Review: The Upside of Unrequited

2 out of 5 stars

A cute, but very juvenile, story that tries to compensate by burying the B-plots in more adult themes. The Upside of Unrequited, by Becky Albertalli

up2Today’s protagonist is Molly Peskin-Suso: a cute, awkward, overweight, anxious, 1000% terrified virgin YA trope-fest. She meets a cool boy. She meets a dorky boy. Don’t die of anticipation over which she’ll end up with.

The Upside of Unrequited is a perfectly fine book. It would be better if it embraced what it is: for 12 year-olds. Instead, Albertalli drowns her subplots in spicy bits, like a cook trying to save a bland dish that’s due on the dinner table in 10 minutes. She made a loving, compassionate, and wonderful examination of alternative lifestyles in Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda. (And it made a great movie adaptation!) But where Simon held difference and acceptance at it’s heart, this book falls far short. Molly’s family is everything: she has two moms, of different races, is a sperm donor baby, has a hot sister who is also a lesbian, has a baby brother from the same sperm donor dad but the racially opposite mom, a well-meaning but casually racist grandmother, everyone curses, AND the boy she likes is into Lord of the Rings. OH MY. Is is all just too much! How is a girl to cope? [We really need a sarcasm font.]

In light of all these interesting things, Molly appears even more boring than she already is. (She really doesn’t need the help.) And that would be fine. She’s dull but likable, as is Reid, the boy she falls for. Let them be dull but likable together! Their story reads fine, even sweet, and is perfect for tween girls. But no. This plain cake is heaped with mismatched, overpowering frosting in a desperate attempt to age it up. Some people like plain cake! But this story doesn’t trust those people enough, or know where to find them. Instead, it serves a dish I once saw a woman actually make on The Worst Cooks in America: every kind of soup in the cabinet, regardless of flavor, boiled together in a pot.



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