The Upside of Unrequited
by Becky Albertalli
read in March 2017
Actually, I don’t even hate my body. I just worry everyone else might. Because chubby girls don’t get boyfriends, and they definitely don’t have sex. Not in movies—not really—unless it’s supposed to be a joke. And I don’t want to be a joke.
I received an e-ARC from Penguin Random House UK Children’s through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review!
I have no idea where to begin. I absolutely love The Upside of Unrequited! For a while now, I thought I had grown out of Young Adult contemporaries. But I was wrong. Despite the fact that that the formatting of my e-ARC was absolutely horrible, this book is quite possibly the best I have ever read.
First of all, I want to thank Becky Albertalli for including so much diversity in her novels. The author’s second novel is about a fat Jewish girl named Molly, but her story isn’t defined by that. That’s the kind of representation I want to see more often, especially in this genre! This isn’t a story about a girl who is bullied for being fat and Jewish. This is a story about a girl who happens to be fat and Jewish.
Cassie, Molly’s twin sister, is a lesbian. Her girlfriend is a Korean-American pansexual girl. The twins’ parents are two women, Nadine being a black lesbian and Patty being a bisexual woman. Molly once had a crush on a trans guy. Molly is on antidepressant and it is completely normalised. There is no dramatic reveal of why she is taking them either. Asexuality is mentioned as well. Even though some of these things are only talked about briefly, at least they are mentioned and normalised. Trans, asexual and pansexual people exist and Albertalli respects that! Unfortunately, that cannot be said of many other books, even when they take place in our world and day and age.
If anyone is doing Diversity Bingo 2017, you can read this for ‘practising Jewish MC’ and ‘MC with an under-represented body’! Becky Albertalli is Jewish, so this is an #OwnVoices novel!
I also love that the author learnt from the mistake she made in Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda. I absolutely love that book, but a character said that bisexual women and lesbians have it easier than gay men because guys think it’s hot. That’s not true. Fetishisation doesn’t mean acceptance. Anyway, Becky Albertalli could have decided never to mention queer women ever again after being called out. Thankfully, she decided to do better by featuring tons of queer women in The Upside of Unrequited. Some allies would have said “Well, at least I tried. I didn’t mean any harm.”, but Albertalli actually listened to us and hired sensitivity readers to get the representation right in this one.
Clearly, I love how diverse this book was. It does not only feature great representation, but also wonderful feminist moments! I could provide an entire list of bad-ass quotes for you, but you should buy the book when it is released and see for yourselves! Furthermore, the book is also incredibly sex-positive and even mentions that sex and “losing your virginity” doesn’t have to involve a penis.
Even though it has been a couple of years since I was a teenager, I don’t think I have ever related to a character as much as I related to Molly. Even when she doesn’t have the right to be angry, you completely understand why she feels that way. She is so incredibly human and real. The praise on the back of my copy of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda says the following:
“Are we absolutely certain that Becky Albertalli didn’t just steal the diary of a hilariously observant teenage boy?”
The Upside of Unrequited felt just as genuine and realistic. Becky Albertalli writes teenagers perfectly!
I would recommend this book to everyone. Even as an adult, this book is incredibly relatable. I have scars on my face and because of problems with my spine, pelvis and legs, I don’t walk like most people do. When people tell me “Oh, your scars look much better today.” or urge me to pay attention to the way I am walking, I feel exactly like Molly felt in this moment:
So, I should be used to it. Still, it always throws me a little bit when people say stuff about my body. I guess I want to believe no one notices I’m fat.
Even though this is a completely different situation, I have tears in my eyes because it means so much to me to read about someone who faces similar struggles. This book is incredibly funny and heart-warming as well. I never thought fluffy YA contemporaries were my cup of tea, but I was clearly wrong!
In my opinion, The Upside of Unrequited is even better than Albertalli’s first novel! Oh, and to all my fellow Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda fans out there: there may or may not be a cameo in here… 😉
Normally, I am a very critical reader, but The Upside of Unrequited was a perfect novel. The only criticism I could have, is the under-age drinking. I don’t really mind, since drinking is legal in my country when you turn sixteen years old, but it’s literally in every YA contemporary these days. As a teacher, I’m always hesitant whether I should recommend books to my pupils that promote that.
conclusion: The Upside of Unrequited is probably my all-time favourite contemporary! Even though it was cheerful and funny, I have tears in my eyes because this novel meant so much to me. I will definitely buy a hardcover when this book is released on April 11th and would recommend everyone else to do the same!