The Upside of UnrequitedBecky Albertalli Publisher: Balzer + Bray Released: 04.08.17 Review by Sam Devotta | May 10, 2017 at 1:30 PM
“And it’s a little different with every guy, so it’s kind of hard to generalize—but if I had to describe the feeling of a crush, I’d say this: you just finished running a mile, and you have to throw up, and you’re starving, but no food seems appealing, and your brain becomes fog, and you also have to pee. It’s this close to intolerable. But I like it.”
Basically: Molly has had twenty-six crushes and exactly zero kisses, but all that is about to change in Becky Albertalli’s adorable The Upside of Unrequited.
When her twin sister Cassie gets a serious girlfriend for the first time, Molly isn’t sure where that leaves her in their relationship. Giver her long history of unrequited crushes and the fear that “no one loves a fat girl”, Molly is convinced she’ll never have a boyfriend. Even when cute hipster Will starts flirting with her. And especially not when her geeky co-worker Reid charms her with year round Mini Eggs and emoji-filled texts.
If you’ve read Albertalli’s debut, Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, (or, at least, read our review), you’ll know her characters have all the quirks and flaws of a real person, which make their stories that much more fascinating to follow. Molly is a self-professed fat girl; she takes anxiety medication, and routinely over-thinks the simplest situations—in short, she’s a teenager, with all the insecurities and issues that come with it. If you’ve ever had a crush on someone out of your league, or worry that you’re not on the same maturity level as your peers, you’ll understand Molly’s reluctance to put herself out there.
Like Simon, Upside is full of diverse supporting characters who breathe more life and inclusivity into Molly’s world—over half of the cast is either queer or a POC (or sometimes both!). There are her two moms who are overjoyed to learn that they can finally, legally, get married. And there’s Cassie, Molly’s twin, who after a string of hookups and flings finds a girl she can commit to. Simon fans will also be thrilled to see some of Albertalli’s previous characters making cute cameos, including Molly’s cousin Abby, and Simon himself.
While it’s a story of first love, don’t make the mistake of dismissing it as a simple YA romance. It’s more than just finding a partner; it’s about being able to accept that you are as capable and worthy of love as anyone else, even when you feel you’ve been left behind while everyone else grows up. Although we’re thankful Molly doesn’t go on any sort of quest to lose weight so that she can fit in more with society’s ideas of beauty. She’s content in her skin, even when other people make comments, which is both refreshing and relatable.
In the end: Read it! Albertalli continues to be one of the strongest contemporary YA authors out there, and her characters feel more like friends than fiction.