If this book is important for nothing else, it is important for teaching me that drip drying was a thing that people do in desperate times and it’s pretty freakin’ somewhat socially acceptable. The Upside of Unrequited is Becky Albertalli’s second book and follows a summer in seventeen year old Molly Peskin-Suso’s life as her moms plan a wedding, her twin sister falls in love with a beautiful girl, and she finally decides to face her fear of rejection and get a boyfriend. Of course there’s only one little problem. Molly is a social disaster and can hardly speak to a boy without blushing, let alone date one. When Molly starts her summer job at a hip boutique, she meets the one boy she can talk to and not feel queasy. Enter Reid Wertheim. Molly finds a new friend in geeky, husky Reid, and her twin sister, Cassie, seems to think there’s more to their relationship than meets the eye.
While this book is humorous and a good read, there were several issues I had with Molly’s story. First, why does she have to have a boyfriend? Now, I understand. I really do. I’m going into a book that is clearly going to be about love and crushes. The first sentence of the synopsis on the inside jacket cover states that she has lived through unrequited love twenty-six times. My problem is that Molly very rarely seems to actually want a boyfriend. When she sees her friends with their significant others, she feels lonely for a moment, but most of the insistence that Molly get a boyfriend seems to stem directly from Cassie or her friend group. Molly herself just seems to want someone to do date stuff with. Like a date. Which does not necessarily equal boyfriend. I would have really liked to see Molly date around and build up confidence in her dating abilities through a series of awful and terribly hilarious dates rather than feel pressured to get a boyfriend the entire book. Now that being said, I should note that I’m asexual and aromantic and don’t fully understand why people want boyfriends or girlfriends or both when you could just have lots of best friends and friend dates. So maybe there’s a desire that gets lost in translation here and that’s entirely on me, but Molly is seventeen and young and has her whole life to get a boyfriend.
Another issue I had was with Molly and Will. Will is best friends to Mina (Cassies’s girlfriend) and is the boy that Cassie wants Molly to date (and marry one day so that they can marry best friends). While Will is physically attractive to Molly, there doesn’t seem to be much else to him. Their conversations are barely conversations and they don’t really become friends or have any sort of comradery between them at all. Every interaction they had just felt pressured and like neither wanted to be having it. If they became friends, I would’ve rooted for them. Maybe.
That being said, I did enjoy this book. I loved Molly’s squad and when the girls all got together, #SquadGoals were achieved. It was refreshing to see such love passed between a group of female friends, all so supportive of each other. Molly was someone who I would love to be friends with IRL, funny and creative and so caring for her friends. Olivia, however, was my favorite. Not only does she realize her douchebag ex is a douchebag pretty quickly after they split, but she also befriends Reid when no one else seems interested and she supports Molly 100% in everything she does. Olivia is best. Everyone needs an Olivia in their life.
Cassie, on the other hand, grated on me. In the beginning, Cassie was great. She was funny, love-struck, and supportive of Molly turning a crush into a boyfriend. But as the story went on, she only seemed to care about Molly when trying to hook Molly up with Will. Their interactions began to feel overwhelmingly pressured and tense. Cassie was wrapped up in her first girlfriend, Mina, which happens, but that’s not a good excuse for pressuring her sister into also getting a partner. I will say this for Cassie though: she did try and include Molly in activities with Mina. They just weren’t really activities Molly would enjoy or they involved Will in some way.
Although this review feels more bad than good, Albertalli wrote a fun read about a fat girl coming into her own and learning to take up spaces she doesn’t think she can have. Molly accepts her body as a part of her and, although she doesn’t like her weight entirely by the end, she comes to realize that she is not defined by her size and that she doesn’t deserve less because of it. Although I enjoyed Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda a lot more, The Upside of Unrequited is a good story that I would recommend for anyone a little afraid of love.