The Upside of Unrequited Review

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.

Right?

Review: 1.25/5

I’m really shocked about how everyone is treating this book? The average Goodreads rating is 4.24. My GR friends often have a lower rating (because I love adding people who criticize books as harshly as I do), but the average among my friends is a 4.22.

I feel like I read a totally different book. I didn’t see a swoony romance, or a relatable character, or…much of anything really. What I did see was a very f*cked-up way of discussing feminism and other social issues, intolerable teens, and a boy fixation that refuses. To. Disappear.

So let’s get into it. Unpopular opinion time!

CHARACTERS

So the main character of this book is named Molly. She’s boy-crazy, Pinterest-crazy, and the full on worst allllll the time forever. We are trapped in the cyclical complaining of her head for 300-plus pages.

Molly, despite having an astronomical number of quasi-crushes, has never been kissed, gone on a date, had a boyfriend, etc. Each and every one of those three hundred pages is dedicated to the absolute tragedy of this fact.

Everything is about Molly. Molly has two moms, and on the day gay marriage is ruled as legal in the U.S., her moms get engaged. Yay! That’s so great! I love that!

Molly loves it, too. For like, five freaking seconds before the whole day becomes about her. Here’s her dumb thought process: “There really is a dreaminess about today. Even our customers seem unusually coupled up. They’re all holding hands. It’s like a Valencia-filtered Noah’s ark.
“And it’s nice.
“Except…sometimes I feel like I’m the last alone person.”

NO. NO EXCEPT. IT’S JUST NICE. THAT’S IT. You don’t have to make it about you. Trust me, we haven’t forgotten your quest to have a boy validate you. You can stop talking about it constantly for a page and just bask in the fictional recreation of a step toward equality.

Among other things that Molly makes about her: Cassie’s first relationship, every interaction between Cassie and Mina, and every major and minor event in her friends’ lives. (I’m talking their relationships, their breakups, their flirtations, their sexual encounters. It never goddamn ends.)

She’s also uncomfortable alllll the time. Anytime anyone mentions relationships, crushes, kissing, sex, guys in general. And anytime she’s uncomfortable, she takes the opportunity to delve into her Boy Quest for twelve more pages. It’s so exhausting. God, this book was just not fun at all.

Ooh, and lest I forget: at one point, Molly blatantly uses a boy to make another boy jealous. And that’s never condemned. Cool! Let’s just treat people like emotionless objects! Speaking of which…

Molly has a twin. Her name is Cassie. They do not look anything alike, as Molly tells us frequently, but they are identical in levels of terribleness! Yay!

Cassie is very horrible. Because she is a total b*tch and Molly is a total doormat, Cassie frequently uses Molly to attain whatever goal she has. She uses Molly as a funny story to attempt to charm Mina, the girl she likes, while Molly is there. She decides to force Molly into a relationship with Mina’s friend Will, so she can still spend time with Molly without having to sacrifice any sexy time with her girlfriend. She continually embarrasses Molly in front of Will, by strongly implying she has a crush on him and, in one fun occurrence, telling a story about a thirteen-year-old Molly vomiting in public! Fun!

She’s also a bad sister and treats Molly like dirt. Even though they have a cheesy apology scene straight out of Full House, literally none of that is resolved. Cassie stays awful and so does Molly. Yay!

Mina is pretty flat. I’m supposed to think she is cool. I do not. Her friends, Max and Will, are total jerks. I am supposed to find Will charming or cute. I do not. This book is a snoozefest.

Reid is…fine. I wanted to like him more than I did. There’s nothing I love more than a nerdy male love interest, but he just…didn’t do it for me. This book spends so much goddamn time wrapped up in Molly’s whining that most other characters are so flat it’s unbelievable. Like, this book felt like it was a million pages long. You’re telling me you couldn’t find time between in-depth descriptions of Game of Thrones graphic tees and edible cookie dough to give a guy a trait?

But let’s talk more about the plot. Or lack thereof, I guess.

PLOT

This section should probably just be blank, because there’s no plot I could discern. Nothing EVER HAPPENS. It’s just Molly whining about boys. Over. And over. And over again. If something happens, it’s filtered through the Boy Quest, and turns into fifty pages of crush analysis. Ughhhhhh.

I just hated being inside Molly’s head. She’s so boring. A bunch of times people called her funny, and those were the only instances I laughed at this book. She is not funny. She is a snoozefest personified. And I know that she loves to whine and pity herself – why else would she do just that instead of solving her problems by, I don’t know, talking to her sister or friend or crush? F*ck. I’m just so glad I’m done this book.

SOCIAL ISSUES

This book just…keeps trying really hard to hit the nail on the head with social issues and it just…can’t get there. It’s kind of upsetting, actually. But when I make sweeping claims, I’ll always hit y’all with that fresh evidence. Here’s the first I recorded, from page forty-five.

