Title: The Upside of Unrequited
Author: Becky Albertalli
Publishing Date: 11th April 2018 – Balzer and Bray
Genre: YA, Contemporary
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.