The Upside of Unrequited: A Review

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

Rising author Becky Albertalli’s second novel, The Upside of Unrequited, is a smash hit in the footsteps of her debut novel, Simon VS. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Those looking for a cute, funny, and all-too-relatable novel about the struggles of young romance need look no further.

Molly Peskin-Suso has a tumultuous history of crushes – 26, to be exact – never once progressing beyond just that – a crush. She’s always been insecure of herself and ability to find a boyfriend, though when her fraternal twin sister Cassie decides it’s finally time for her to find some love, Molly is sent down a spiraling rollercoaster of emotions and dilemmas.

Cassie wants to hook Molly up with her friend Will. Meanwhile, Molly has developed a secret crush on her co-worker, Reid, who she feels may – for once in a lifetime – actually like her back. But when Molly finds herself attracted to Will as well, things get crazy as she embarks on a journey of confliction, fear, and doubt.

Molly’s struggle between Will and Reid will keep readers guessing until the end, and when Reid appears to have fallen for someone else, Molly’s situation becomes even more dire, and her decision making even more reckless.

The conflict within Molly does not end with the boys, however. As Cassie finally finds herself a girlfriend, the two sisters that have been inseparable since birth slowly begin to drift apart. Molly’s jealousy, self-loathing, and feelings of abandonment strike hard in the hearts of readers in what is a true representation of the many tests and struggles of siblinghood.

Albertalli made a name for herself as a supporter of diversity with Simon, but manages to hit the ball out of the park  with this one. From the relationship of Molly and Cassie’s moms, to the heavily Jewish cast, and representation of overweight characters, this novel has no shortage of diverse figures – and that’s only a handful. The vast amount of diversity glued into the spine of this novel provides characters that many from a variety of cultures and lifestyles may be able to connect with, even on a personal level.  

Albertalli is also sure to capture the feel of teenage life and culture of the early 21st Century. From references to musical artists of the early 2000s to more recent events and trends such as the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015 and online dating, readers of the novel will find no lacking factor of modern American culture, through which most have likely lived.

That is all, of course, in tandem with the relatable struggles of teenage life inked throughout the pages of this masterpiece of a story. In addition to the aforementioned relatability of the diversity, the plethora of scenarios from breakups, to teenage rebellion, peer pressure, underage drinking, and finding oneself, Upside hits home for what is sure to be much, if not all, of its audience. The book also gives adult audiences something to relate to, shining light on matters such as the struggles and dilemmas of parenting. An intriguing plot and compelling characters may make for a good book, but a story that touches the being of its audience opens the door to the heart of a reader.

A novel that captures the time in which it was written and through which its primary audience has lived, as well as the the everyday struggles of youth, The Upside of Unrequited is the perfect coming of age story for anyone looking to laugh, worry, relate, and reflect.