Title: Imogen, Obviously
Author: Becky Albertalli
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication date: May 2, 2023
Length: 432 pages
Genre: YA fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
With humor and insight, #1 New York Times bestseller Becky Albertalli explores the nuances of sexuality, identity, and friendship.
Imogen Scott may be hopelessly heterosexual, but she’s got the World’s Greatest Ally title locked down.
She’s never missed a Pride Alliance meeting. She knows more about queer media discourse than her very queer little sister. She even has two queer best friends. There’s Gretchen, a fellow high school senior, who helps keep Imogen’s biases in check. And then there’s Lili—newly out and newly thriving with a cool new squad of queer college friends.
Imogen’s thrilled for Lili. Any ally would be. And now that she’s finally visiting Lili on campus, she’s bringing her ally A game. Any support Lili needs, Imogen’s all in.
Even if that means bending the truth, just a little.
Like when Lili drops a tiny queer bombshell: she’s told all her college friends that Imogen and Lili used to date. And none of them know that Imogen is a raging hetero—not even Lili’s best friend, Tessa.
Of course, the more time Imogen spends with chaotic, freckle-faced Tessa, the more she starts to wonder if her truth was ever all that straight to begin with. . .
Imogen, Obviously explores issues of friendship, allyship, and identity with all the humor and compassion you’d expect from a book by Becky Albertalli.
Imogen, a high school senior, has already decided to attend Blackwell College next year. It’s only a half-hour drive from home, but visiting her best friend Lili — a freshman — on campus for a weekend feels like entering another world. Here, Lili is out and proud, and has a super cool group of queer friends who welcome Imogen with open arms.
The one small problem is that Lili, trying to fit in earlier in the year, told the tiny fib that she and Imogen are exes, rather than lifelong best friends. Imogen has always been clear in her straight identity, as well as being the most devoted ally possible — so while she’s not entirely comfortable faking a queer identity for the weekend, she’s willing to go along for Lili’s sake.
As Imogen spends more time with Tessa, Lili’s dorm neighbor, she feels a thrill that she can’t quite pin down. It’s just the excitement of finding her place with this new group and feeling like she’ll fit in when she starts college in the fall… or so she tells herself. But what if it’s more? What if she’s not as solidly straight as she’s always believed?
I really enjoyed this zippy, sparkly book. Imogen is a thoughtful, kind, aware young woman who’s so cautious about causing offense that she holds back when it comes to considering her own truth. It doesn’t help that her other close friend, Gretchen, seems to want to keep Imogen boxed in as she identifies her, rather than allowing Imogen to question. (When a Pride Alliance meeting topic turns to movie crushes and Imogen names an actress, Gretchen scolds her for appropriation — it’s really harsh, and no wonder Imogen questions every feeling she has, wondering if she really feels what she feels or if she’s subconsciously just trying to fit in.)
Like, there has to be a chance I talked myself into this, right?
Gretchen’s lectures and Imogen’s commitment to being respectful and a great ally seem to have really done a number on Imogen. She’s been told (again, by Gretchen — ugh) how she always tries to be a people-pleaser, and maybe what’s she going through now is just one more example of trying to be everything to everybody.
Is that what’s happening? People saw me as queer for a week, and it stuck?
Imogen is a very sympathetic character, and I loved how positively and diversely her new circle of friends is portrayed. Thankfully, she still has Lili and her supportive family, who are there to see her through her soul-searching and struggles.
Ultimately, this is an upbeat book filled to the brim with positive messages. I love how it captures the excitement and nervousness of the transition from high school to college, and how the start of college can provide the opportunity to recreate oneself and find a new place to belong.
In the author’s note, Becky Albertalli talks about her own journey of self-discovery and coming out. It’s clear that Imogen’s story mirrors the author’s in many ways, which makes this book even more personal and touching.
Imogen, Obviously is funny, engaging, sweet, and thoughtful. Highly recommended.