After having read Becky Albertalli’s novel Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda earlier this year (which I LOVED also with the super sweet film adaptation Love, Simon which left my heart full of warm fuzzies), I decided to pick up this companion novel, The Upside of Unrequited. And boy, I must say, that just like in my previous Albertalli read, she sure has a knack for personally calling me out through these relatable characters, feelings, and emotions: I swear, a lot of the lines she writes are things that have literally come out of my own mouth, or it wouldn’t be a surprise in the least to hear me say.
The Upside of Unrequited is told from the perspective of a teenage girl named Molly, who considers herself the unattractive, fat sister compared to her twin, Cassie, as Cassie has no problem finding herself girls to hook up with. Molly, however, is a master at developing crushes on people and then not doing anything about them. That is until she finds things changing in her once super close relationship with her sister, after Cassie finds herself a serious girlfriend. So maybe it’s time for Molly to put herself out there with a cute boy who happens upon her way through mutual friends, but you know, there’s also this cute boy at work and… well… what does the heart want, girl?
I must say, this novel does play out in a pretty predictable manner, but that didn’t ruin my enjoyment of it, because of all the very relatable emotions and situations presented therein, that I know all too well: feeling your friends and siblings drift away as your lives change or people develop other relationships, not wanting to put yourself out there with anyone for fear of breaking your own heart, and then waiting so long to actually be in a relationship that you wonder if there’s something wrong with you that people don’t like? I myself guard my heart pretty intensely, and never think anyone I like could possibly return those feelings, so I feel you, Molly, I really do. And the relationship with Molly and Cassie within this novel really does feel natural and real to me, and was one of the most interesting aspects of it for me, as I find myself sometimes at odds with my sister one moment but then thick as thieves the next, all while still being able to acknowledge that things aren’t per say the way they always have been or how they always will be.
But the problem with being a companion novel is that a comparison to the novel to which it pairs is inevitable. And I must say, I did enjoy Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda more than this novel. I think this mainly is personal in a way, but The Upside of Unrequited just didn’t grab me emotionally in the same way, which may have to do with how much closer I am holding issues of my own sexuality at this time versus issues with unrequited feelings. Because I’ve definitely felt both, but here I was just lacking that little tug on my heart. It may also be that some major chunks of dialogue and interaction between characters occurred through text message; while I know that everyone has a different way that they write and thereby text, it just never held me or I didn’t really feel that locked in when reading any of these parts, at least, not in the same way that I found the more extended expression of the emails in Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda to convey a bit more to me (but you know me, I love to be extra wordy in not just my reviews here, but also my text messages: just ask my poor friends who end up reading novels worth of writing all the time). There is also the factor that while I adore the characters Albertalli creates, there are a lot of cringey little lines and nuances that don’t always land when the teenage characters are speaking or narrating. Sign of the times, y’all, I’m getting old I guess, but every now and again I can’t help but think, “that’s not really how teenagers talk, is it?”
That said, The Upside of Unrequited was again a very sweet novel, that I definitely found some serious moments of relation to at times. I maybe didn’t love it, but I enjoyed it enough to want to later read Albertalli’s next novel, Leah on the Offbeat (yet another in this same universe of novels). I really like the easy breezy style and how such real feelings and moments are so easily woven in.