I’ve had crushes on twenty-six people, twenty-five of whom are not Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Becky Albertalli has killed me again.
Have you ever read something so relatable, so smart, so hopeful and so sweet that it just leaves a sweet pang in your chest? No you haven’t because you haven’t read The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli, the award-winning author of Simon vs The Homosapien Agenda.
I bought Upside looking for more LGBTQ cuteness and Becky’s never-disappointing wise words, but I got so much more out of it.
Title: The Upside of Unrequited
Author: Becky Albertalli
Genre: YA/ LGBTQ
Published: April 11 2017
Seventeen year-old Molly has had 26 crushes, but none of these went beyond crushes. She has a constant habit of self-deprecation and tells herself that “chubby girls always have to be careful”. Enter Reid, Molly’s coworker at her summer job, who is a total dork obsessed with J. R. R. Tolkien and Queen Elizabeth I. For some reason, Molly is able to let down her guards and be her quirky hilarious self around him.
Meanwhile, Molly’s twin sister Cassie, who is totally badass when it comes to relationships, falls hard for Mina. Mina also happens to have this dreamy hipster friend Will, who everyone thinks is perfect for Molly.
Molly feels lonely and somewhat left behind as Cassie starts dating Mina. Maybe it’s time to be less careful. Maybe it’s time to go beyond unrequited love.
it’s so diverse!
Just like Simon vs The Homosapien Agenda, Upside has a diverse cast of characters. My favourite part is Molly’s LGBTQ interracial family. Her moms are just the coolest parents you will ever come across in YA. You also have Mina who is Korean-American and pansexual, and absolutely adorable.
Becky explores the experience of these characters perfectly. Molly has a grandma Betty, who is quite the character. She is just a smidge racist (calls Mina “oriental” the first time she meets her), has issues with Molly’s body image, but is totally cool in certain other aspects. For example, she has never had an issue with her daughter being bisexual.
I mean, I think people have this mentality that sex is only real if it involves a penis.
Becky also writes some of the truest words about weight and self-esteem that I have ever read. In the book, Molly reflects on not only how her body image holds her back from pursuing relationships, but also how the media affects her ideas about intimacy as a chubby girl.
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. Because chubby girls don’t get boyfriends, and they definitely don’t have sex. Not in movies—not really—unless it’s supposed to be a joke. And I don’t want to be a joke.
Because in hazily lit movies, when the girl pulls her shirt up over her head, she stops being me. The hazily lit girl is never me… Under my shirt, there’s no flat stomach, and there are no cute little boobs, and there’s no hazy lighting. It’s just a lot of me. Way too much of me.
Yes. Just yes.
It’s exhilarating to see Molly become braver and end up getting what she wants (and who she wants). She is also so endearingly honest, and through her thought process, Becky drives home the point that it is okay to want. It’s more than okay to want and go after what you want.
It may be embarrassing to admit, but a lot of people, including me, do wonder how one ever gets from crushing to actually dating, because that is something they never explain in movies or books in which things just “come naturally”.
But I spend a lot of time thinking about love and kissing and boyfriends and all the other stuff feminists aren’t supposed to care about. And I am a feminist. But I don’t know. I’m seventeen, and I just want to know what it feels like to kiss someone.
And I never even tried. Never even with the ones who talked to me first.
My whole body is blushing.
It’s funny. I didn’t now I could feel like myself in this kind of moment.
Molly also fears that Cassie and she would drift apart as they each start their own romantic relationships. She sees how her Aunt Karen and her mom Nadine grow apart as they become adults.
But Becky has a way of gently showing you the hopeful and loving side of things, and at the end of the book, Molly muses,
I think every relationship is actually a million relationships.”
This is a light read that I was able to finish in two days, and while it is insanely snarky and light-hearted, it offers so much that anyone would be able to relate to.
Here’s Lin-Manuel Miranda’s playlist, The Unrequited Mixtape, to go with this amazing book.