Book Review by El: The Upside of Unrequited, by Becky Albertalli

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The Upside of Unrequited, by Becky Albertalli
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (Harper Collins)
Release Date: April 11, 2017

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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.

Right?

Young Adult
Heterosexual Characters
Lesbian Characters
Pansexual Character
Humor
Family
Marriage Equality
Fat Character
Anxiety/Panic Attacks

There have been a thousand reviews written about this book. One more, surely, will get lost in the crowd. But I don’t want to review The Upside of Unrequited. Instead, I want to tell you what it means to me.

I want to tell you why this book is important, to me and to hundreds (thousands) of teenagers, young adults, and adults around the world.

You ready?

Through Molly’s eyes, we see a world that is accepted as-is.

Her parents are queer. Her sister is queer. Molly herself is fat. She is a virgin, she has never been kissed, she is a seventeen year old girl who is, 100%, a seventeen year old girl. And through her eyes, the world is normal. Accepted. Perfectly average.

Do you know how powerful that is? To read a book and see the word “pansexual” thrown out on page like it’s nothing to bat an eye out. Molly talks about her family, and it’s her family, mixed race and two mothers and an annoying baby brother and an even more annoying twin sister. No one bats an eye. Molly’s world is perfectly imperfect, richly diverse, and completely normal.

And Becky tells this story with such wit and charm that it’s a delight to read.

If this story had existed when I was a teenager, I can only imagine how different my life would have been. To see a fat girl who struggles to understand how sex works, who lists boys in a series of unrequited crushes. And to see queer characters populating the narrative like they belong there.

Because they do belong there.

I don’t think I can explain this book to anyone who hasn’t been where Molly is, either because of their sexuality or their appearance or their social anxiety. If you’ve never struggled to find your place in the world, then Molly’s story is just another humorous, quirky tale of chocolate mini-eggs and Pinterest weddings.

But if you’re a teenager who wants a book that truly shows the world as it is (diverse, queer, beautiful in every way), or an adult who couldn’t find that world when they were younger… well, this is a book that will fill a hole in your heart.

Becky Albertalli is the author of the acclaimed novels Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and The Upside of Unrequited. A former clinical psychologist who specialized in working with children and teens, Becky lives with her family in Atlanta. You can visit her online at http://www.beckyalbertalli.com.

You can purchase The Upside of Unrequited from:

Publisher
Amazon
iTunes
Barnes & Noble
Kobo

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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

4 thoughts on “Book Review by El: The Upside of Unrequited, by Becky Albertalli

  1. It’s damn nice to hear about a YA book (or any book frankly) where the parents are queer. Because that’s the normal world I know and it’s practically never reflected in books. I also really like your remark about how a book like this could have changed your life as a teen. It’s always good to remember how important books can be – far more than merely entertaining or even educational. Life affirming. That’s huge.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve read a lot of YA books with queer characters, and they’re all fantastic, but in the vast majority of them it feels like “being queer” is the narrative. It’s such a focus that it comes off as Something Out of The Ordinary, and you can’t just read a story about a kid finding their first love, or dealing with issues at home or school. And that’s fine; those stories are 100% needed and necessary. But a novel like this one, where being queer, fat, shy, POC… it’s not the focus. It’s considered Normal Life, in a way that you so rarely see. It’s just part of the story, and that sense of normalcy is beyond words.

      (And I know I’m speaking here from a position of privilege, because this *is* the world around me, and it’s not like that for other people. A lot of people don’t get to see this beautiful novel play out in real life. But as a queer teenager in Texas, a book like this could have made me feel like I belonged, and like I wasn’t so alone.)

      Like

  2. I absolutely loved Simon Vs. (5/5) and this one looks just as good. Plus I cant recall many times ive seen good fat rep in books. It’s at the top of my TBR now👌👌🎉

    Like

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