Friday, July 28, 2017

Review: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli + Random Personal Thoughts

Book: The Upside of Unrequited
Author: Becky Albertalli
Series: Standalone (slight spin-off of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda)
Genre: YA contemporary
Publisher: Baltzer + Bay
Pages: 336
Release: April 11th, 2017

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?

HOLY MOLY. I have just found my soul book. I mean, what did I expect? This is Becky Albertalli, the amazing author of my all-time favourite contemporary book Simon VS the Homo Sapiens Agenda. I knew this book was going to be good. I just didn't know how utterly fantastic it would be!

Meet Molly: super artistic with crafts and desserts, hoping to one day get kissed. She's had twenty-six crushes, none who have ever reciprocated her feelings. Reasons include extreme shyness (see: a brain that doesn't work when talking to boys) and self-consciousness about her own body. But that's okay, because she has her twin, Cassie, is there for her. Until Mina Choi walks into Cassie's life, towing a cute hipster named Will, all at the same time Molly stars a new job and meets a co-worker named Reid.

What I loved about Molly wasn't her strength; rather, it was her weaknesses and flaws. She felt human. She worried about how other people's romantic relationships would affect her relationship with them. She worried about what others thought of her. She worried if she would ever be "good enough" for someone to want to be her boyfriend. All perfectly normal, human things we don't like to admit we worry about, but still worry nonetheless. There was no "well, it's a book so of course that's what happens." Molly's experiences are true, honest-to-god experiences that a lot of us won't admit to ever being in, but have been in nonetheless. And to me, that made Molly one of the most honest characters I've ever read about.

Me: Hey Brain, let's think of something cool to say!
Me: Okay, it doesn't have to be cool. Just something semi-coherent...
Brain: *white noise*

My god, their parents? Fantastic. Amazing. Like, how many YA stories do you read with fantastic parents, let along amazing parenting? Molly and Cassie's parents were right up there with Simon's parents (from Simon VS the Homo Sapiens Agenda). Parenting in this book is about love and acceptance; they are allies and friends, strong supporters of everything they do, never hindrances as they often are portrayed as in a lot of novels. Albertalli truly writes of fantastic parents that everyone should strive to be in my opinion!

The romance was as cute as I expected, but what I didn't expect was how many relationships would be taking part in this novel. You have Molly, Cassie, their parents, and Abby all going through shifts in their relationships, and my god, it is adorable to read about. From falling in love to staying in love, everything was perfect. I cannot get over how cute these couples show their affections for each other!

SIMON MADE A CAMEO!!! *flails in excitement* He was present only twice for just a few lines, but my god, he the same lovable, nerdy character as he was in his own book. I mean, Harry Potter references? Totally Simon!

I cannot stress just how important it is for books to now start to have large female protagonists as heroines. As serious heroines, not as a joke. It's a horrible world we live in, filled with propaganda of girls striving to be stick-thin to the point it becomes an unhealthy obsession. We need to learn to love ourselves, and love others, however we are. Albertalli portrayed the conflict between the old and new perspective/views of larger women perfectly, demonstrating how much words can truly hurt and lower one's self-esteem. People need to learn to love themselves, however they are!

Overall, this is a beautiful book that is so much more than just about falling in love for the first time. It's about overcoming your own insecurities, about the fear of growing apart with people when they begin having serious relationships with others, and about sticking up for friends and family and learning your own limits. Love is love, and sometimes, fighting for it for the long run is definitely worth it!

I think every relationship is actually a million relationships.

So after all this ranting it should be obvious that I'm giving this book five stars. Though honestly, it deserves all the stars and more! Albertalli has officially cemented herself as my favourite YA contemporary author in the world!

The bottom part after this review is kind of a personal reflection, so feel free to skip it if you don't want to read a personal rant. Apologies if you find it annoying.

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Personal Reflection

*deep breath*

Okay, real talk here. There's a really big reason why I say this book is my soul. It's because just so much of it...was me. And you, dear reader, may think this is just a stupid cry for attention or whatever, but I this is probably one of the few places I can write this all down without feeling like the world is ending. Because it was me. Molly was me. There was so much truth to it, it scared and excited me. 

