Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love-she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.
Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness-except for the part where she is.
Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny, flirtatious, and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.
There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?
“But you know, there’s an upside here. Because when you spend so much time just intensely wanting something, and then you actually get the thing? It’s magic.”
It’s been a hot minute since I read this, but let’s try to scrape up some thoughts.
Molly has had 26 crushes in her life. She’s never gotten to really know any of these boys, and none of them ever knew of her crush, so nothing has come of any of them. Molly scared of rejection, and most of it revolves around how she feels undesirable because of her weight. So she’d just rather not try than to try and fail and be humiliated. I think a lot of people can relate to this feeling, no matter the root of the issue.
I saw some reviews that said Molly whines and complains too much, that she brings up her issues and loneliness all the time, and that it annoyed them. I usually get annoyed by whining too, but I didn’t find myself getting annoyed with Molly that I remember. I understood where she was coming from, especially when her sister, who never dates, gets a girlfriend and starts spending more time with her than with Molly. For sisters who have been super close their entire lives, that is quite devastating.
My favorite thing about this book might have been how the teenagers actually sounded like teenagers to me. The dialogue was realistic, I could imagine them as 17 year olds in my head.
My other favorite thing was Molly’s twin Cassie and her girlfriend. Cassie has been a bit of a playah and a love cynic all her life (to contrast Molly’s hopeless romanticness), but suddenly she falls head over heels for Mina, who she meets in a public bathroom. Of course their romance isn’t the main focus, but it played a big part. And the Melting the Cynic trope is a weakness of mine.
Reid, Molly’s geeky LOTR-fanatic co-worker, was also an adorable character. I definitely knew this boy in high school. Their romance is heartwarming and plausible. Molly spends a lot of time thinking she’s going to end up hooking up with the handsome Will, who’s also interested in her, but slowly but surely realizes the ordinary boy-next-door she’s been working with every day might be the one she has true feelings for. I believe she learns that she has been attracted to a lot of boys aesthetically before, and that real feelings can blossom out of a friendship and usually not out of making eye contact with a cute guy on the bus one time.
Becky Albertalli writes some of the most enjoyable young adult contemporaries I’ve read. They’re cute, fun, realistic, relatable, and this far both her books have had quite a diverse cast of characters. I was happy to find out that in Upside, Molly and Cassie have two moms, Nadine and Patty, and the relationship between the four is fantastic. The relationship and the struggles between their parents as a same-sex interracial couple was also addressed and given the “screentime” it deserved. Tbh I want a book on how they met. So yay for good YA parents, yay for queer weddings, and yay for these two hip moms.
If you want a book that’s quick and cute, go for this. If you want teens acting like teens, for better or worse, then go for this. All in all, this is a gorgeous little coming of age story. I can’t wait for Albertalli’s next book, Leah on the Offbeat.