The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

Received from NetGalley for review.

Holy relatability, Batman. I’m pretty sure Becky Albertalli has telepathically taken my seventeen-year-old self, chucked in a flair for vintage and craft, and created Molly. She’s chunky, she’s sweet, she’s a serial crusher (totalling twenty-six crushes but no kisses), she’s totally baffled by how relationships work and how one can acquire a boyfriend, and I related so hard it hurts. She also gives (and says) a big ‘fuck you’ to guys who say shit like, ‘you’re gorgeous for a big girl’ – she may be insecure and unsure at times but body acceptance, especially in a world that shoves the notion that thinner is more attractive down your throat, takes time, and I think Molly’s doing alright with that.

Now, the nitty gritty (summarized from the blurb because I’m lazy): Molly and Cassie are seventeen-year-old twins. Normally cynical Cassie is suddenly on cloud nine with Mina, and Molly feels confused and adrift, feeling pushed aside for Mina. Molly can’t cope with the idea of being rejected and feels that, as a fat girl, she has to be careful, which means she’s never had a boyfriend or been kissed. Enter cute hipster Will, and adorable geek Reid, who make her rethink everything she thinks she knows about love and relationships. It may sound superficial but I can assure that this book has a lot going on beneath the surface, whilst still being gloriously feel good.

The story is so driven by the characters and what’s going on in their lives, and I became entirely wrapped up in it – it’s all about first love, teenage relationships, the silliness of said relationships, so if you don’t like any of that stuff, stay away because it is inescapable. Boyfriends, being desired, wondering if you’re a freak for not having that mythical first kiss – all that gloriously silly teenage stuff that seems so important at the time – I’ve been there, I’ve lived it, and I mostly loved living it again through Molly. There’s something both nauseating and wonderful about all that first love stuff that makes me go gooey.

If it’s not already obvious, I loved Molly, and most of the other characters by the end of it – they all felt very real, flaws and all. I think Molly could easily come across as boy obsessed, but when you’re seventeen stuff like that can seem so important – relationships, being liked, fitting in, it’s all so insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but you don’t always know that when you’re younger. It’s why Cassie seemed irritating at times, you just get caught up in that first boyfriend/girlfriend and forget about everything else, but she was also unapologetically herself and a fierce defender (as well as irritator) of Molly.

Aside from bundles of relatability, I loved the diversity within this novel. I liked that white, straight, and cis, was not the ‘default’ for the characters. Different races and sexualities abound in the novel and it is treated as completely normal, rather than there being a ‘token gay friend’ or ‘token black friend’ – they are just characters, just people, who are never portrayed as ‘other’. I found a real feeling of acceptance throughout the novel, like anyone could pick it up and find something to relate to amongst the characters and situations that happened. It’s just mushy, gooey sweetness, and crazy teenage hormones, and love, so much love, all wrapped up into an imperfect but wonderful parcel. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m growing to go throw glitter amongst the madness that is life.

Read: April 10th-15th 2017

4/5 stars

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