You know that wonderful moment where you find a book that you connect to on such a deep level, one you feel like was written just for you? That’s how I felt while reading this book. The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli was just what I needed. It felt like it was telling a story of my life, so all the advice Molly received in the story felt like advice for me. The similarities between this story and my life were numerous and uncanny. First off, Molly was literally me. I am pretty renowned in my friend group for my numerous yet unreturned crushes. Also, I love Pinterest and DIY just like Molly does. I like in the DC Suburbs, and I’m Jewish! Some of these similarities are pretty small, but every time I would come across one I was even more convinced that this book was just written for me.
“There’s a reason I’ve had twenty-six crushes and no boyfriends. 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 at 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.”
This story is basically about Molly falling in love for the first time, not only with a boy, but with herself. It was her embracing rejection and being courageous and realizing that nothing was going to change if she didn’t. As her sister, Cassie, starts to fall in love, Molly begins to realize that it was time for her to as well, so she starts to put herself out there. The first “prospect” is her sister’s girlfriend’s friend, Will, but Molly also feels chemistry with her coworker, Reid. While this sounds very love triangle-ish, I didn’t feel annoyed while reading it, presumably because it wasn’t Molly thinking “Which one should I choose?! They’re both so hot!”. It was Molly growing into herself, and just using love as a vehicle for that.
“So, maybe I should let my heart break, just to prove that my heart can take it.”
Molly’s growth was what really struck me. She had the same insecurities that I do, so watching her decide to take a leap of faith and see it pay off was very profound for me. She goes from an insecure, overshadowed fat girl to a girl who loves herself and is confident in herself and courageous. And she sends a message that I think every girl needs to hear, including myself. Rejection is not the end of the world. She’s had 26 crushes, all unrequited, and all because she didn’t put herself out there for them. She never takes the initiative to talk to the boy she likes, because she was scared. But this summer, as she watches her sister fall in love, she decides that she’ll face rejection even for the chance of love. And it hurts, but it pays off in the end. Even though I am yet to take this advice that Molly preaches and practices, I still think it is very important and something I really needed to hear. She struggled with very authentic feelings of feeling left behind and that everyone else was growing up with out her, and also got the very real realization that we all need, which is that everyone else feels the same way.
Another really sweet aspect of this story was the family dynamic. Molly and Cassie are twins, and really best friends. They are close like sisters should be, supportive of each other, and happy for each other. However, during the story, they do start to learn that it is natural for sisters to grow apart and create their own lives, even twins. While it hurts for them to discover this, it ultimately is better for them, because they no longer need to be jealous and hurt when their twin hangs out with someone else. Molly’s moms were also so so funny and cute and just what Molly needed. They let their daughters grow up and make their own mistakes, but were there to piece them together after and leave wise words of wisdom. Even so, they treated Molly and Cassie like adults, which I think is important.
And the last thing I want to praise about this book is the incredible diversity is has across the board. The main characters, side characters, random characters on the street were all diverse for so many reasons, and it all felt natural, not forced. There were multiple (MULTIPLE) LGBTQIA+ characters, including Molly’s sister Cassie, her moms, and Cassie’s girlfriend. There were characters of all different religions and races, and even different body types. One of the subplots in this story is the touching wedding Molly’s moms want to have after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. Molly’s family’s celebration, as well as the wedding itself, was one of the most touching aspects of the story, because it is so relevant and present today. The pure joy felt is what so many people felt last summer, and is what we are fighting for now.
I’m on the toilet at the 9:30 Club, and I’m wondering how mermaids pee.
This isn’t random. There’s a mermaid Barbie attached to the door of the bathroom here. Which is a pretty odd choice for a bathroom mascot. If that’s even a thing. Bathroom mascots.
And the last, last thing I will rave about is the writing. It was witty, random, nerdy, sweet, and hilarious. It captured teenage life perfectly in such a pleasant way. It made me laugh out loud and grin from ear to ear, but also tear up from pain.
“Because I don’t want to be a girl who needs a boyfriend,”I say.
“Well, of course you don’t need one,” Nadine says. “But it’s okay to want one.”
As you can tell by my review, this book was honestly one of the best I’ve read in a long time. It discussed current day issues in a humorous and poignant way, had lovable characters, and a plot that struck home. If you haven’t picked it up yet, read it. In fact, it’s the perfect summer read, and you won’t regret it!