The Upside of Unrequited follows the story of seventeen-year-old, Molly Peskin-Suso who knows all about the world of unrequited love after having a string of crushes but nothing in return. Her twin, Cassie, is her complete opposite and everything changes, including their close relationship, when Cassie meets and falls in love with Mina, a girl Molly meets in a girl’s bathroom (yay for female friendships formed in the toilets!!) Faced with being alonie, Cassie tries setting her up with Mina’s best friend, Will and he’s everything Molly would usually go for. That is until she gets a new job and meets the Tolkien/Game of Thrones fan (who wears seriously white trainers,) Reid. What follows is a journey of self-acceptance, love in all its forms and a story full of diverse and fantastically written characters.
I feel as though, if you read a basic plot synopsis for The Upside of Unrequited without any context or background information on the characters, it could seem like your typical girl-meets-boy YA contemporary. The thing is, it couldn’t be further from typical.
Our main character Molly is a fat, Jewish girl with mental health issues and a wonderfully quirky sense of humour; she’s a girl with an lgbt+ twin, two mums, and her and both of her siblings are surrogates. I didn’t realise how much I needed a book with Molly Peskin-Suso as the main character until I read this. I absolutely devoured the entire book within a couple of hours, it was that enthralling, funny, and at times painfully true to life. Molly is a character you will connect with straight away – she’s so likeable and easy to relate to, and I genuinely felt her anger on the rare occasions that she got mad.
As a girl who would be called overweight by a BMI calculator, Molly was a breath of fresh air for me. Finding a book with an overweight main character, especially a YA book, is such a rare occurrence – I actually can’t think of any others that have one. Although Molly’s life doesn’t revolve around her weight (which was such a positive thing to reinforce!!!) she mentions issues that all of us slightly larger girls deal with – the chub-rub, the “you’re pretty – for a fat girl” comments, the constant mental comparisons to skinnier girls – it’s all dealt with in this book. I was immediately hooked when I read this extract, literally on the first page:
‘I suck in my cheeks so it looks like I have cheekbones. And it’s quite a transformation. Sometimes I have the idea that I could maintain this. I could spend the rest of my life gently biting the inside of my cheeks. Except for the fact that it makes my lips look weird. Also, biting your cheeks definitely gets in the way of talking, and that’s a little hardcore, even for me. Even for cheekbones.’
Honestly, I cannot even count the amount of times I’ve stood in front of a mirror and done similar things. I knew as soon as I read this that I’d instantly connect with Molly, and my love grew for her throughout the entire book.
Anyway, although I really loved Molly (if you can’t tell that already from my insane amount of gushing) I did also love other things in this book! Cassie perhaps wasn’t the best sister at times, but I loved how she always called out things that were wrong, and she was always prepared to stand up for Molly, even to her Grandma. I loved her personality and I adored her and Mina. I wish we could have seen more of Mina though – I have to admit that I fell in love with her just a little bit. Nadine and Patty, Molly and Cassie’s parents, were absolutely perfect, and as Angharad said – it’s a YA novel and they were actually present in their kids lives! They were such a down to earth couple and definitely family goals. Reid and Molly were also so cute together, and again, it was a breath of fresh air to read a YA contemporary that didn’t resort to instalove. I loved watching their friendship grow and the way that they bonded over a love of mini eggs and cookie dough – food based friendships are the best kind, and everyone knows it.
One of my pet peeves with many YA contemporaries is the attempt to include social media without actually naming any modern day companies or websites. I find that often authors will say the main character “logged into a chatroom” etc, and you just feel instantly disconnected and transported back to the 90’s. I really appreciated that the characters in this used up to date websites and apps that we all actually use – they’re always checking Facebook and Instagram, and Molly is a complete Pinterest addict. Although this is just a small thing, I do really think it helps a modern day audience to connect to the characters (I mean, who even uses chatrooms anymore? Do they still even exist?!)
Overall, The Upside of Unrequited is such a diverse, modern, and generally relatable book. I love a good contemporary, but I am so tired of reading something that tries to portray the real world, but it couldn’t be further from it. Becky Albertalli’s world in Upside – with a range of diverse characters, strong but complicated family ties, different religions, and hey, characters who aren’t all a perfect size eight with a flat stomach – this is the real world, and it was absolutely perfect.