Review: Imogen, Obviously

Imogen, Obviously

by Becky Albertalli

Balzer + Bray (imprint of HarperCollins), 2023

Category: Young Adult
Reviewer: Emily Roth

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Imogen Scott is many things: a people-pleaser, a loving friend, and hopelessly heterosexual. She is a proud member of her school's pride club, but she tries to avoid centering herself in queer spaces. When Imogen visits her best friend, Lili, at college, who is newly out as pansexual, Lili admits a secret: in an attempt to seem more experienced, she told her friends that she and Imogen used to date and that Imogen is bisexual. Imogen agrees to go along with the story, but things get complicated when she starts to feel a confusing spark with Lili's charming friend Tessa, who is a lesbian. Imogen feels like she has to come clean; after all, the last thing she wants is for her behavior to be seen as queerbaiting. But what if Imogen isn't as straight as she thought she was, and what if she has years of evidence to back this up? And what if queerbaiting is a harmful concept to begin with? With the help of her new friends and her sister, Imogen learns that there is no correct way to be queer, and it's never too late to embrace a new identity.

The Jewish content in Imogen, Obviously comes through Tessa, whose Judaism is presented in small, natural moments such as the Star of David pendant she wears and a funny story about a synagogue Purim party. These are exactly the types of things that one might notice about a new friend or love interest, and Tessa's Judaism fits neatly into the story. Although the Jewish content is light, it should be noted that author Becky Albertalli is also Jewish, and Albertalli has stated in interviews that she sometimes has felt "not Jewish enough". Just like Imogen's fears of not being queer enough are unfounded, there is no such thing as not being Jewish enough. And so regardless of the quantity of Jewish content, Imogen, Obviously is a Jewish book, full stop.

Imogen, Obviously is a sweet and big-hearted rom-com with an unforgettable heroine and important message. This novel will appeal to all teens who have ever felt like they don't quite fit into the labels that other people place on them.

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Reviewer Emily Roth (she/her/hers) is a youth services librarian, avid reader, and lifelong Midwesterner. Her short fiction has been published by The Masters Review, Reflex Fiction, Exposition Review, and others. She lives in Chicago with her rescue dog, Obie.