The Upside of Unrequited

I don't generally go for sweet books.  For books that make you go "aww!" and think that life could actually be okay.  It may be in my DNA to be a pessimist, because I find optimism extraordinarily difficult to practice.  My mind constantly runs "what if" scenarios that involve the worst possible outcome.  I am, in short, a mess.

However, Becky Albertalli may have cured me of my immunity to sweet romance and my inability to finish a book with a smile on my face.  I cannot rightly describe The Upside of Unrequited as being fluffy, because it deals with real and serious topics like anxiety, depression, and jealousy.  But at the end, I wanted to stand up and cheer, because my heart was full of happiness.  This novel is funny and incisive and inclusive and just super romantic.

I've been thinking about this, and The Upside of Unrequited reminded me very much of a Jane Austen novel.  It's a comedy of errors that hits you right in the feels.  The romantic relationship in this one is more Elinor and Edward than Elizabeth and Darcy, but we can't all have brooding rich men as boyfriends.  We have misunderstandings, awful relatives, a heroine caught between the Dashing Guy and the Quiet Guy, and lots of family shenanigans.  It's wonderful.  I could do a whole breakdown of character matchups, but that would make this review ridiculously long, and I already think that the intensity of my admiration has clouded my ability to review properly.

Note/warning: Because I kept thinking about Albertalli's previous book, the smashing Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, I was hungry for Oreos.  As someone with Celiac, I have never had a legit, Oreo-brand Golden Oreo, ergo I am, by default, in Albertalli's camp in the Great Oreo Twitter Feud.  However, the craving for Oreos was so strong while I was reading this book that I drove 45 minutes to obtain two boxes of Trader Joe's gluten free Joe-Joes.  These are the closest to Oreos in my book.  Confession: I did get the peppermint kind.  They were limited edition!  They are also delicious!  Becky Albertalli not only has the ability to write amazing novels, but also to make me crave Oreos.  Brava.

"I don't entirely understand how anyone gets a boyfriend. Or a girlfriend. It just seems like the most impossible odds. You have to have a crush on the exact right person and the exact right moment. And they have to like you back. A perfect alignment of feelings and circumstances. It's almost unfathomable that it happens as often as it does."

Molly Peskin-Suso has had loads of crushes.  But not one date.  Not one boyfriend.  Her twin sister, Cassie, confidently goes after all of the girls she crushes on.  Cassie is confident and strong-willed, while Molly is "generically pretty," shy, and "nowhere close to willowy."  She assumes that people wouldn't want to go out with her because of her weight, so her crushes, although passionate, remain unrequited.  So when Cassie meets Mina at an under-18 club, and it's clear that they are going to be a couple, Cassie tries to arrange for Mina's friend Will to become Molly's boyfriend, and not just crush number 27.

And Will's cute, sure.  His hipster bangs are beyond hot, and he's sweet.  But how could he ever like Molly?  And what about her very interesting but also very confusing feelings for Reid, her coworker who's totally into D&D and awkwardly white sneakers?

The plot of The Upside of Unrequited is quite simple, and it works because of the spectacular characterization.  Molly's inner voice is spot-on, and sometimes I found myself wondering if maybe Molly and I were the same person in some sort of weird trans-textual brain twinning.  And even though Molly is kind of awkward and afraid of risks, she's also really bold in standing up for herself and her body and her right to be treated like any other human being.  She's extremely aware of all the crap that society spouts about fatness, and she's determined to be happy.  Even if it means screwing up, totally and completely.

I think this is the first teen book I've read that has two moms in an interracial relationship who each have a baby by the same donor.  Well, in Molly and Cassie's case, babies.  This means that Molly and Cassie are white and Xavier is mixed, and no one believes that they're actually related to their black cousins.  They're also Jewish!  It's a blended family in every sense of the word.

Molly really is the best thing about this book.  Whether it's ruminations on the total weirdness of bikini waxing or having feels or feeling jealous that your twin sister didn't even tell you she was in a relationship and you had to find out on Facebook ... she's pretty much my everything.

Although 2017 has been a really, really, really awful year so far, it's a great year for books.  I'm adding The Upside of Unrequited to my Best Books list, along with Allegedly, The Hate U Give, and What Girls Are Made Of.

I received an ARC of this title from Edelweiss.



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