The Upside of Unrequited
by Becky Albertalli
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Obtained Via: I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for consideration of an honest review.
View at the Traffic light:
Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. 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. 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 a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.
I, like many other fans of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, was excited to read this book. . . but also very, very nervous. I loved Becky Albertalli’s debut so much–could The Upside of Unrequited compare? The answer is very much yes, because I loved this book. This book was the ultimate comforting read for me, striking a balance between showing Molly dealing with new, confusing, and serious issues, and basically being the book version of a hug. Upside of Unrequited is utterly charming and so full of heart.
If you were afraid of a love triangle in the synopsis, fear not! There are two guys in the book, and Molly definitely interacts with both, but it’s very clear from the beginning that the “hipster-boy sidekick” and Molly are going to have a different kind of relationship, even though Molly does consider it at times born out of insecurity more than actual feelings. Reid, Molly’s coworker, is adorable and nerdy–like legit, can-probably-speak-Elvish nerdy, and their connection is obvious from the start.
I think Albertalli shines at characters, because I always seem to fall in love with them. Molly is a girl after my own heart. Molly is fat, and she’s mostly secure in her skin, but she realizes others perceive her as different for this. She can’t help but compare herself to her twin, Cassie, who seems to be different from her in other ways. Molly’s story is about weight, but Albertalli so carefully slips in how that affects Molly, from how her grandma’s well-meaning but insulting comments make Molly feel, to how that can play into Molly’s insecurities. Molly’s story is not about being fat(which is SO NEEDED because 90% of the time stories about fat girls revolve around them being fat, and 85% of the time, those stories are insulting), BUT Albertalli does not ignore how this affects Molly’s life through microaggressions and insecurities.
The Upside of Unrequited is about love, both requited and unrequited, and I don’t want to downplay the impact romantic relationships has on this book–because they are important. But perhaps what I loved even more was Molly’s family. Molly’s moms are great supporting characters and I loved them to, but where the family dynamics really shine are with Molly’s twin sister Cassie. Cassie and Molly have always been close, but over the course of the book we see them drift apart and back together. Cassie has always had an easy time finding girls she’s interested in–interested in hooking up with, that is. But for the first time, over the course of the book Cassie starts dating a girl she really likes, and that’s a new one. At the same time, Molly grows increasingly closer to Reid. It’s about both girls growing up and realizing they can always be close, but their lives in many ways are starting to diverge: different significant others, potentially different colleges, etc. It was a really lovely subplot and wonderfully done.
There were also several happy parts of The Upside of Unrequited: seeing Cassie and her girlfriend fall in love, seeing Molly realize that for once her unrequited feelings might not quite be unrequited, Simon cameo, and some seriously funny lines. Even throughout the serious issues, it’s the happy parts that stay on the surface of the book, and I’m so excited this book will exist in the world. It’s one of those books I wish I could have read at seventeen, and I’m so glad teenagers today will get to do so.
I loved Becky Albertalli’s debut book so much I was worried this one wouldn’t live up, but my worry was unfounded! The Upside of Unrequited is cute, adorable, but real in showing Molly in her entire self, flaws and all, and her family and friends around her. 5/5 cupcakes.