★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
My opinion in three sentences:
The Upside of Unrequited can definitely be classed among the typical YA high-school summer romance stories, but should be classed as an example for character diversity (because it was terrific, brimming with a great range of characters, religions, sexualities etc. that we see in everyday life!) Writing-wise, I found it difficult to establish whether the book was a character-exploration or a plot-driven romance story, which diminished from the unputdownable-ness, but otherwise the literary quality was great. I found it hard to connect to the characters at first, but this issue seemed to clear up as the novel progressed (even if there were moments that felt a bit out-of-character every now and then).
(Without ruining anything) The best bit:
This is exactly how YA/NA (and all other genres, really) need to become. Albertalli’s character diversity was incredible, and yet realistic, and these unique qualities were not used to define anyone. There was no token character just because they’re gay, or a Jewish pansexual, or have anxiety – everyone was just everyone because that’s who they were. The book also touched on some key relevant themes, and again, didn’t make big deals out of all of them just to tick diversity or issues-of-the-modern-age boxes. The main themes were the main themes because they were the ones relevant to the plot.
A warning for the book:
So, other than the points I drew up in the summary, there was one small bugbear I had towards the end. Molly’s first acceptance of her self-value and beauty comes at a time that seems to present the ‘boyfriend-so-beautiful’ narrative, which jarred on my nerves. Having a scene prior to boyfriended-Molly where she accepts herself and then this scene would have helped greatly, but with this being the only overt incidence of self-love, I was a little annoyed and disappointed – we need to get over the idea that you cannot be beautiful alone, and need other people to justify your worth. It was a minimal scene, and I’m being picky, but for such a progressive book, the step back was a little disappointing.
Recommended for fans of:
- The Summer I Became a Nerd by Leah Rae Miller
- When We Collided by Emery Lord
- We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
N.B.: An ARC of this book was received from Netgallery in return for a reflective and honest review.