The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
This books was a lot of firsts for me. First YA book I listened to as an audio book (or at least first completely- I’ve tried reading others but stopped part way through). First book with a protagonist also named Molly. First book with a character named Molly that I actually liked. A lot. The upsides of this book are numerous.
Overall: 5/5 stars.
What I liked:
When we talk about #WeNeedDiverseBooks, this is exactly what we need for them to look like. Just like Simon vs the Homosapian Agenda (same author) this book deals with themes instead of Themes. What I mean by that is sexuality and Judaism and body image and mental health are important to the story and the characters but they aren’t the Defining Characteristics. The people and plots are more complex than that.
The ending was satisfying but not too cliche. The emotions Molly feels are so realistic and poignant. Some people have remarked on Goodreads that she comes across as self-centered because she’s focused on how lonely she is rather than being happy for her sister but *hello* this is a major theme in the book. This is what anxiety looks like. This is what adolescence feels like.
Other issues people have had with the book are that she doesn’t become more secure until the end, but again. Adolescence. Anxiety. In a perfect world should we be secure without a significant other? Yes. Can we be insecure and still find love? Yes. Can being in a relationship give us confidence and is that ok? Also yes.
The mothers in this book are incredible. Like all the characters they feel real and tangible and distinct, whereas many YA parents have been victims of stereotypes and sweeping generalizations. The major events in the book (ie legalization of gay marriage) add a refreshing layer of reality.
Having Molly be into something other than sports or art was also great. Who doesn’t like Pinterest and crafts and baking anyway?
In terms of craft, this was well written– the dialogue is strong and the imagery is captivating. The language is realistic for teenagers without being condescending. It was fun to read, serious enough to deal with major issues but not to the point of being sad or depressing, and had a great mix of tension and satisfactory conclusion.
Overall, it was a fun, mushy book– everything you’d want out of a YA romance, and nothing unexpected that you don’t.
What I wish was different:
I get the theme of needing to put oneself out there and be rejected. I get the hesitancy of admitting your feelings to the person you really like. But I have to say that Molly being rejected just didn’t fit quite right. Its important to be rejected and to learn that that’s okay and I get that she wanted to be with Reid anyway, but I would have liked for her to be the one to choose to not pursue anyone else.