Saturday, 18 March 2017

The Upside of Unrequited // a truckload of diversity and relatable experiences

Before I even picked up The Upside of Unrequited I was quite nervous to read it. I loved Becky Albertalli's debut novel, and I didn't want to find myself comparing the two. But despite the two stories existing in the same world, they ended up feeling very separate. And although I didn't like it as much as I loved Simon, I found that Upside was cute and relatable in a whole different way.

Molly has had plenty of crushes, but never any relationships. And this book captures really well how terrifying that is. At an age where everyone is doing one thing, it can feel like there's something wrong with you for not being the same. I'm amazed that more books aimed at teens don't deal with stuff like this, because reading about Molly's experiences was something I needed to have read about when I was younger.

"Even if he likes me, I'm not sure he'd like me naked. I hate that I'm even thinking that. I hate hating my body. Actually, I don't even hate my body. I just worry that everyone else might."

I'm also really glad to see an author deal with body issues and an anxiety in the way that Becky Albertalli did too. Molly takes Zoloft (or Sertraline as it's called in the UK), but her anxiety doesn't make her 'different' or 'special'. She's also fat, but she doesn't hate her body, or even want to change it. And I think those things are so so important and need to be written more about. Because often our own fears aren't centred around what we believe, but the thought of what others might believe. Self loathing isn't a necessary part of the teenage equation.

This book was also a truckload of diversity which was pretty awesome. Molly and her twin Cassie are sperm donor babies to two mums (one is a Jewish bisexual woman and the other is a black lesbian woman). Plus Cassie is queer and dating a girl who is Korean and pansexual. So as I said - a truckload of awesome diversity.

But as much as I love diversity and as much as I could relate to Molly's experiences, I didn't really connect with her voice. What she said was relatable, but the way she said it didn't feel real to me. The words and the writing felt really disjointed most of the time, and would go on tangents that didn't really feel relevant. And ultimately that made it really hard to click with, especially for the first half of the book. Also, a lot of the time the story felt as though nothing was directing it - kind of like when you trip and your limbs go everywhere. The story lacked any drive and so I didn't really care as much as I would have wanted to.

Nevertheless, The Upside of Unrequited is still a really good book, and I'm glad I read it. It is something I needed when I was younger, and possibly something I needed even now at nineteen. I will still recommend it to people, not for the writing, but for the messages it holds.

Diversity Note: Fat protagonist who has anxiety, with multiple LGBT+ and/or POC supporting characters

An ebook copy was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.

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