So you know those books that leave you in a daze of love and a whirlpool of feelings long after you’ve read those, that make you wide-eyed and wonder how, before, you could have gone even a day without swallowing those books up (No sense of literalness there), that rile your brain cells in plain astonishment and maybe slight bafflement as to how the character knows so much about you without actually knowing you? the upside of unrequited
Well, if you got to read Becky Albertalli’s The Upside of Unrequited, you do.
After the colossally successful first book Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, you’d have a monumental expectation from the second one. But have no fear, because Albertalli’s this one only reminds you of how deliciously savoury her books can be.
The latest one ticks all the right boxes: Good storyline – Check. Plot without loopholes – Check. Simple but delectable, gripping writing – Check. Flawed, relatable, cute characters – Check, check and check.
The Upside of Unrequited traverses the life of one Molly Peskin-Suso, a seventeen-year-old girl in Maryland. Her genealogy is a little complicated, as far as genealogies go – two mothers who are yet to get married, a twin sister Cassie, and a brother Xavor – all from the same sperm donor, though the role of the donor in the story is pretty scarce to the point of being obscure.The story gyrates around Molly and the fact that she’s had 26 crushes so far, with no ostensible action in her relationship graph, which is pretty static and inert (Not even a kiss was spared to her), and her tangled siblingship with her sister, Cassie. Albertalli sure has a penchant for the ever-conflicting issue of homosexuality, because it plays a fat, grave part in this Cupid-blessed poignant arc of the story, just as it did in her previous book Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Not only her mothers are gay, with the possibility of their wedding suddenly springing into the most real realm of reality, but Cassie is too – who, like her sister, has never been into a relationship either.
Molly finds the perfect girlfriend for Cassie, oblivious to the probability of wreckage that it may engender to their twinship. And like the perfect sister she is, Cassie clenches on to the holy grail of finding a boyfriend for Molly. With her girlfriend’s aid, she even succeeds in finding a cute enough guy for Molly – Will.
But then there’s Reid too, right? You know, the guy she works with at her favourite store for the summer break. The guy with all the goofy grin and Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings T-shirts. So, yeah, it’s all entangled here. But in a good way, as in the kind of entanglement your mind latches on to and let’s go only when it’s untangled.
The character of Molly will warm your heart, with her crafty dexterity at designing things and with the vicissitudes she encounters with her sister and in her love life. The way she depicts the feelings of a crush, her bewilderment at the oddities of attaining a boyfriend, the gradual development of her feelings for the guy you never knew you were rooting for all along, and her floundering to decipher the feelings on that other end, and her simmering ache at having realized the ebb-and-flow policy of every relationship are all so relatable to an extent that it’s almost stomach-churning and you won’t be able to stop smiling or tearing up at that sheer familiarity.
And when Molly, on the whirlwind of jealousy, imagines hurling things at her close friend, you won’t be startled either. Rather, you’d be expecting it, because, well, that’s what makes her all the more familiar, all the more you, doesn’t it?
Reid and Will’s characters are sketched painfully disarming, leaving you exasperatedly cursing your own life; it sure will be difficult to root for only one of them, but somehow, you’ll know who it’s going to be before long. And when that’ll happen, it will in such a heart-wrenchingly desirable way that you’ll wish it was your story Albertalli was unspooling.
Becky Albertalli here explores so many issues, besides the palpitations of hearts and the fluttering butterflies in the stomach: Just like her previous book, homosexuality is a major and vulnerable concern in this one, with a translucent portrayal of Judgement Day at the Supreme Court when gay marriages got legalized in the U.S.
Then the scar of having belly fat, fat arms and well, fat everything – a scar which never gets dry in any country – is another issue she plucks out. Molly’s coming to terms with her own figure, despite her grandmother’s predilection of pointing otherwise, is etched in a beautiful, yet careful way. “Actually, I don’t even hate my body. I just worry everyone else might.” This book is the perfect blend of pounding hearts and whirring brains over issues that could use some whirring and stirring.
So if you want to get in touch with your feelings, and I mean here, any kind of feeling, this book is the right way to go.
If you want to, I don’t know, read to the extent of forgetting what you’re doing, this is the right way to go.
In other words, if you want to know what it feels like to have your own feelings scripted with surreal accuracy, this is definitely the right way to go.
“When you spend so much time just intensely wanting something, and then you actually get the thing? It’s magic.”
Molly’s got it right, it is.
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Tulika is currently “not studying” in her pursuit of a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism. She loves writing, reading books and watching loads of crappy and brilliant films and TV series while waiting for her acceptance letter from Hogwarts.