God, all of Molly's insecurities? I lived the exact same thing. I just wish I could have read this book before I went through them. But when I read Molly's narration...there was this click. Like my reaction and fears were normal. Like I wasn't the only one who had such hopeless thoughts. Molly's reactions normalized my experiences, and made me feel so much better about myself to know that there are others who understand what awkward topics the world can thrust upon you.

The culture of drinking, partying, and sex is complete forgein territory for me. I have little to no experiences with it, as I don't quite fit into that crowd, nor do I particularly want to (I'd be the girl who brings a book and sits quietly in the corner reading). But that doesn't mean I don't occasionally find myself awkwardly in conversations about those, just as Molly did. Her reaction was spot-on to my own: awkward, uncomfortable, trying to determine how to act to fit in. Molly felt like a faker in those situations  and it felt really nice to know that I'm not the only person who has felt that way.

There was also one quote that really stuck out to me:

Boys like Will don't like girls like me. And if they find out we like them, they are always cruel. Always.

I wish I could say differently, but I've had my own fair share of experiencing this. "Been there, done that" as the saying goes. After the second time it happened to me, it shut down any hope for me. I ended up doing the same as Molly, simply crushing on people but never doing anything about it, for a solid decade. Except I didn't have a Cassie to go to, so no one ever really knew about the one-way wall I had erected around my heart. It's only recently (and with many thanks to reading YA) that I've finally pulled my head (and heart) out of that stupid hole.

Petty jealously was another issue Molly had that I've gone through myself. Stupid as it was, crushing on people who you knew probably liked your friend better than you was the easiest way to shut someone down. And the cycle that Molly went through when that happened (bitterness and anger at her friend, then anger at herself for not being happy for her friend, then just sad acceptance) was not unfamiliar to me. And the fact that other people like Molly have felt what I have was just a big relief. Like I wasn't alone. And it just got to me, and was real, you know?

Anyways, this isn't supposed to be a sob story, nor am I looking for pity. I just felt like I needed to get it out, because this book has truly touched me. I'm completely over that phase in my life, and am extremely happy where I am and who I am!

Also, a hilarious similarity to myself and Molly: her attempt at reconfiguring her brain to the concept "boyfriend." It is both scary and thrilling how her reaction was literally the same as mine. It was like I was reading about me, reading a recollection of how I felt. Which I guess is the whole point to this reflection: Molly's emotional experiences and reactions paralleled mine so much that I felt like this book was an honest-to-god fictional autobiography of myself, for both the good and the bad.

If you've still reading all the way to here, thank you! I promise my future reviews won't feature these weird random reflections. See you guys around, and happy reading! :)



  1. Oh Erika! What a fantastic review, and the fact that you added a seperate personal reflection about how much these characters affected you... I'm so glad that you were able to connect with Molly so deeply and helped you to allow youself to be happy with you are. You know a book has succeeded when you're to breathe a sigh of relief and have that realisation that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

    I've seen this book everywhere lately, and I adored Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens too, so I'll definitely pick it up sometime. Wonderful review, as always xx

    1. Thanks, Sinead! It was a wonderful experience to read this book for me. I hope you'll enjoy this book too, especially since Simon makes a few cameos! :D

  2. Erikaaaa, oh my god this review is everything. You are so brave to add a personal reflection and to be so honest about it is incredible. I'm so happy you was able to see yourself in a main character, it's all anyone wants to see, that type of representation! This book has just reached the very top of my TBR because of you and your wonderful review.

    Amazing review <3

    Cody @ Literary-ly Obsessed

    1. Thank you, Cody! Your words mean a lot to me :) Hope you'll get around to reading this book soon!

  3. I've never read The Upside of Unrequited, but I love your review and the quotes! I hope I'm going to read this book soon!

    1. Thank you for your kind words! I hope you'll read this book soon. It's a great read!