Book: THE UPSIDE OF UNREQUITED
Author: Becky Albertalli
Rep: Bisexual, lesbian, fat (ownvoice), anxiety (ownvoice), Jewish (ownvoice), mixed families.
TWs: “Casual” fatphobia, racism, and homophobia (all of which are challenged on page). Underage drinking.
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?
I cannot believe it has taken me 3 reads to write an actual review for THE UPSIDE OF UNREQUITED by Becky Albertalli. Like, I am literally questioning what I’ve been doing all these months. (In hindsight, I think I might have actually written a review on my old blog… but eh, here’s another one.)
If you’ve followed me on twitter for a while, then you know I spent a good portion of October and November begging for an ARC of UPSIDE because I have exactly zero shame when it comes to books I desperately want. Becky, in her usual sweet and ridiculously nice manner, answered my prayers (Saint Becky, anyone?) and I received an ARC in December. When the book was released in April, I read it again. Then I decided to do a traveling book project this summer and it only seemed fitting for UPSIDE to be that traveling book, so I just finished my third read (this time with annotations).
The first thing that hits me about this book is Molly’s unwaveringly innocent and anxious and sweet voice. While there are times that Molly calls herself a “shitty person”, she is nowhere near that. Becky has given us a character that is so real and so fleshed out that I had to remind myself several time (mostly when I was mad at how she was treated) that Molly isn’t actually real. I love reading, I love characters, but it takes A LOT to make me forget that they are actually fictional and Becky has done this in every single one of her books to date. Molly’s feelings on love, on wanting to be kissed, on crushes, and her own body felt like I was reading 17 year old Weezie’s diary. I have never in my life felt more exposed or seen after reading a book.
It’s not just Molly, though. All of the character’s in UPSIDE have their very own distinct personalities, including the parents which is SO refreshing to see in YA. Most of the time, background characters aren’t recognizable from each other but Becky has breathed life into even the tiniest character. We don’t ever meet Evan Shulmeister but I have such a clear image of him in my head and I hate him! This is a character that gets mentioned maybe a handful of times, a few lines each time and I remember his full name! I don’t think anyone understands what level of talent it takes to make someone remember a background-background character.
And we get an unconventional love interest. Reid Wertheim is a giant nerd with too white sneakers, a collection of Middle Earth t-shirts, walks his cat on a leash, and is referred to in text as “husky” more than once. This is not your typical rippling abs, athletic, sure of himself Love Interest. Reid is your impossibly adorable, Ren Faire loving pal that you slowly but surely fall in love with. To be honest, I thought I’d be rooting more for Molly’s other crush (I have a thing for hipsters, sue me) but the minute Reid was introduced, I was a goner. The whole book felt like Molly was my best friend and I was rooting for her to make the right choice in boys.
While I did love the family dynamics in the book, Molly’s twin sister, Cassie, was probably one of my least favorite characters. The relationship she has with Molly seemed very… strained and toxic. I know teenage sisters fight (BOY DO I KNOW) and maybe my hard feelings towards Cassie comes from my own conflicted feelings for my sister. Becky captures the growing pains of siblings perfectly, though, and even though I kind of wanted to kick Cassie, she does pull through for Molly in some important moments.
I have always been ok with standalones for YA contemp books. I think they are better that way. While UPSIDE does exist in the SIMON VS universe (and we see Simon, Nick, and Abby! … but no Leah which was SO SAD WHY??), it has it’s own brand new plot and characters. And while I’m ok with it being a standalone, I also desperately want a sequel involving Molly and Reid and all the amazing things come with there ACTUALLY BEING A MOLLY AND REID.
If you haven’t read this book, do yourself, your heart, your skin, and your crops a favor and pick it up!