Sunday, April 30, 2017

Review: The Upside of Unrequited Might Be My Biography

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

Published 2017 by HarperTeen

336 pages, contemporary.


My reviews usually tend to be more of a personal response than a summary and analysis.  This one will be EVEN MORE SO.  Fair warning.




I'd been looking forward to Becky Albertalli's latest, since I really love Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.  I didn't read the jacket blurb or anything, since that's how I roll when I trust an author; I want the story to surprise me.  I had seen something on Twitter in which Albertalli pointed out that Molly never tries to lose weight, and in which she talked about the terms "fat" and "overweight" and said it was #ownvoices writing.

So that was my background going in.

What I didn't expect is that I would feel like Molly was me in ways I've never seen on the page before.  NEVER. And I've read a lot of books.

I don't say this because we're both fat.  I was skinny when I was a teenager, without making any effort to be so.  Gaining 75 pounds in three years has given me new perspective on fat shaming, but putting on all this weight as an adult also protects me from some (not all) of the internalized shame.  I'm still me, my husband still fancies me, so IDGAF about the rest of the world's opinion.  Mostly.

But I relate to Molly SO HARD.  Here's the thing:
I married my first boyfriend.  He was two years behind me in high school.

Think about what that means for a minute, because I'm about to radically change that.


We met when I was 31.

(It was a big high school, and neither of us had any idea the other one existed.)

I did not have a romantic relationship until I was 31.  I don't mean "no serious boyfriends" or "no living together."  I mean I did not ever date anyone.  At all. Even a little bit.  And I felt so very much like Molly does, only I was super private about my crushes.  Because I figured either a) people wouldn't get why I liked the guy (Reid), or b) they'd think it was funny how far out of my league he was (Will).  And either way, I'd be mortified.

So that scene where they're all talking about sex and Molly feels incredibly out of it?  THAT HAPPENED.  I was in my twenties, and a bunch of friends were laughing about the craziest places where they'd had sex (meaning settings, not orifices), and I was all "please let this conversation die before it gets around the circle to me." 

And people tell you you're just "too picky," and you think--um, when have I ever had a freaking CHANCE to be picky?  And you assume there's just something inherently un-dateable about you.  But you have good friends and your family is great, so you don't let it define you or rob you of all self esteem.  And you roll your eyes at people who date jerks, or who are freaking out about being temporarily single.  Because why is it such a big deal?

And you enjoy the rush of your crushes, and you maybe do a few stupid alcohol-influenced things with guys you are not dating, because you do have hormones, after all.

And then you fall in love.  And to those who complain that this book sends the message that you aren't really okay until you're found worthy by a man, I say bullshit; that's not the message.  The message is that loving someone and being loved in return is fucking awesome.  And if you are smart enough to know you'd rather be single than settle, and you've accepted that it looks like that's the choice you're going to stick with, to find someone and fall in love is just joy. Whatever it was that you thought made you "undateable"--your weight, your weirdness, your splotchy face or braying laugh or whatever--just doesn't matter.  You don't have to be a certain way to deserve love.  You just have to find a person who loves you, and take a leap.

I think this book is absolutely lovely and lovable even if you don't relate to Molly in this way.  It honors friendship and family as much as romantic love.  It calmly includes all sorts of representation.  It has funny lines and wry observations and lets people be people.  Becky Albertalli is no one-hit wonder.  I will read whatever she writes, forever.  

5/5 stars


4 comments:

  1. I’m so excited to read this book. I’m glad you found it relatable!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  2. I think it's so awesome and amazing that this book has touched so many people. I loved it too. Molly was the best.
    Sam @ WLABB

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  3. This is the second review I've read of this book today (the other was from Shannon---she also loved it) and now I'm super excited to read it. I'll confess that I've been putting this one off for some reason. No more.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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