Review: The Upside of Unrequited
I loved loved loved Becky Albertalli's Simon vs. The Homo Sapien Agenda. It was my favorite read of 2015. I have at least 10 copies in my classroom library, and I book talk it every chance I get. I knew I was going to love The Upside of Unrequited just as much. I wanted to love it. I tried to love it. Until finally I was just trying to like it.
The Upside of Unrequited is the story of a girl, Molly Peskin-Suso, who cried a river about having 26 crushes, but not a single one that ended in a kiss or a boyfriend. She has a seemingly terrific life with two supportive moms, an adorable baby brother, and a self-involved twin sister who seems abnormally invested in Molly's unkissed and uncoupled status. There are also some too cool for school friends and the cute, chubby boy who wears hipster shirts and digs Tolkien. Molly attributes her single status to the fact that she's fat, I think. She may also attribute it to the fact that she fears rejection, so she never actually acts on her crushes. I'm not sure where to begin, so we'll do this in bullet points.
What I loved:
* The diversity! Pick a group it's probably in here.
* The portrayal of mature, sexually active teens without the requisite side of angst and steaming pile of plot device regret.
* The setting! Go Maryland.
* Reid. I got down with his geeky cool.
* The characters. These are people we all know.
What I didn't love:
* The diversity. Pick a group it is probably in here. It felt more like a checklist than a natural occurrence. We without a doubt need diverse books, but we need authentically diverse books.
* The strong "it takes a boy to make life worth the living" undercurrent that threatened to drown my soul.
* The counting of the crushes. Everyone has crushes. Everyone. I probably have had 26 crushes simultaneously and I haven't kissed not one of them. Granted over half of my crushes are imaginary people and the rest probably have top-notch security, nonetheless having 26 individual crushes just doesn't seem like a big deal to me. Not to mention, not having kissed or dated one isn't really a benchmark you should use to judge any aspect of your life.
* The characters. These just aren't people I like. I found myself rolling my eyes and letting out a loud huff of breath just a few too many times. Molly needed a good shake. Cassie needs a good choke hold - gut punch combo. Her level of self-absorption is unpalatable. I braced myself to hate her just a little more every time she opened her mouth. Mina needed more depth. I'm a character driven reader, so once I fall out of love with the protagonist(s) the reading becomes a broken and bumpy road.
I feel like I've gone too negative, so how to save this review?
Well, Simon vs. The Homo Sapien Agenda is a movie. It's coming to a theater near you in March 2018. Now, on the surface that might not be the greatest news because book adaptations have a way of breaking hearts, provoking a scorched earth policy, and just generally being disappointing. However, my teacher brain says, "oh yeah, even better chance of getting students to read the book so we can celebrate what it did right and hold its feet to the fire for what it did wrong."
This adaptation does have Greg Berlanti - creator of the CW's Flash - on its side. A quick aside, I'm going to pretend it's Season 1 and some moments of Season 2 and 3 Greg Berlanti and not the Greg Berlanti who thinks Barry should brood like Batman and snatched away the promise of forever love just for kicks and cliffhangers - get it together Flash! I digress. This is a book blog.
I hope you give The Upside of Unrequited a try. My opinion is definitely in the minority. Even with everything I didn't like about this book, I definitely know I'll be putting it in the hands of my students when the school year begins. Even when I dislike a book I rarely regret reading a book. This book made me think and I had to deal with the reality that loving an author doesn't mean loving everything an author writes and that's okay. I'm still a Becky Albertalli fan and I'll be there ready to love her next book.
I hope we aren't fighting.
P.S. - Here are my 26 crushes: Keanu, Idris, Eddie, All grownup Aang, Legends of the Fall Brad Pitt, Flynn Rider, John Reese, Captain Jean Luc Picard, Gandalf, Patrick Stewart, Shang, Ian McKellen, Optimus Prime, Interview with a Vampire Brad Pitt, Captain America, Riz Ahmed, Zuko, Sirius Black, Newt Scamander, the Apple store guy with the awesome sleeve, Dominic Adams, Shiro, Lenny Kravitz, short hair Thor, Kyle Chandler, Dumbledore - I could keep going.