Book review: The Upside of Unrequited – By Becky Albertalli

upsideTitle: The Upside of Unrequited
Author: Becky Albertalli
Publishing Date: 11th April 2018 – Balzer and Bray
Pages: 336
Genre: YA, Contemporary

Links to purchase: Amazon UK, Waterstones

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 co-worker 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? (Goodreads)

Initial Thoughts

Heartfelt. Funny. Relatable. These were the first words that came to mind once I’d finished The Upside of Unrequited, hardly a surprise after how much I enjoyed Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda. And once again, Becky Albertalli has told a story full of grounded characters that will have you reliving your own adolescence.

Plot

Like Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, this novel is a great exploration of character and relationships. Did I have an idea of how the novel was going to end? Sure. But the joy came from following Molly’s journey and her transformation. She starts off the novel having 26 crushes – none of which she’s done anything about – but suddenly, she finds herself with two potential love interests as well as a shift in the dynamic with her twin Cassie, as she gets her first serious girlfriend.

Molly’s story is a relatable one; her insecurity about her weight makes her cautious around people she’s attracted to. Even when she thinks there is a chance with someone, she’ll deny it out of fear of being judged. It’s sad to read, but something I’m sure everyone has dealt with, which made it great to watch as Molly tried more and more to put herself out there. This does lead to a kind-of-but-not-really love triangle situation, but I think it was handled very well and wasn’t as over-dramatic as I feared it might be. Even though there were times when characters wouldn’t communicate properly and I just wanted to shake them, it felt natural to the characters, and to experiences I’ve had myself in my teenage years.

What’s more,  is that this is a really diverse story; Molly is an IVF baby with two mothers (one of whom is black), and the story features gay, straight and pansexual characters. Not to mention that Molly herself is Jewish. Having such diversity featured in a novel without it being a big deal is great to see, and Becky Albertalli does it really well.

Characters

I’ve said it several times already, but despite not ever being a teenage girl, I found Molly to be a very relatable character. Over the course of the novel, she gets jealous when she sees other people in relationships; she ignores people she has crushes on; and she’s scared of being judged for the people she likes. All these qualities made her a fully realised character that was enjoyable to follow.

Cassie I identified with less, although, for a character that initially seemed to be confident and outgoing, I’m glad that she was revealed to have her own insecurities. Sometimes she could be a little mean to Molly, but at the end of the day, the sisters were very supportive of each other. Her and Mina were also pretty cute.

As Molly’s first love interest, I feared that Will would be a cliché shallow popular guy, but again, Albertalli surprised me by making him quite likeable. It was predictable how things would turn out between him and Molly, but seeing their relationship play out was still interesting.

I loved Reid, Molly’s second love interest. Again, I knew how his and Molly’s relationship would progress, but watching it develop was still enjoyable. I loved the texts between these two and thought their chemistry was great. His social awkwardness was particularly endearing, and I loved all the ‘nerd’ references.

I also think the family dynamic was refreshing since a lot of YA tends to ignore parents and extended family within the story.

Overall

I really enjoyed this (perhaps not as much as Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda) but I love how grounded the characters were and thought this was a really light-hearted novel that I’d happily read again.

My rating:

four of five

 

Book review: All of the Above – By James Dawson

23156540Title: All of the Above
Author: James Dawson
Publishing Date: September 1st 2015 – Hot Key Books
Pages: 326
Genre: YA

Links to purchase: Amazon UKWaterstones

This is a funny and moving love story about friends, first loves and self-discovery by Queen of Teen 2014. When sixteen-year-old Toria Bland arrives at her new school she needs to work out who her friends are in a crazy whirl of worry, exam pressure and anxiety over fitting in. Things start looking up when Toria meets the funny and foul-mouthed Polly, who’s the coolest girl that Toria has ever seen. Polly and the rest of the ‘alternative’ kids take Toria under their wing. And that’s when she meets the irresistible Nico Mancini, lead singer of a local band – and it’s instalove at first sight! Toria likes Nico, Nico likes Toria, but then there’s Polly…love and friendship have a funny way of going round in circles. (Goodreads)

I have to say, this book was really relatable. It wasn’t that long ago when I was doing my A-levels (worst two years of my life!), so it was refreshing to read a book that captures the stresses of that period so well.

I’ve said it in other reviews, but character development is really important to me, and I found that most of the characters in this book were really interesting, and they all had their own problems. I was concerned that Polly was going to become this Regina George figure (yes, that is a Mean Girls reference), but she actually had a lot of depth to her, and I liked seeing her vulnerable moments. Toria – the protagonist – is a really funny but confused character, again I had concerns that this book was going to just be about her trying to make friends in a new school (again that screams Mean Girls, not a bad thing but we’ve seen that before), however like the blurb suggests, the story focuses on loads of different things, including eating disorders and sexuality.  Reading this was almost like listening in to a group of strangers’ conversation at another table in school (which I have never done!), and that’s what made it so much fun to read.

Plot-wise there is a lot going on. I mean it’s not a straight forward A to B, but I think again that is reflective of sixth form, it’s a crazy period, where loads of things are happening, and this book handles that perfectly. Toria is dealing with her first boyfriend, confusion over sexuality, making friends, keeping secrets and dealing with the loss of a friend, and throwing exams on top of that. Never mind the fact that she’s got a crazy golf course to save! Never does the pace seem too rushed though, and following Toria through her development is a really fun thing to see. Especially as I think she handles her relationship with Nico very maturely.

On a side note, I’m not really a fan of poetry, but some of the poems in the book are pretty good (I enjoyed the alphabet poem).

Overall, this book portrays a realistic view on teenage life, but also has a conclusion that I think is very satisfying. There are really funny moments (I love Toria’s humour and her TV references i.e. Benedict Cumberbatch), and really sad moments, and all the things in between. I’ll definitely read this one again.

My rating:

four of five