Review + Giveaway: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli



Rating: 5 stars
Release Date: April 11, 2017
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Genre: young adult contemporary romance, realistic
Format/Source: ARC, from the author
Status: standalone
(but related to Simon vs / in the same universe)

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Summary:
Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. 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. 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 a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there's absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. 


Right?

Disclaimer:
I was gifted a copy of this book by the author. This does not affect the content of my reivew.

Review:
I can't say enough good things about The Upside of Unrequited. This book is truly spectacular, and it is a book of my heart. I really enjoyed Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, but I think Becky absolutely blew it out of the water with Upside, and I think she's an author who will continue to get better and better with every book (and that is saying something because Simon and Upside are both really really good!).

Molly will go down in history as being one of my favorite main characters ever. I love boss ladies like Rose from Vampire Academy and Lia from The Remnant Chronicles, but there is a special place in my heart and on my bookshelf for the girls who are less sure about themselves and their place in the world. I share so many fears and worries with Molly that it felt like she was narrating the very thoughts in my head. Molly is fat, and I love how open she was about her body. Like the YA trailblazer Willowdean in Julie Murphy's Dumplin, Molly is good with her body for much of the book, but she worries about how other people will respond to it. And, she worries about it too, on occasion, because one's own relationship with one's body is often complicated and messy and fluid.

"I hate hating my body. Actually, I don't even hate my body. I just worry everyone else will. Because chubby girls don't get boyfriends, and they definitely don't have sex [...] unless it's supposed to be a joke. And I don't want to be a joke." (ARC, page 189)

There's this horrible moment where Molly's grandmother says all those hurtful "well-meaning" family lines like "you have such a pretty face" and "it's harder to lose weight as you get older" and all that bullshit, and I felt like I was sitting at a family dinner. There's a scene where a douchebro partydude tells Molly that she's beautiful for a big girl, and... man, I can't tell you how emotional it is to witness because I have had those moments, and they suck so much so much. Like, you can be okay with your body, can own it and love it, but when that moment happens, it cuts you down and suddenly you question everything about yourself. You fixate. But that moment was also weirdly great, too, because Molly stands up for herself, and other people stand up for her, and it means a lot.

I don't also love Molly for her complex relationship with her body. I love her because she's a real girl. She feels real to me. She loves pinterest and light cyber stalking and raw (eggless) cookie dough and leggings. She hates chub rub (word, sister!) and early 00s music (we must disagree there, Molly/Becky). She has crushes on real people and also Lin Manuel Miranda. She has trouble putting together the right outfit sometimes because it's gotta look juuust right. And she's just pretty fucking great.

On that note, one thing I totally love about this book is how eloquently and real Becky's descriptions are. All pages are from the ARC.

  • Page 56. Molly is describing how a crush feels: "You just finished running a mile, and you have to throw up, and you're starving, but no food seems appealing, and your brain becomes fog, and you also have to pee. It's this close to intolerable. But I like it."
  • Page 89. "I get this hot chocolate feeling in my stomach—cozy and content.
  • Page 100. Nadine, Molly's mom, is describing when her sister got a boyfriend when they were kids (a common theme as Molly's sister has a girlfriend & Molly is processing their separation througout the book): "No one warns you about this. No one tells you how hard it is, because, yay, love! And we're so happy for them! But there's this sharp edge to it, right? Because, yeah, you're happy for them. But you've also lost them."
  • Page 182. "Somehow, it's this perfect sigh of a moment. It's cloudy and sort of breezy."
  • Page 185. Molly is describing a hug from a boy character: "It's over before I can process it, but now my insides are one big shaken Coke bottle."
  • Page 281 (wow, I REALLY liked the 80s pages!). "I am entirely made of butterflies."
  • I CANNOT EVEN WITH HOW BEAUTIFUL IT IS AND THOSE ARE JUST SIX OF MY (approximately) SEVENTY THREE THOUSAND PAGE FLAGS. 

And Reid. I love Reid so much. Like Molly, he's a (insert Pinocchio voice here) real boy! He like Tolkien and his tennis shoes and work and Cadbury mini eggs (uh, Reid, the regular ones are better) and hanging out with friend Douglas. He's kind, thoughtful, and open with his emotions. HE CRIES (or at least gets choked up) during this beautiful haunting scene that gave me CHILLS. He doesn't leave Molly hanging, and when she's unsure about something, HE HELPS HER FEEL SECURE in herself and other things as well. Oh my gosh, he is super swoony and sweet, and I just want to give him a hug. And I want a Reid for myself. Also, Reid is not a super-toned six-pack-toting YA Hero™. He's also not the thin, introverted YA Thinker Hero™. He's a boy that, as Molly says, "people describe as husky" (ARC, page 26). Look, I'm loving normalizing and celebrating different bodies for our YA heroines, but Reid represents something I have wanted just as much: a love interest with a realistic body. A+++ for a cute fat adorable precious nerdy love interest. YA authors, I want more Reids AND I want more Mollys. 

