”Falling in love is terrifying.”
This book was definitely better than “Leah on the Offbeat” but it still wasn’t as great as “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda”. So I guess that means that for me it’s somewhere right in the middle. There were many things I loved about “The Upside of Unrequited”, but I also had some issues I just couldn’t seem to be able to ignore. Which is kinda good, because I like to address my issues head-on. (and I need to write something into my reviews after all, right? They would be boring without a little bit of controversy. *lol*)
”This is going to sound weird, but I think I need to be rejected. I think I need it like I need a flu shot. Or like those therapists who make you hold snakes until you’re not afraid of snakes anymore.
So keeping that in mind let’s talk about the things I loved first: I really liked that Molly was such a relatable teen. I mean she was super insecure and didn’t know how to act around guys she liked and she was crushing on 26 boys and nothing ever happened with any of them! I don’t know about you, but I think this was a really healthy rep! Yes, Molly is seventeen in the book and never kissed a boy, let alone held his hand. It’s often mentioned that she feels stupid and childish because of it, but it’s also implied that this is totally okay. And it is!
She looks at me. “Wow. Like, you can’t. You actually can’t admit it.”
I cover my face.
“This is so sad and adorable.”
“I’m twelve years old. I know.”
“You seriously are.” She laughs. “Which is okay! But you’re gonna have to turn thirteen.”
These days it feels like teens have to deal with this enormous pressure of having a bf/gf in order to be valued and accepted. It was already bad when I was a teen but looking at the next generation now I can see how much this has changed. A teen that’s seventeen and has no romantic experience? Almost impossible. Most of them seem to have their first bf/gf at the age of 12 or 13 and there are some that are even younger. So I’m glad that Molly was a character that only crushed but never followed through with it. It’s okay to have crushes and to wait for the right person, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! 😉
”Because that’s the thing about change. It’s so painfully normal. It’s the most basic of all tragedies.”
Another topic that was dealt with was the power of change and the problems that come along with it. Molly and her twin sister Cassie start to go into different directions because they both make new
experiences, fall in love and start to have a life outside of each other’s orbit. Which is so “coming of age” that it was actually pretty painful to watch. The chasm that opened between them felt very realistic though and even though it hurt to see their sisterly bond getting stretched so much, it was still a great rep. I think everyone who has a sibling can relate to that and I was reminded of the time my sister got her first bf.
”I remember when she got a boyfriend, and she just fell off the grid. It sucked.”
“And 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.”
Those words from Patty rang so true! No one warns you what happens when your sibling starts to date someone and yes, it is some sort of loss. I remember when my sister started to date her first bf. We always used to hang out in our room and watched our favourite TV show together. And well, when she got her first bf I found myself making some comment about the show, turning my head towards her bed just to realize that she wasn’t there anymore. I think what I’m trying to say with this is that you have your rituals and once another person comes into your life, those little rituals sort of die. They are replaced with new people, new experiences and other new rituals. To grow up means to change and you have to accept that change and go with it in order to keep in touch.
”It’s just I’m having trouble balancing this. I’m not used to having another person be this important to me.”
She’s staring at her knees, tears pooling in her eyes.
“And I don’t want to lose us, you know?”
I liked that the issue was addressed in the end but I still think they should have talked more about everything that happened. For twins that were so close before, they actually didn’t do a lot of talking and this led to many misunderstandings and problems during the book. So I found myself being annoyed that they just couldn’t seem to be able to talk about their issues. *lol* I’m a very direct person though so I guess this might count as my subjective opinion. 😉
”I KNOW! She fell asleep watching Harry Potter. Side-eye emoji.
I write back frantically. WHAT? That is the worst. She is the worst.
She’s a squib, he writes. Which makes me smile all the way to Woodley Park.”
Next to the great diverse cast (we have two moms, twins, a pansexual Korean-American character, a gay character, a medical anxiety rep etc.) the friendships in “The Upside of Unrequited” were definitely among my favourite things about this book! XD I loved how Molly and Simon bonded not only over their friendship with Abby but also over their mutual love for Harry Potter. *lol* Those two were just great and I really enjoyed reading about their short interactions. =)
”And I always tell Molly: you’re a little zaftig, of course, but you have a lovely face. Isn’t she lovely?”
So I think now that I talked about the many things I liked, it’s finally time to tackle the problematic topic I had issues with: I really didn’t like that Molly considered herself to be a “fat girl”. So what? She’s not a skinny size zero mannequin and actually has some curves. What’s wrong with that? Nothing! If anything the only thing that’s wrong, is the fact that her grandma made her feel bad about not being skinny. Her grandma was called out on her behaviour though and it was shown that she had her own problems and issues to deal with, but ultimately was a good person. (Which was great because it made her a complex and realistic character.) Still, what I really had issues with is the fact that Molly thought that “girls like her” don’t get boyfriends and apparently needed one to tell her that she’s beautiful before she could accept herself.
”Even if he likes me, I’m not sure he’d like me naked. I hate that I’m even thinking that. I hate hating my body. Actually, I don’t even hate my body. I just worry everyone else might.”
I didn’t like that Leah in “Leah on the Offbeat” always thought about herself as a “fat girl” and I still didn’t enjoy seeing this kind of self-perception in here. It’s like Becky tries to show us that everyone is different, that there are girls with curves out there and that this is okay, yet at the same time they always seem to have problems to accept themselves. Which, with all due respect, is bulls*it! It’s okay to have a normal body, everyone has their problem areas and no one is as skinny as all those models in magazines! For once I’d love to see a normal character in a YA book! (I’m not talking about the “I’m so plain but everyone still loves me because as it turns out I’m actually pretty special- trope” here) And if you truly want to write about girls with curves, then please, please, PLEASE, let them be content with them for once!!! I mean, hell, there are actually people out there that are okay with their body. It would be really sad if all of us would hate themselves like Molly does.
I can only speak for myself but a couple of years ago (yes, I was a teen back then) I posted a picture of myself on social media and there was a guy that commented: “You look great but your boobs are too small.” So what? Yes, my butt is probably bigger than my boobs. I know that and I’m fine with it. *shrugs* And just in case you’re interested in my answer. I told him the following: “Thanks, I’m content with my boobs!!!” Well, apparently some people found this answer so hilarious that they actually founded a group called: “I’m content with my boobs.” But that’s a story for another day. *lol*
To get back to the topic at hand: There are people that love their body, stand by it and accept themselves exactly the way they are! And it would be really refreshing to read about a YA character that doesn’t have issues with its size. I hated that Molly needed a boyfriend to feel good in her skin and the message that was conveyed with that was really wrong. Like only a bf or gf can make you feel beautiful and valued. *shakes head*
“The Upside of Unrequited” was a great book and once I started to read it I found myself rushing through the pages. There were many things I loved: For instance the diverse cast, the different reps and the undeniable fact that it made me feel all giddy and happy at the end. (Which, if you ask me, seems to be a typical Becky Albertalli trade mark. ;-)) Unfortunately there were also some things I had issues with and so this ended up being a 3,5 paws (rounded up to 4) book for me. Still, it was a fast and nice read and it tackled a lot of important topics that are rarely mentioned in other YA books. So for this alone “The Upside of Unrequited” is definitely worth a try. 😉 Happy reading!