Thursday, 4 May 2017

Review: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

The Upside of Unrequited is definitely, definitely one of my favourite reads of 2017. This brilliant, and well thought out coming of age novel tells the story of Molly Peskin-Suso, a seventeen year old who has experienced twenty-six crushes, but never had a boyfriend. Meanwhile, her somewhat more outgoing twin sister Cassie is experiencing her first romance with the quirky Mina, and doesn't seem to have as much time for Molly anymore. Meanwhile, it's finally legal for their mothers, Nadine and Patty to marry and it seems as though everyone else is moving forward with their lives, and Molly is left feeling somewhat clueless.

Author Becky Albertalli nails exactly what it feels like to be seventeen and completely clueless about relationships while everyone seems to be moving forward. Her relationship with her twin sister is changing--no longer is she the most important person in Cassie's life, and, suddenly, there are things which (understandably,) Cassie does not wish to share with her, leading Molly to feel rejected. Molly blames all of the usual factors--her appearance, and being a bit shy--on the fact that she does not have a boyfriend, while being unaware of what factors determine who we end up with. She's willing to be set up with Mina's hipster friend, Will, who the others think she should be with, and seems almost oblivious to what is going on between herself and her nerdy, chubby colleague Reid. (Whom the others do not seem to consider 'dating material.') Things all work out in the end, though, in a way that is both pleasing and realistic.

Perhaps what sets this novel apart from other teen coming of age novels is one simple thing. Diversity. The author moves away from traditional American stereotypes and presents us with one of the most diverse families that I have ever read in fiction. The Peskin-Suso family are jewish, bi-racial and the kids have two mothers and are all conceived from the same sperm donor. (There is a younger brother as well.) Nadine and Patty are reasonably laid back (within certain limits as Cassie discovers at one point,) and they have some excellent advice for Molly at crucial points during the novel. (In other words, they are cool parents.) At some points, I felt like diversity was put in their for the sake of it (Cassie mentions that Mina is Pansexual, and the implication of this was never really touched upon,) but overall, it's an excellent story about finding your own way, and your own path in life. 

Apparently, this novel features some of the same characters that appeared in the authors previous work, Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda. I will be keen to check that one out in the near future.

Highly recommended.