The Upside of Unrequited
by Becky Albertalli
High School Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins 340 pp.
4/17 978-0-06-234870-8 $17.99 g
Seventeen-year-old twins Molly and Cassie are inseparable despite being wildly different: Cassie’s breezy self-confidence and high energy seem to make dating easy, while quirky introvert Molly experiences intense crushes on boys but, certain that she will be rejected, never acts on them. When Cassie starts dating the sharp-witted, “fucking adorable” girl of her dreams, their relationship is serious enough that Molly worries she is losing her sister and starts to withdraw resentfully into herself, not wanting to “vag-block” her sister. Naturally, enter a crush: Molly’s new coworker Reid, who’s funny, sweet, and unapologetically uncool. Molly’s emotional arc bends toward finding the confidence and courage to be “uncareful” and open herself to love without knowing what will follow. Her narrative voice is astute and frequently humorous, as when she describes her feelings about Reid as “the halfway point between vomiting and becoming a sentient heart-eye emoji.” The girls’ mothers’ upcoming wedding — joyfully set in motion after the Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage early in the novel — provides the perfect set piece for the escalation and resolution of many intersecting plot points and the themes of family, intimacy, individuality, and change. It also allows for the matter-of-fact introduction of a multiracial family (Molly, Cassie, and one of their mothers are white, while their other mother, younger brother, and beloved cousin are not). A perceptive dramedy that tackles substantial themes with warmth and subtlety.