Review: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

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Details & Summary:

Title: The Upside of Unrequited
Author: Becky Albertalli
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: April 11th 2017
Pages: 338

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.

My thoughts…

As I write this, I’m not sure how this review is going to turn out. For the past half an hour, I’ve been staring at a blank page, trying to figure out how I feel about this book. The best thing I’ve come up with is this: I have some mixed feelings about it. Let me try and explain…

I’ll start with the things I absolutely loved about this book. First, I think this is one of the most diverse YA books I’ve ever read. At least 50% of the characters are either a POC and / or belong to a minority. There’s the MC who’s fat (and unapologetically so), her sister Cassie has a girlfriend who’s Korean-English, they’re both Jewish, they have two moms who’re a mixed (biracial) couple … and the list goes on and on. In the beginning, it was quite overwhelming to read about so many diverse characters (because it’s rare to have so many as opposed to having one or two) but that feeling quickly disappeared. I liked how the author didn’t draw attention to the characters every time they had a scene. They were just part of the story and everyday life, as they should be.

The Upside of Unrequited is also a body positive book. Molly is fat and, yes, she deals with a grandma who not-so-subtly tells her she should lose a few pounds and she also struggles with issues that stem from her weight BUT she doesn’t change herself. She doesn’t try to lose weight by going on a crazy diet and she doesn’t have a make-over that suddenly makes her pretty. Molly’s appearance doesn’t change over the course of the story and I really appreciate that. It sends an important message to teenage readers who might feel uncomfortable being a higher weight than is deemed attractive by social standards.

“Even if he likes me, I’m not sure he’d like me naked. I hate that I’m even thinking that. I hate hating my body. Actually, I don’t even hate my body. I just worry everyone else might. Because chubby girls don’t get boyfriends, and they definitely don’t have sex. Not in movies—not really—unless it’s supposed to be a joke. And I don’t want to be a joke.”

This book also gets brownie points for strong, realistic family relationships and friendships. Molly has a great bond with her sister, friends, and her moms but that doesn’t mean they don’t make mistakes or disagree and fight. Which obviously makes it that more realistic because absolutely no one has perfect relationships.

Lastly, I loved all the Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda references and “cameos”! Confession: it took a second to realize that Molly’s cousin Abby was in fact Abby from Simon vs. but when I did, it was absolutely wonderful. I loved reading snippets of her life because she’s such a fun character! And Simon makes an appearance too! I mean, what more could you want? Other characters are mentioned as well (such as Taylor with the amazing metabolism) but I won’t go into detail because they spoil the events of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda.

What I don’t like about The Upside of Unrequited is Molly’s obsession with a getting a boyfriend. I mean, I get it. She’s seventeen, she gets insecure about her body sometimes and her friends all have (had) boyfriends / girlfriends. So, yes, it’s realistic for her to want a boyfriend. And I don’t have a problem with that. The problem for me is that it seems like she needs one. This is addressed near the end book, which I appreciate, but it didn’t line up the rest of the book. Like, she doesn’t really start believing she’s beautiful and worthy of love until she gets a boyfriend. And, I’m sorry, but that’s not a message I support.

“I guess it’s just this feeling that my body is secretly all wrong. Which means any guy who assumes I’m normal is going to flip his shit if we get to the point of nakedness. Whoa. Nope. Not what I signed up for.”

“Here we go. Cassie’s soapbox: the fact that I’ve had twenty-six crushes and exactly zero kisses. Apparently, it’s because I need to woman up. If I like a guy, I’m supposed to tell him. Maybe in Cassie’s world, you can do that and have it end in making out. But I’m not so sure it works that way for fat girls.”

It would’ve been so much better if she learnt to feel beautiful on her own and if the getting-a-boyfriend-part was a nice bonus. Or if it didn’t even happen in this book. I really liked Reid and, yes, I shipped Molly and Reid, but the author could’ve just as easily developed a strong friendship between the two and then alluded to the fact that something (romantic) might happen between the two after the book’s events. But at the same time, I understand why Albertalli didn’t. Molly having a boyfriend is a more “logical” ending, I guess.

One last side-note: I know that romance and unrequited crushes / love was the main focus of the book, but sometimes it felt like that’s all there was to the book. I would’ve liked to know more about the characters’ lives outside the romance department. For example, Cassie is outgoing and fearless and protective of her sister, but what is she like as a person? What are her hobbies? What does she want to do when she graduates? What does Molly? What do any of the characters? In short: I would’ve liked to get to know the characters on a deeper level instead of being limited to knowing who their boyfriends / girlfriends were, who they were in love or crushing on, etc. The only exceptions were Molly and Reid, who’re easily the most developed characters.

The Upside of Unrequited is a realistic contemporary read featuring a diverse cast. It’s relatable and funny and features issues many issues teenagers are typically concerned with, but but it also tackles serious underlying issues such as body positivity, LGBTQ rights, and mental illness. Having said that, the message of the book could’ve been improved if it showed teenagers that there’s no need for romance to feel beautiful and worthy of love. You alone are enough.

Rating

Actual Rating: 3,5 stars

Normally, I don’t work with half stars, but this is an exception. It’s not as good as Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, but it’s better than other books I’ve rated with three stars. So there you go: 3,5 stars it is!

Have you read The Upside of Unrequited? What did you think?

10 thoughts on “Review: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

  1. First, thanks for following my blog!! that means a lot, and I gave you a follow back because your blog is beautiful and this review was great so clearly you have good content 🙂

    Now… Thank you for this review!!! I wanted to read this because the diverse cast and stuff and it was getting a lot of attention, but I HATE when books only focus on the love interest, so now I have slightly lower expectations. I’ll still give it a try because it’s super popular in the book world right now, but I feel like knowing what to expect going in will help me give it a fair rating.

    Also: I’m currently running the book blogger awards, and you can nominate people any time in April (the next 5 days). If you’re interested in sharing the book blogger love, see the full rules here: https://writethroughthenight.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/the-book-blogger-awards/

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I saw “Suso” in the last name and thought ABBYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY. Also TAYLOR WITH THE AMAZING METABOLISM!!! XD Also I need to know: Does Bram show up? BECAUSE HE’S LIKE MY FAVORITE CHARACTER AND HE BETTER HAVE AN APPEARANCE. That first quote you shared is just PERFECT and AMAZING and 100% realistic. And YAAAAS DIVERSITY! Sad to see that it wasn’t as good as Simon Vs., but still looking forward to reading it!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautiful review, thank you so much for sharing this ❤ I have been hearing only positive things about this book and it's good to hear that you had some mixed opinions about it. I haven't read the book yet, but I think I'd agree with you, that the whole boyfriend plot isn't that necessary and shouldn't be the reason that she feels better about herself and her body and everything 🙂 Lovely review!

    Like

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