The Upside of Unrequited
Balzer + Bray / Harper Collins Canada
By Becky Albertalli
age 13 to 18
Synopsis from Harper Collins Canada:
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?
Making that connection, the boy friend, for some it seems easy or they don’t care. That seems to be the case with Molly. Even her sister Cassie, who hasn’t had a problem hooking up in the past, seems to have found a girl she’s head over heels about. The Upside of Unrequited (affiliate link) is a perfect summer read. You won’t encounter any hard hitting topics like mental health, drug usage, or racial tension though many adolescents may disagree that the topic of romance and boyfriends/girlfriends can be just as stress inducing. The topic of same sex marriage is included but it feels more like background versus the focus of the book.
It’s funny to hear Molly refer to herself as fat though I found myself wondering while reading the book if this was a self-imposed description. How we view ourselves is not often what others see but rather what we think they see. That being said, her Grandmother Betty makes no bones of belittling Molly’s weight under the guise of helping. I could easily hear this dialog with my own teen’s grandparents. Thankfully Molly doesn’t seem to interact with her grandmother that often.
Although Molly has doubts about her girlfriend status, she seems like a very self assured and somewhat confident teen with a creative eye and a panache for DIY. Along with this book being a fairly light read, perfect for a summer book escape, I think teens will relate to the self doubt and insecurity around relationships, how other relationships change when friends turn into couples, and how playing it safe isn’t always the most fulfilling move.
The last point is one I really liked in this book. Molly’s self doubt led her to play it safe, not taking chances for fear of heartache and something worse (though not knowing what that would be). Through encouragement from her sister Cassie, as well as friends Mina, Olivia, and Abbey, Molly fights the urge to play it safe. Sure this leads to awkward moments and a little heartache but not nearly as bad as her imagination had led her to believe. The bigger bonus is that by taking a chance, Molly was able to avoid following another crush that would lead no where and instead left herself open to real romance.
I also like the diversity of characters with Molly and Cassie’s parents being a gay female couple and Cassie herself is gay. Exposing our children (and teens) to other lifestyles, ethnicities, and sexual orientation helps them relate to others, whether they know people personally who fit into these lifestyles or not. Including these characters in books takes the emphasis off of people being different and more on the story. Something we can hope our kids grow into appreciating and not distinguishing as a difference.
The Upside of Unrequited is a perfect summer escape for teens that will hopefully remind them that being true to yourself is the only way to find a relationship worth pursuing.
You can get an inside peek to this book in the following video review, published within our Young Adult Book playlist on our Youtube channel every Wednesday: