The Upside of Unrequited, by Becky Albertalli
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQIA
Rating: ✮✮ +½
I don’t entirely understand how anyone gets a boyfriend. Or a girlfriend. It just seems like the most impossible odds. You have to have a crush on the exact right person at the exact right moment. And they have to like you back. A perfect alignment of feelings and circumstances.
This book was a little meh for me. There were pieces of it that I liked, but I didn’t enjoy it so much as a whole.
The Upside of Unrequited has a lot going for it. It’s hilarious, quirky, and cute, and it’s full of so many wonderful things that I like to see advocated in books: Molly and Cassie have two moms, they’re part of a biracial family, and they’re Jewish. Cassie is a lesbian and her girlfriend, Mina, is pansexual. Molly is overweight, which is something that does not happen enough in books, especially where YA is concerned. There are also some topics discussed concerning sex and body image, and although Molly’s thoughts are painful and discouraging and to be honest, pretty insulting, I can’t say I haven’t had the same ones. It’s not that they’re true, it’s just that they’re manifestations of insecurity. They speak to every person who has ever felt sensitive about how they look.
One of the problems is the story. Much of it is focused on Molly’s crush on Reid, as well as her relationship with Will, and the endgame of getting a boyfriend. It’s really uncompelling. Another problem is the underlying current of the relationship with her and her twin sister, Cassie. After Cassie gets a girlfriend, they start to grow apart and fight a lot, and Cassie says some extremely rude things to her sister that, if I were in Molly’s shoes, I would not take. Such as:
“Do you want to help us paint mason jars?” I ask, after a moment.
Cassie laughs harshly. “Um, no.”
“Wow,” I say.
“Jesus Christ. Molly, stop.”
“I’m not doing anything.”
“Ugh—you’re looking at me like…no. I mean, no offense, but do I want to paint fucking mason jars with you and Grandma? Or do I want to hang out with my girlfriend?”
And the thing is, she never apologizes for that – or for anything else she’s done, which includes getting drunk at a party and then assuming that Molly will drive herself home, even when she knows that she’s had a drink. When they start to talk toward the end, she spins it around, and Molly ends up apologizing instead. Then they move on to the wedding, and it feels like so many threads in their relationship are left untied.
Another thing that’s nagging me is that everything – the story and the characters – kind of run together. Nothing felt very distinct, and a lot of the characters felt the same as another character, or multiple characters. None of them connected very well, either. It felt two-dimensional. The writing started to get repetitive after a while, too; I lost count of how many times Molly mentioned something going on in her stomach or her heart. I liked Reid, but Molly around him was an annoying hamster wheel.
It was not a bad book, but it didn’t impress me as much as I was hoping it would. If I were to recommend it for anything, I would say for a good laugh.