our goal as writers — I think it’s safe to say is that we stay true to the characters and we hope that the readers will find some connection to them.
More than just a meet-cute story: It is Betty and Adam’s goal to write characters that different people can relate to.
Lastly, how important was it for you guys to tell this particular story?
BECKY: This story has always felt really special and important to us. It just so happened that by the time we reached the periods in our careers that we could start drafting and writing it — it so happened that we reached this critical moment in the US and (my impression is) all over the world, in many ways, a crisis point. It’s been a hard couple of years for a lot of people — especially marginalized people. Certainly, Arthur and Ben are fictional but there are a lot of real kids and teens and adults who are like them or resemble them in certain ways that belong to their communities. It does feel like there’s this extra kind of urgency — it’s a little bit subversive where we’re putting this romcom out into the world and it feels like it’s a political act, and you don’t usually think of a romcom as being that political, and it feels both joyful and true to its romcom self… but also a very calculated “FU!” to a certain administration. (Laughs)
What If It’s Us is now available at National Book Store branches nationwide.