The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky AlbertalliThe Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
Published by Penguin UK on April 11th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 300
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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, 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, and there's absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

I can’t decide if this is funny or sad, but I’ve spent so much time wanting a boyfriend that I can’t imagine not wanting one. I can imagine saying I don’t want one. But I can’t imagine it being true.

I’m really surprised to see so many positive reviews of The Upside of Unrequited from GR members who thought Holding Up the Universe was problematic. To me, this is more of the same. This might be the author who brought us the wonderful and hilarious Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, but these characters contained none of the charm that Simon & Co. possessed.
To summarize why I didn’t like this book in two points:
1) I felt absolutely no connection to any of the characters. It seemed like the author put a lot of effort into creating a diverse cast, which is great, and yet she forgot to develop their personality, charms and quirks, so that they became defined by their marginalization.
Molly is the most well-developed character and even that is not saying much. Who is Molly? What are her passions and interests? What does she care about aside from obsessing over her crushes and the fact she hasn’t been kissed? I couldn’t tell you.
2) There isn’t a compelling story.
In fact, it’s the same old story I have never liked: an insecure (plain/overweight) virgin longs to finally be kissed by a boy. Everyone else around her is “cute” or “hot” and she feels inadequate. She finally finds her worth when it turns out that a boy likes her.
I don’t know if this kind of book is supposed to be empowering for bigger girls, but it felt insulting. The protagonist – Molly – is a self-proclaimed “fat girl” who always has crushes but never dates and/or kisses guys because she fears rejection. The story arc follows her journey to gaining self-confidence, which here occurs when her latest crush reciprocates her feelings. Is this a good message? Because, honestly, it makes me cringe.

It’s so many things. It’s everyone knowing you’re attracted to a guy who wears electric-white sneakers. It’s that little twinge of shame you feel when someone thinks he’s not cute. Even though he is cute. He’s actually really fucking adorable. I actually really fucking like him, and none of the other stuff should matter.

I will say that the book has a lot of diversity – skin color, sexuality, gender identity, religion, body size, mental health – but you don’t get brownie points or a pat on the back for this anymore. Diversity is just a necessity, not something a book should win an award for. Beyond this, the story and characters were extremely lacking for me. Molly’s inner narrative went in tiring circles as she thought about herself, kissing boys, and back again:

My ego. I don’t have an ego. If I had such a giant ego, why would I have such a hard time believing Reid actually likes me?
Except, if I’m totally honest, I do believe it. Reid likes me. And I like that he likes me. But I’m not used to this game. It’s this totally new way of seeing myself. Like I’m some hazily lit dream girl from a movie. I’ve never been that girl before.
I really like being that girl. So, maybe I am some kind of egomaniac.

I liked Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda so much that I will happily check out the author’s future work, but this one obviously did not work for me.

One StarOne Star


  1. I haven’t read it yet but I don’t read much contemporary…I’ve only heard the good things so it’s interesting to get another perspective.

    • Emily May

      Yeah, loads of people liked it. I really wanted to, especially because there’s almost no good fat rep in YA, but I’ve never been a fan of the “girl learns to accept herself when a guy likes her” story :/

  2. Its happened to me with Jennifer Niven. I loved All the bright places and because of this I buyed Holding up the universe and I hate it só much.

  3. Jessica

    This bascially summerized my thoughts on this book so well!

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