Title: The Upside of Unrequited
Author: Becky Albertalli
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Publication: April 11, 2017 by Balzer + Bray
My Rating: ★★★★☆
Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.
Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.
There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right? (Source: Goodreads)
Becky Albertalli is such a genius when it comes to writing unique and refreshing stories. I adored this book. It was endlessly fun and I honestly can’t stop thinking about how sweet it was.
First of all, I really loved all the characters and how realistic they were. They were so well written that I feel like I either know them or I am them. Accurately portraying teenagers in YA contemporary that are this accurate and lifelike isn’t easy to pull off, but I just feel like Becky gets teenagers. I could really understand the characters and it made me love reading about them that much more. They kind of made the story for me.
I also want to note how much I appreciate the diversity among the cast of characters. I know some people felt like it was forced, but I didn’t see it like that. I really enjoyed seeing so many characters diverse in their race and sexuality. Especially the fact that Molly and Cassie had two mothers; I feel like that’s extremely rare to come across and I liked reading about that dynamic for a change. I’m endlessly thankful for that and for the rest of the diversity we got to see.
Besides the characters though, I did enjoy how engaging and fast paced this book was. It was readable, hard to put down and easy to binge. I had no issues with being bored at any point because of how quickly the story moved along. Plus, if anything, this book is just absolutely hilarious and I was laughing from page 1. I’m still not over that opening scene. Or Reid’s list of early 2000’s songs that always play in the grocery store. “The one with the girl playing the piano singing about if she could fall in to the sky.” Like honestly, that was way too great.
And even though this book was mostly fun and lighthearted, there were very real issues included as well. One of them being Molly’s insecurities about her body. This is a topic we absolutely need to see more of and I was glad to see this brought up. I thought it was critical to incorporate and to get a glimpse of the struggles Molly has with accepting herself as she is. This book also touches on racism, sexism, and mental health and family issues. I liked that this could still be a fun read that also brings attention to important topics.
One more thing I Ioved, and have to mention, was that this book connects to Becky’s other book, Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda (which I love with my entire heart). I was ridiculously excited about this. Molly and Cassie’s cousin is Abby, who is one of Simon’s friends, and the overlap between these stories made me actually giddy. I thought the whole thing was genius. I always love meeting new characters while also revisiting old ones. It’s honestly just the best.
Okay, now I want to bring up some aspects I didn’t particularly like in this book. There was one major issue I had, and I’m not sure if it was just me who felt this way, but I want to mention it. One of the most vital aspects of this book is reading about Molly’s insecurities with her weight. She spends lots of the book worrying if boys will ever like her because of her body. At the end, though, it seemed like Molly only ended up feeling better about herself because she received validation from a boy. This was so wrong to me. I honestly can’t imagine this was meant to be the intention, but that’s how I saw it. It was like the only way Molly could’ve accepted her body at all was if she got a boyfriend. I didn’t like that.
Which brings me to this: it frustrated me that Molly’s general sense of happiness had everything to do with finding a boyfriend. I know she always strived to be in a relationship and that’s completely fine. That’s cool with me. But she acted like the only way to be happy was if she finally got a boyfriend after all of her crushes. And that’s kind of what did happen. The whole time, I just wanted to shake her and say “You’re worth more than this! You don’t need a boy to be happy!” But she didn’t seem to think so, which made me sad.
I also didn’t like how Molly’s mental health issues were brushed over. It’s brought up a few times that she’s experienced anxiety/panic attacks, and she even takes medication for this. Don’t get me wrong, I did like that Molly’s anxiety wasn’t the focus of the story. However, I almost felt like it wasn’t mentioned enough. I wished we could’ve seen more of how anxiety has impacted Molly’s life. Or really just anything more than a few random mentions. I’m thankful that her mental health issues were meant to be normalized, and not the main point, but we definitely could’ve learned more about that aspect of her life.
Overall though, I did enjoy reading this book and ended up liking it more than I would’ve thought. Yes, I do wish some of the issues were handled differently, and I did have to knock a star off for that. But I still loved, appreciated, and definitely had lots of fun reading this one.