What If It's Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera (2018), narrated by Noah Galvin and Froy Gutierrez
The mysterious boy is Ben, and although he's not looking for a new boyfriend already, he IS kind of intrigued by Arthur. But how are they to find each other again?
Well, it's not easy but they do, and what transpires after that is just adorable and fun and super cute, which is not surprising coming from Becky Albertalli. Both of these characters were the exact right combination of appealing and flawed to make the story angsty enough to be a story, and one that I just listened to obsessively until it was over.
Compared to Ben, Arthur is totally inexperienced when it comes to romance so he had a lot of anxiety, and he is a talker so he has this tendency to keep talking even when he shouldn't. Everything in his head just comes out of his mouth. He is jealous of Ben's ex-boyfriend Hudson, which causes a little friction since Ben and Hudson are in summer school together. Ben is self-conscious about being in summer school since Arthur is so smart and apparently bound for Yale after his senior year. Although Ben isn't academically strong, he's creative and talented and he's writing a fantasy novel, which he shares with Arthur. They sort of bumble their way through this relationship totally awkwardly. I loved every moment of it.
A big part of the story is their friends. Ever since Arthur came out to his friends Ethan and Jessie, Ethan has avoided him, only texting in the group text with the three of them. Ben's best friend Dylan is far cooler with Ben being gay, and they are super close like brothers. Except that Dylan has a new girlfriend he's obsessed with, so he's spending all his time with her. But I loved their friends, and I loved that they eventually met each other. I even liked their parents and Arthur's coworkers. Everything about this book was so great.
The narrators were fantastic. One of them is Noah Galvin, who I totally LOVE. He read Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock and he's amazing because he doesn't sound like he's reading, he sounds like he's just telling you a story. (Also, he's in the movie Booksmart, which I just saw and which you should also see.) Froy Gutierrez is new to me, but I had to look him up because he sounds just like Leo from Veronica Mars, but it's not him. He is also a great narrator and I loved the two together.
I think my favorite Becky Albertalli book before this was Leah On the Offbeat, and I can't decide if I like this one the same or even more. I guess it doesn't matter. What does matter is that I've now run out of Becky Albertalli books and that makes me very sad. Luckily I work with a teen librarian and I got some good recommendations from them so I've got some options. Still, I hope she releases another book soon!