The Upside of Unrequited is the story of seventeen-year-old serial crusher Molly who has to start finding her way on her own as her twin sister, Cass, gets a girlfriend for the first time.
This was a fantastic book that I am never going to read again. Reading it was like having to sit and watch the painful awkwardness my high school self. OMG. I was Molly. I was Molly to the point that it is humiliating to contemplate and uncomfortable to read about. Maybe I am not past that high school self and her insecurities because reading this book was painful. I cried at least three times. Once at three in the morning when I got up to read again because I NEEDED to finish the book.
Of course, this book is going to be compared to Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda. I know that my expectations were unreasonably high because of it. This book read completely differently to me. For lack of a better word, I found The Upside of Unrequited less cute. The tone was just as warm, and there were as many funny and touching moments, but I didn't smile the whole way through this book the way that I did with Simon.
I loved the characters. This is much more of a character book than a plot book. Things happen of course, and I was invested but not as invested as I was simply in learning about who the characters are and who they are becoming. I loved that Molly could fight with Cass without either of them being melodramatic or turning into a cartoonish villain. All the characters are beautifully subtle and real. They all seem to exist beyond the story.
Yay for diversity! I loved how casual it all was. Being gay, or bi, pan, or straight is an important part of people's lives but never takes over. It isn't a tragedy waiting to happen. There is no sentence of inherent guilt or unhappiness that comes along with being gay. All the yes. The characters are from many different races, religions, and walks of life. The cast felt vibrant, and none of them seemed to have been added as a token. Moar of this, please.
Molly is fat. There is so much about being fat that no one ever talks about. The whole world tells you that your body has to be this way to be acceptable. Especially when you are young. And when you are young you absorb that idea. Unless I look like the other girls, no one will ever find me worthy. No one will ever want me. I will never be loved. I wish high school me had had a chance to read this book. So much of what I was feeling is acknowledged and validated. Molly's grandmorther has a way of making her feel self-conscious about her weight in a way that I related to so much. I live in China (you may know) and one of the most common ways that people greet you here is by commenting on your weight. I still react almost the same way that Molly does by shutting down and having to try not to cry. I am going to need to get over this.
There is a moment near the end of the book where one of Molly's moms Nadine is talking to her about wanting a boyfriend and holy shit I needed to have that conversation with someone in high school. Becky Albertelli articulates those things that we hold back and isolate ourselves with so well. I lost track of the times that I found myself wanting to yell into the book, "Other people feel that way, too?!!"
This is also a story about vulnerability. How opening yourself up to other people can be the scariest thing that you learn how to do. It is also the story of finding the balance between new parts of your life while keeping ahold of the valuable parts of your life that you already have, such as your sister, your community, and your stability.
This book left me feeling a bit hollowed out. It was an unexpectedly emotional read. I didn't leave it with the same warm and fuzzy feelings that I left Simon with. But, after reading this book, I feel as if I know myself, or at least my past self, just that little bit better. That's not a bad feat for a book.
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.