Tuesday 9 May 2017

#CBR9 Book 44: "The Upside of Unrequited" by Becky Albertalli

Page count: 352 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars

Sixteen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso has had a crush on twenty-six different guys (number twenty-six is Lin-Manuel Miranda, and I share your infatuation, girl!), but these crushes have never really developed into anything and she's never kissed anyone. Molly's twin sister Cassie is very encouraging and tries to get her to just "go for it", but Cassie has had flings with a number of girls, and is a lot more outgoing and confident than Molly. While they are twins, the sisters have vastly different body types. Cassie is tall and svelte and graceful, Molly is introverted, quiet and what their tactless grandmother refers to as "zaftig". Being awkward, constantly infatuated and terminally unkissed was bad enough before, now Cassie has her first proper girlfriend, whom she is absolutely gaga about, and Molly feels more alone than ever.

When gay marriage is made legal, Cassie and Molly's mothers resolve to finally get married. Molly throws herself into the wedding planning with gusto, but it doesn't exactly make her want someone of her own to love. Mina, Cassie's new girlfriend, is nothing if not supportive of Cassie's plans to get Molly a boyfriend. Mina's cute hipster friend Will seems like a very likely prospect, especially because then Molly and Cassie could double date with Mina and her bestie. Molly may have a different candidate for crush number twenty-seven. however. Reid, her lanky, fantasy-loving co-worker, makes Molly feel tongue-tied like no other. Two cute boys - will one of them finally be the one to give Molly her first kiss?

Last summer, I read Becky Albertalli's debut novel, Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda. There were so many things to like about it, but I was uncomfortable about the aspect where (SPOILER) the protagonist, Simon, is outed on social media by a classmate, and it ruined some of my happy when reading it. In this book, there wasn't anything of the sort and the teens in this book (Molly and Cassie are cousin's with Abby, one of Simon's best friends - there are tiny cameos from the first book in the latter half of this one) are just as delightful to read about as the ones in Albertalli's first book.

Lack of diversity is still a huge problem in fiction, yet a book like this should be held up as a glowing example of how easily diversity can be done, because it shouldn't have be some sort of "issue", for a huge amount of people, this is just their life and it's important that they can find this reflected in the fiction available to them. Cassie and Molly are twins born by one mother. They have a younger brother, born by their other mother (who is African American), but all share the same donor father. They are all Jewish, as is Reid, Molly's co-worker. Mina, Cassie's girlfriend, is Asian. Molly is straight, Cassie is gay. One of their mothers is bisexual. None of this massively impacts on their characters or who they are.

Molly is a hugely likable protagonist and one of my favourite things about this book is that while there are two boys as potential boyfriends for her, there is no sign of a love triangle. There are no scenes where these two boys fight for her attention. The one vague hint of one actually involves some adorable cluelessness on Molly's part, one of her newly single female friends and one of the boys (who is clearly only speaking to her friend to find out more about her, it's painfully obvious to everyone but Molly).

Being artistic as well as a talented cook/baker, Molly had so many skills that I envied her. I also wish the book had included a recipe for Molly's egg-less cookie dough, because I'm pretty sure I want to make it and eat until I'm sick. That Reid is a young man who clearly appreciates the culinary arts, as well as all things epic fantasy, endeared him greatly to me.

If you liked Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, you are sure to like this one a lot too. I read it during a few happy hours during this Spring's 24-hour Readathon and the reason it doesn't get a full five stars is that I wanted there to be more of Molly in an actual relationship, not just building up to it. This book stands perfectly well on its own two feet, despite the connection to Albertalli's last book, but I absolutely encourage you to read both if you haven't.

Judging a book by its cover: I'm not entirely sure what I think of the cover. I like the bold colours, the bright blue, the stark black and white. I like the emoji and that they've kept the same font style as on Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Since the books are loosely interconnected, it's a nice touch.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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