Title: The Upside of Unrequited
Author: Becky Albertalli
Publisher: Penguin Randomhouse UK
Format/Source: UK paperback from Book Depository
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Molly Peskin-Suso is the queen of crushes. She’s had almost thirty crushes throughout her life, and she’s only seventeen.
Unlike her twin sister who has been with countless other girls, Molly has only ever been on the unrequited side of love. Cassie, being the extrovert that she is, says this is because Molly has never taken chances–that she’s just never gone for it.
“There’s just something terrifying about admitting you like someone. In a way, it’s actually easier when there’s no chance of anything happening. But there’s this threshold where things suddenly become possible. And then your cards are on the table. And there you are, wanting, right out in the open.”
And she’s right. Molly has never actually been rejected; she’s always been too scared to actually confess her feelings to any of the twenty-something people she’s crushed on. She’s always been too “careful.” But when you’re always comparing yourself to your thinner, blonder, and charming sister who naturally wins everyone over, it’s hard not to let it damage your confidence.
However, everything changes this summer for Molly. She’s starting a new job, and there she befriends her co-worker, the charming, down-to-earth Reid. Him, she can actually talk to without flipping out the way she normally does around most boys.
Though he may be the first boy Molly can talk to with ease, he is an incredibly geeky one who wears this atrocious pair of white sneakers and goes to renaissance festivals. Definitely not the boy Molly has always pictured as her first boyfriend.
Especially not when there’s cute hipster Will who might be into her and just so also happens to be the best friend of Cassie’s new crush. Which is also important, because after Cassie meets Mina, everything starts to change.
The closeness the twins used to share suddenly goes missing, and it feels like Cassie is slowly, but surely, leaving Molly behind.
Oh my goodness. So many feelings about this one.
Okay, so, I was super excited to read this one after loving Becky’s first book, Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. (By the way, the book takes place in the same universe–this time focusing on Molly, Abby’s cousin–so we get to see a few familiar faces!)
Unfortunately, though I did like it, I did not love it the way I did Simon, and I don’t think I see myself reading it again anytime soon. (Which I only say because there are so many other books I need to re-read before I could even consider picking this one up again.)
I’ll start with the characters, since this is a character-driven read. I really loved that Becky gave us more diverse (and LGBT+) characters, and I really appreciated how she went about it. She never put big blaring signs over their heads and instead normalized them–the way it should be in real life.
The only problem is that I never really connected with any of them. I connected with Molly and Cassie, but that was it, and even then it was only half of the time. The other characters only showed up a few times and just came off as bland, no matter what quirky ism’s they had been given.
I definitely was Molly at one point, so I could easily relate to her insecurities and completely understood the majority of her thoughts and feelings (even if I don’t agree with all of them now).
Because there wasn’t enough page time to get to know the side characters, I couldn’t really relate or connect to them; and, therefore, I didn’t really care for the romance either.
From the beginning, I much preferred sweet, nerdy Reid over sweet, cool Will. I thought her relationship with Reid was super adorable, what with their shared love of homemade cookie dough and Cadbury eggs, but by the end of the book I felt no real chemistry between either pair.
I also didn’t really like how as soon as Molly got a boyfriend, her insecurities were gone and she immediately felt pretty. I really hate that this is the way most people feel–that being wanted or beautiful is what you need to make you happy and worthy of happiness. After reading Wintersong and that being a big issue for me as well (in addition to being a relevant real life issue, of course), I’m just ready for everyone to learn to love themselves for who they already are–not because of someone else.
On the UPSIDE (haha I know, I’m a dork), I actually laughed a few times out loud while reading and loved the dialogue between the characters. I loved the strong family bond, especially between Molly and Cassie. I may not have a twin sister–or even a sister–but what they were experiencing happens to most friends I think. As you grow up, you change and sometimes your friends don’t change with you, or they do and it’s not in a good way. You’re always trying to find a balance for fitting new people into your life and making sure you’re not neglecting or drifting from the current people in your life.
As for the pacing, Upside felt both long and short at the same time. Long, because the book dragged a lot for me. Short, because not that much actually happened. In all honesty, there wasn’t much of a plot. Once I realized the book was taking place over a summer vacation, I kind of figured it would be that way.
Overall, I definitely think fans of Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens should check this sequel/companion novel out, because, who knows, maybe you’ll end up connecting with these characters more than I did! I also seem to be in the minority with my feelings on this one. Only one person, out of the many that I know and follow, rated and reviewed it similarly.
I’d love to know your thoughts! See you next week. 🙂