One thing I would like to briefly touch on is the diversity of The Upside of Unrequited. The entire cast is incredibly diverse, and while as a white cis/het/allo woman, I can't speak for most of the rep, I would like to say that I loved how inclusive Upside is. I think sometimes authors do write off a checklist so they can mark off different marginalizations. Becky's writing doesn't feel that way to me, even though the ratio of marginalized characters is fairly high. Molly is fat, has anxiety (and frequently mentions how it makes her feel + her medication + side effects of mixing medication and alcohol), is Jewish, and has two moms (#ownvoices alert for the fat, anxiety, and Jewish rep, btw). Her mom Nadine and her brother Xavier are black (her mom Nadine is Abby from Simon vs's aunt, making her and Molly cousins. And yes, Abby is in Upside!). Her mom Patty is bi, and her sister Cassie is (I believe) lesbian. Mina, Cassie's girlfriend, is Korean American and pan. Reid and his family are also Jewish. Again, I can't speak for the rep, but I love that these families, friends, neighbors showcased the beauty of the melting pot that is America. I also love that Becky included as much intersectionality as possible.

Patty and Nadine are two characters I adore. They remind me a lot of Nathan and Andy, Lola's dads in Lola and the Boy Next Door because of how involved they are in Molly, Cassie, and obviously Xavier's lives (he's a baby). I understand why Disney and YA books kill off the parents or have them be uninvolved. It's easier to not spend time making them three dimensional characters and because the main character can grow without them. Plus Tragic Backstory™. I really liked that both Patty and Nadine separately and together talk to Molly and Molly & Cassie about things. Boys, girls, family, anxiety, drinking, birth control, you name it. I LOVED seeing these parental talks. Sure, they're awkward, but parents should definitely use YA books like Upside to teach them how to do it right. I love me some romance, but these scenes were just as great as the kissing ones. I love how Nadine loves complex swears like shitwipe and Patty understands how confusing the discussion about birth control can be. They're really great literary moms, and I just really love them.

I can sit here all day and gush about how great I think this book is, but we don't really have time for that. I'd rather you go buy this book for yourself (or check it out at the library or borrow from a friend!) and discover it for yourself. It's hard for me to say how much The Upside of Unrequited touched me. It's beautifully written, and I feel such a kinship with Molly in so many regards. I think this book has the ability to mean so many things to so many readers, and I hope you all give it a chance. It's absolutely stunning. It's safe to say that Becky has become an insta-read, insta-buy author for me. I'll just sit here impatiently waiting for both Leah book and the Simon movie!

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About the Author:
Becky Albertalli is the author of the acclaimed novels Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and The Upside of Unrequited. A former clinical psychologist who specialized in working with children and teens, Becky lives with her family in Atlanta. You can visit her online at www.beckyalbertalli.com.

Author Links:
   

Giveaway:
Enter to win a signed copy of The Upside of Unrequited!

Open to US & Canada. Entrants must be 13+. Giveaway is open until 12 AM CST [date]. Please enter via Rafflecopter below; winner will be chosen at random, and odds are determined by number of entries. I reserve the right to disqualify any entries that are not in accordance with my giveaway policies as stated in the Review & Site Policies tab at the top of the page. Good luck!

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16 comments:

  1. I AM SO EXCITED TO READ THIS! My copy is due to arrive very soon and I have heard fantastic things and it seems like the cutest so I cannot wait!

    xx Anisha @ Sprinkled Pages

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    1. It is SO ADORABLE! I hope you love it!

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  2. Replies
    1. It is! Definitely give this one a try.

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  3. this book sounds fun and emotional. I've had this on my to-read list since I first read the synopsis. Can't wait!!

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    Replies
    1. It's absolutely both fun and emotional. I laughed and cried for sure!

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  4. I am so so excited for this one! And the cover is BEAUTIFUL!
    Rafflecopter name: Megan S.

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    1. LOVE the cover! I think it's cool that it's similar to Simon. They're sorta tied together in their stories so I like that they have compatible covers.

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  5. This book sounds amazing. I like that Molly is not your typical MC. Your review only makes me want to read it more. Thanks for the opportunity to win it!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! Molly is an amazing MC, and I hope more characters are like her. Good luck!

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  6. Really looking forward to reading this!

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    Replies
    1. Upside is phenomenal. I hope you love it!

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  7. A new book from Becky Albertalli that includes a Tolkien loving character?? I'm so in! :)

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    Replies
    1. YES! HE IS NERDY AND DELIGHTFUL AND I LOVE HIM.

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  8. This book sounds SO good and I love Simon, so I know I'll love this one too! Can't wait to have a chance to read it!

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  9. Epic Reads First Reads sent out the first 5 chapters last week and I LOVED IT SO FAR! Can't wait to read the rest.

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