Every fan of One Direction who has shipped its members will swoon over Cale Dietrich and Sophie Gonzales’ novel If This Gets Out.
Ruben Montez and Zach Knight are two members of Saturday, a famous boy-band that has made it big in America. They, along with their bandmates Angel Phan and Jon Braxton, are best friends backstage and adore their fans and what they do. As they kick off an international tour in Europe, tensions within the band begin to build: management controls every aspect of their lives: from their public image, to the clothes they wear, to keeping Ruben’s sexuality under wraps.
Ruben and Zach become even closer during this tour, and their friendship evolves into a romantic relationship. They want to come out and be public with their relationship. But it quickly becomes clear that Zach and Ruben do not have the support of their management, and they must figure out how to remain together in a world that wants to keep them apart.
A show-stopping romance unfolds
One of the things I love about Ruben and Zach’s romance is how Zach came to terms with his identity.
Zach spent his whole life firmly convinced that he was straight, but there are moments during Zach’s internal monologue where he examines snapshots of his youth that could have been indicators of his true sexuality. He sequestered any small crushes he had on other men or any thoughts of admiration toward another man’s looks, and never allowed himself to truly analyze those feelings.
The story of Zach is quite heartwarming because it highlights the fact that there are people out there that accept their identity later in life. It makes the proclamation that even if you accept your sexuality later in life, whether in your late teens or forties, your identity and journey is no less valid.
Ruben and Zach’s friendship turned romance was incredibly sweet to watch unfold, and there were so many tropes packed into it! Friends to lovers, miscommunications, “there was only one bed,” and more.
The dynamic between Ruben and Zach felt charged but also soft. It is clear that they love each other as best friends and then soon after as boyfriends, and their interactions–even the negative ones–feel emotionally genuine.
They undergo a lot of different battles in If This Gets Out, but they persist in fighting for one another and their love, and that was something wonderful to experience.
Mental health in the entertainment industry is explored
While the romance between Ruben and Zach takes center stage, there is an incredibly important side-plot of mental health occurring as well.
This element is primarily portrayed with Angel, the wildest member of Saturday. At first, Angel comes across as irresponsible, erratic, and uncaring of his status and what he can and cannot do as a celebrity. However, as the story progresses and we see how the industry is treating the boys of Saturday and how little control they have over their public–and even private–lives, Angel’s mental health deterioration is heartbreakingly understandable.
We also see how being in this industry impacts Ruben, Zach, and Jon. Ruben was gaslit into believing that he would one day be able to come out publicly and live his life free of heteronormative expectations. Zach wants to branch out and write songs that are not limited to the pop genre, but their management sequesters every attempt he makes to explore his passion. Jon is the son of their manager, stuck in a position where he must separate his father from his boss, but almost never gets to just be a son.
Moreover, their management also assigned them roles to play, such as Zach as the “bad boy” and Angel as a sweet virgin, when these roles are not at all who these boys are. The erasure of their identities in the public eye is heart-wrenching, and Gonzales and Dietrich do a fantastic job at showcasing how problematic this practice is.
This factor was a crucial point to explore, because being a celebrity in the music industry is not all glamour and fun. There are so many things that happen behind the scenes that we never see, and it is important that we understand that our favorite celebrities are not people we should just objectify or ship together or wish we could be dating; they are people first, and we should care for them as people as well as the image and art they put out.
If This Gets Out is a sweet love story, but it is also a message to the public to take care of their idols. The public has a staggering amount of sway, and it can be used to ensure that their favorite celebrities are being taken care of and continue to love doing what they do.
If This Gets Out by Cale Dietrich and Sophie Gonzales was released on December 7th, 2021.