After a loooong, boring conversation in which Molly’s cousin Abby whines about whether she’s a slut or not after having sex with the boy with whom she’s in a committed relationship, Molly hits us with the following gag-worthy interpretation of what the word slut should mean in the face of feminism: “Here’s what I would never, ever admit out loud: a part of me always thought it was some kind of a secret compliment when someone got called a slut. It meant you were having sex. It meant people wanted to have sex with you. Being a slut just meant you were normal. But I think maybe I’m wrong about that. Maybe I’m so wrong.”

Ugh. See what I mean? The author is trying sooo hard. But she’s not even close! The feminist way to treat the word slut is to be against slut shaming. That’s it; it’s pretty simple. There are a million fun videos and TV episodes you can look into. But this passage essentially, like, validates slut shaming. Do what you want, ladies. Have sex or don’t, as much or as little as you want. Who flipping cares? It’s your life. (See, Albertalli? It’s not hard. Feminism is mostly about trying to free women from the restrictions on their lives. Do you understand how you’re solidifying one?)

Wanna know how else I figured that Albertalli doesn’t really ~get~ feminism? This: “But I spend a lot of time thinking about love and kissing and boyfriends and all the other stuff feminists aren’t supposed to care about. And I am a feminist. But I don’t know. I’m seventeen, and I just want to know what it feels like to kiss someone.”

YOU’RE ALLOWED TO BE A ROMANTIC AND STILL BE A FEMINIST. Again, like I said earlier! Feminism is about freeing up those restrictions! Feminism is about saying that women can be the stay-at-home mom, or the career woman, or a mix! Romantic or cynical or in-between! Ugh. Read an article or something. How do you not understand feminism as a woman in 2017? (Don’t answer that.)

Also, see the gay marriage thing from earlier. You’re already using a step for equality as a plot device; don’t make it worse.

There’s another thin line walked here. See, Molly is overweight. And like many YA girls, she’s a fat girl who doesn’t like her body. Well, she says once that she does. But she also says that while believing no boy could like her, thinking she’s incapable of having sex or looking good naked, and being incredibly susceptible to the criticisms of her grandmother.

But do you see how this could be problematic? Guess what happens concurrently? Did you guess? Yup. Molly gets validation from a boy, and at the same time, looks at herself and thinks she’s beautiful. Maybe those are unrelated. I hope they are. But it seems unlikely. And that’s messed up.

Ladiez, and gents, and everybody, you’re great whether or not a romantic partner is telling you that. Got it?

GENERAL STUPIDITY

Something that really bothered me about this book was…totally pointless, but still. Molly always calls texts “missed texts.” Like, she’d check her phone fifteen seconds after it vibrated, and she’d be like, “I had a missed text.” No, you don’t. There’s no such thing as a missed text. Just reply to a text!

Maybe that has something to do with how each and every text conversation consisted of the other person responding instantly. NOT HOW IT WORKS.

Also, this book takes place in summer, and Molly’s always like, “I woke up at dawn.” Or, “Cassie woke me up early.” Sleep in! The f*ck?

MINDLESS COMPLAINING

Because of who I am as a person, I also have some really mundane things that filled me with just as much anger as the most terrible character ever could. And even though they make no sense, and it’s not the author’s fault, I still want to include them. Because I have no filter. So here we are.

Speaking of unpopular opinions, I flippin’ hate Lin Manuel Miranda. Every time his name is mentioned, I seize up in a cringe so debilitating I am paralyzed for the next seventeen seconds. He gives me secondhand embarrassment like I have never before experienced in my life. And the guy gets some serious name-dropping action in this book. So that was hard.

Unrelated, am I the only one who doesn’t like when an author’s books all exist in the same world and they forcefully have the characters encounter each other? It feels so strange and unnatural and bleh. Like, I’m fine if they are in the same town and mention the same places, but the second the guy who makes your pizza is the male love interest from two books ago, you’ve lost me. I’m not into it.

AND THE WORST SIN OF ALL: WHEN MOLLY IS TRYING TO THINK OF SONGS THAT “ALMOST RUINED MUSIC,” SHE PICKS AVRIL LAVIGNE’S CLASSIC HIT SK8ER BOI. What an IDIOT. That song is f*cking amazing. Music would have been ruined if she hadn’t graced us with the dulcet tones of that sweet, sweet tune.

BUT…

The LGBT+ representation in this is really great. I counted three lesbians, a bisexual, and two (barely mentioned but still) gay couples. Yes, there are still, like, a bajillion straight people, but this book represents people from the LGBT+ community like people. Most YA books follow a gay person at its center, and often their journey is the plotline. Which is really important. But equally important is having supporting and background characters be gay. That everyday inclusion matters, too. So…

Bottom line: This is getting a bit extra for the representation. But I really hated everything else about this book so much.

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