Anyone who has ever spoken to me about Queer YA has probably heard me sing the praises of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, the first novel by Becki Albertalli. Simon is a light hearted romance about a boy who falls in love with the mysterious Blue online, and over the course of the novel tries to find out who he is. Seriously, it’s lovely stuff.
So to say that I had high hopes for the Upside of Unrequited would be on the mark.
I’m really pleased to say that this is a great novel. Not only that, but this novel temporarily kept me sane.
A few weeks ago, Nerys our new pup ate something. We’re still not entirely sure what it was, except huge and plastic, with some kind of blue string inside. I realised she was sick just after I bought Upside, when she vomited into my hand and looked very lethargic. I took her home and she started to go downhill, vomiting or passing diarrhoea every fifteen minutes. The vet said just to keep an eye on her. I was terrified she had parvovirus, which would be fatal for a puppy her age, except I knew that her lack of a fever and a few other symptoms meant it probably wasn’t.
I was falling apart.
We pulled out the sofa bed, and I prepared for a long night of watching her, cleaning up the sick and diarrhoea, and hoping that she would be okay.
In between passing fluids, she slept in my arms. I was bereft.
I picked up The Upside of Unrequited. I had to focus on something that wasn’t my anxiety racing and screaming that this was it, she was going to die, because good things that happen to me don’t last. I needed something to focus on.
That night, Upside was the raft I needed. The novel follows Molly Peskin-Suso, adorable pinterest-loving and pure romantic at heart, and her twin sister Cassie. While peeing, Molly meets Mina and, convinced that she is the future love of Cassie’s life, brings them together on the last train home.
With Mina comes cute hipster Will; the perfect double date? Meanwhile, Molly lands her dream job at a vintage themed store, where she meets adorable nerd Reid. Boys like buses, Molly suddenly has two crushes… After 26 unrequited crushes, is Molly’s luck about to change?
Molly’s romance storyline is bolstered by her sister Cassie’s burgeoning romance with Mina, and the upcoming marriage of her mothers thanks to legalisation of same sex marriage in Maryland. While ostensibly being a novel about a straight romance, this is quite a gay novel. Hooray!
It took me a few pages to work it out, but one of the twins’ closest friends (and cousin) is Abby as in Abby from Simon! It gave me a little thrill to see the universes crossover – Albertalli is continuing this theme with her third novel which will focus on Leah from Simon.
Upside is warm, funny and hooks you in the heart in the same way that writers like Rainbow Rowell, John Green and Julie Murphy have managed to do so in the past. It carries a richly diverse, fully formed cast of characters, and weighs up some complex issues amidst the joviality – homophobic relatives, understanding ones sexuality and fatphobia to name three. Molly is relatable, sweet and reminds me of being an awkward chubby teenager (as opposed to an awkward chubby adult).
This novel kept me afloat through one of the darkest nights of my life. Once she had passed the weird plastic pebble thing and fallen asleep, I stayed up to read a little more of Upside. It was more than just a life raft; it was a really great novel.
Interested? Get it here.
What to read next:
This book is featured on my list of YA novels with QUILTBAG themes here.
(For those concerned, Nerys is totally fine and continues to eat things she shouldn’t, though now it tends to be my food rather than random objects).