Title: The Upside of Unrequited
Author: Becky Albertalli
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins)
“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 finally read Becky Albertalli’s cult favorite debut novel Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda right before diving into The Upside of Unrequited, and I officially get the hype for this other. I also definitely recommend reading Simon first, since Upside is a companion sequel and characters from Simon pop up in this new story.
I expected to enjoy The Upside of Unrequited, but I didn’t expect to identify so strongly with Molly’s experience. Becky Albertalli perfectly verbalizes how it feels to be “behind” everyone else in terms of relationships and sexual experience, especially when you’re overweight. There’s a scene in which Molly mentions how aware she is of her stomach rolling over her waistband, and how wide her thighs look, while she’s sitting beside a cute boy. That scene, and so many nuanced ones like it, brought tears to my eyes because of how strongly I related to them. I can’t remember the last time I truly saw myself reflected in a character like this.
I loved the diversity infused throughout the cast of characters. Molly is biracial and Jewish, and medicated for her mental illnesses. She has two moms who finally get married over the course of the novel, because The Upside of Unrequited is set against the backdrop of the legalization of gay marriage in the United States. The family dynamic was excellent, and I enjoyed seeing how each member of Molly’s family interacts with one another, and how they all have special, individual bonds. Albertalli also highlights the ways that relationships, especially familial ones, change over time. Molly and Cassie’s relationship goes through a huge period of upheaval in this book, and both girls have to come to terms with what that means.
However, I did find many characters grating, including Molly in part but mainly Cassie. In the beginning, she came across like such a fierce character that I fully expected to adore her, but that went rapidly downhill. Although I may not have enjoyed Cassie personally, I still understood where her character is coming from…even if I didn’t like the way she handled things.
There are so many honest, if awkward, conversations throughout the course of this novel, and I loved seeing those represented. One of my favorite aspects of Albertalli’s novels is that sense of honesty, that she writes believable people in believable situations, and there is such truth in her stories. If Becky Albertalli isn’t on your radar, that needs to change ASAP!
Rating: 4 stars
*I received an eARC of this book from the publisher, via Edelweiss, in exchange for a free and honest review.