Odd One Out is a book about how it’s like to be a questioning teenager in a world that doesn’t like people who do not fit into a box. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything similar and I really appreciated what it was trying to accomplish, but I’m not sure it succeeded.
It follows three characters:
➡️Courtney Cooper: straight black boy in love with his best friend, even though he knows she will never feel the same way because she’s a lesbian.
➡️Jupiter Charity-Sanchez: biracial black girl who has two dads. She’s Courtney’s best friend, but she doesn’t know about his feelings. She’s also falling for the new girl in her school – who may or may not be into girls.
➡️Rae Evelyn Chin: biracial Irish/Korean, questioning, the youngest of the three. She realizes she has a crush on both Courtney and Jupiter, even though she’s still not sure about how to label herself.
This book was divided into three sections, each around 100 pages and following a different character. I didn’t always love the writing – the dialogues felt a bit forced and the pacing was off sometimes – but I liked this format, I thought it was an interesting choice.
This book is about questioning your sexuality and falling in love, and it also approached topics like being biracial, grieving a family member and divorce.
Odd One Out is just as messy as questioning their sexuality can be for some teens, and that’s both its main strength and weakness. Questioning isn’t straightforward and it isn’t uncommon for teenagers – especially the ones who are in denial – to hurt other people’s feelings in the process. I’ve seen something like this happen in real life, and the situation was maybe even messier than this one. I found this aspect of Odd One Out very realistic; in a way, this book is about how heteronormativity, biphobia and label policing hurt questioning teens.
But while it did at least attempt to address heteronormativity and label policing, it never seemed to really try with the biphobia, and I think it should have.
Odd One Out has a lot of biphobia in it. It goes from subtle bi-erasure to a character stating that she doesn’t trust bisexual girls, and none of it is ever explicitly called out. While I never got the impression that I was supposed to agree with any of it, it was still not great.
I can’t say it’s unrealistic, but the unchallenged biphobia has the potential to be hurtful to the demographic this book is aimed at. I wish this book had tried to challenge it more explicitly.
On the other hand, I really liked most of the ending, because of the point it made about label policing. When a certain character mentions they are attracted to multiple genders, they immediately get told they have to identify as bi. I think any reason for not choosing a certain label should at least be respected, no matter what we think of it, and I liked that the label-policing person was quickly shut down.
I would have liked this scene more if the character who chooses to not id as bi hadn’t said that the next GSA meeting would be about negative stereotypes that affect bisexual people, because at the end of the book they still seem to think that bi people can’t date non-binary people.
There were two other things that made me uncomfortable about this book: the scene in which a minor begs a twenty-year-old for sex while tipsy and then they have sex, which I don’t really know how I feel about (…but I didn’t like it), and how much the three main characters were using each other. However, I did end up liking how this last thing was handled.
I recommend this book if you’re looking for a story about questioning teenagers of color, but only if you don’t have a problem with the biphobia not being challenged explicitly or any of the things I listed.
However, if you do not like love triangles, this probably won’t work for you anyway – Odd One Out isn’t about a typical YA love triangle by any means, but it has three times more miscommunication than the average triangle. I wouldn’t recommend this to those who don’t like reading about teens being messy and often hypocritical.
Also: this isn’t a book about polyamory. I didn’t think it was going to be one, but I can see why the premise could be misleading.
My rating: ★★★