A rich, exultant love story with music at its core, If This Gets Out is one of the best contemporaries I’ve ever read. Following two members of a wildly popular boy band, Saturday, as their headliner tour sees them falling in love, the book offers both a fervently sincere pair of leads it’s easy to root––and cry!––for, and a harrowing exploration of how record labels exploit young artists if left unchecked.
Ruben Montez, whose entertainment-industry parents offer him both a leg up and and an ever-renewing fountain of criticism, has been out as gay since the age of sixteen––in private, that is. By the time the book opens on Saturday’s American tour, he’s grown wary of Chorus Records’ assurance that he’ll get to be out in public “when it’s time.” Written with a deft hand and a sensitive eye towards his insecurities, his is a character arc that illuminates how doubt can seethe into a musician at every moment: in negotiations, in performance, and, of course, in love. Sophie Gonzales, the co-writer who tackles his POV, has nothing short of nailed it.
Cale Dietrich, meanwhile, takes real vulnerability to the book’s other lead, Zach Knight, who struggles to assert himself without feeling like he’s making an imposition on other people. With most of my reading experience in fantasy (I’m not sure if this holds if you’re well-read in contemporary), I find it’s rare that a character’s needs are rendered so manifestly in a text. Not only in the way that Zach and Ruben are open about their emotional scars with each other, though that’s its own immensely satisfying catharsis, but in the way it so clearly drives conflict and character dynamics, from the mounting crises, to the steps they have to take to solve them.
It’s because If This Gets Out is so clear about where and why its characters hurt that everything about it works so well. Romantic scars that must be overcome are key to an authentic, moving pairing, but Dietrich and Gonzales’ approach does just as much for the criticism they levy at the music industry. Ruben and the constant stream of criticism that is the inside of his head are ripe for needling from managers and executives; constantly questioning his right to be here is the lion’s share of what keeps him quiet when the label steps over the line. Zach, too, suffers because it’s all too easy for bad actors to capitalize on his need to fulfill personal obligations: you’re swallowing these conditions for the band and everyone who helps support you, they depend on you, and this is what you want anyway, right?
Suffice it to say, this book hits exactly where it needs to. Zach and Ruben’s bandmates, Angel and Jon, are also beautifully rendered, with equally manifest emotional schemes. The plotting overall has a wickedly keen sense of pacing, letting tensions linger long enough to yield the perfect release when things finally get talked through. It’s a beautiful book, but an enthralling one, too: I was always loathe to stop reading and do something else, and always giddy to return. Sometimes If This Gets Out makes you want to scream about how much these kids deserve better. Luckily, it takes the time to give it to them, too.
Thank you so much for reading! Have you given this title a go? I’d love to hear anything and everything in the comments below 💕