Cover of The Upside of Unrequited: bright blue background, black arrow pointing up on the left, emoji with heart eyes and clenched teeth on top of white pointing down on the right

About the Book

Title: The Upside of Unrequited (Simonverse #2)
Published: 2017
Series: Simonverse
Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Cover Story: Heart Eyes
BFF Charm: Yay!
Talky Talk: Here’s the Thing (TM Molly)
Bonus Factors: Family, Body Image, Tasty Business, Emoji
Relationship Status: Dancing Ladies with Bunny Ears

Spoiler Alert: While this book can be read as a standalone, it contains appearances and mentions of characters from Simon, so you should consider reading Simon first if you haven’t already. 

Cover Story: Heart Eyes

Simple but cute! The color’s fab, and Molly’s love of emoji is front and (almost) center. I’m also super into an author’s covers all having a similar aesthetic, so I love how it follows the style of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.

The Deal:

At seventeen, Molly Peskin-Suso has already had 26 crushes… and absolutely zero kisses. Which is what happens when you fall as deeply and frequently as Molly does without doing anything about it. Because fat girls like her not only risk rejection, but cruelty, too. So Molly keeps her heart guarded, crushing away in secret instead. 

Her twin, Cassie, on the other hand, doesn’t have that problem. Aside from falling head over heels, anyway, because the cynical Cassie is totally gaga for her new girlfriend, Mina. 

And whaddayaknow – Mina has a crushworthy hipster BFF, Will. But then there’s Molly’s coworker, Reid: geeky, fantasy-loving Reid. Suddenly, the girl with 26 unrequited crushes has two prospects on the horizon – and they might even like her back?

BFF Charm: Yay!

BFF Charm 2 Peas in a Pod - 2 BFF charms nestled in a pea pod

No offense to your actual twin, Molly, but you and I are the ones who are two peas in a pod. I related SO HARD to your caps-y nature, your propensity to overanalyze, and your awareness of your own a-hole tendencies, because SAME, GIRL, SAME. It’s also endearing how excited you are to meet another Jewish person in the wild, because omg that’s like the joy of every Canadian and/or hockey fan outside of Canada meeting one of their own. 

And as a fellow high school wallflower, I wish I could say that you’ll grow out of falling in like with everyone you meet, but HA HA NO? So let’s commiserate over feeling unlovable. Or we can bond over better hobbies of yours like crafting or Pinteresting, whichevs.

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Um, did I become a botanical garden without knowing it? ‘Cause I’ve got ALL THESE BUTTERFLIES UP IN HERE. Seriously, Becky Albertalli is quickly becoming a master of the irrepressible grins. She’s also pretty good at making two main love interests seem non-triangular – or, at least, not in the way that’s gotten a bad rap. (I mean, who among us hasn’t needed a little time to figure out what – or whom – we want?)

Talky Talk: Here’s the Thing (TM Molly)

One of the great things about the diversity in Upside is its awareness of sexual and gender identities beyond those of its characters’. But it’s not so much a breadcrumb than it is an acknowledgement of people all around us – the existence of the whole entire rainbow elsewhere and everywhere.

And Upside‘s normalizing efforts don’t end there; it treats mental health and interracial families as just parts of life, as opposed to Big Flippin’ Deals. There’s also way more vadge talk than I’ve ever encountered in YA. (Hooray, vadge talk!)

Still, there’s something that even Upside can’t normalize. It’s set shortly after Simon (i.e., in 2015), so it’s a little strange to go back into the recent past when optimism had not yet left our hearts. But I digress.

Bonus Factor: Family

A large group of people holding hands and standing on a beach at sunset, with their backs to the camera

Once inseparable, twins Molly and Cassie are starting to lead their own separate lives, with all the complications to their relationship that go along with doing so. Luckily, they can always count on their moms, Nadine and Patty, for love and support. (And OK, baby Xavier, too!) 

Their extended family, however, is more of a mixed bag; sure, they have an awesome cousin in Abby – yes, that Abby – but then they have a homophobic aunt here, a fat-shaming and slightly racist grandma there… Like I said: mixed bag. Although, the emphasis on family in Becky Albertalli’s books basically makes her the Vin Diesel of YA, right?

Bonus Factor: Body Image

Willowdean and Ellen wearing bathing suits with positive body messages taped to them in a scene from Dumplin

Of course, Molly isn’t only a fat girl, but she is a fat girl.* And her insecurities over her size are most pronounced when very helpful humans remind her of it. 

I mean, I know I’m fat. It’s not a secret. […] 

So, I should be used to it. Still, it always throws me a little bit when people say stuff about my body. I guess I want to believe no one notices I’m fat. Or that I’m somehow pretty and fat all at once, like a Torrid model. I don’t know.

Being fat shouldn’t matter, but that’s not the world that we or Molly lives in. Which is how the perception of others – and even dreading of it – affects her life in ways that jerkface opinions really have no right to. 

*Being so cavalier with the term still feels weird, despite my logical brain knowing that fat does not have to be an insult. The stigma runs deep, y’all. 

Bonus Factor: Tasty Business

Molly makes delish edible cookie dough served with ice cream (OMG GENIUS), but Reid has a Simon Spier-level obsession with Cadbury Mini Eggs. Here’s hoping that, just like how each Shonda Rhimes heroine has a booze of choice, each Simon-verse book will continue to pay homage to a delectable snack. 

Bonus Factor: Emoji

Albertalli understands the importance of conveying how real teens** communicate, although translating a visual medium into text isn’t easy. Part of the appeal of emoji is not needing to use, y’know, words, but incorporating them certainly adds to Upside‘s authenticity. (The only way to be more realistic is probably for the characters to express themselves with GIFs as well.)

**Or just people, since I am an Old and pictured above is obvi my own fave emoji.

Relationship Status: Dancing Ladies with Bunny Ears

When it comes to friendship, is there anything more exhilarating than discovering how much you have in common with a new friend? Especially when it’s to the point of, like, freakish compatibility and HOW HAVE WE NOT MET BEFORE? But the upside is that it’s here now, and its love definitely wouldn’t be unrequited.  

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Balzer + Bray. This review was originally posted on Kirkus Reviews in exchange for monetary compensation, which did not affect or influence my opinions. The Upside of Unrequited is available now.

Mandy (she/her) lives in Edmonton, AB. When she’s not raiding the library for YA books, she enjoys eating ice cream (esp. in cold weather), learning fancy pole dance tricks, and stanning BTS. Mandy has been writing for FYA since 2012, and she oversaw all things FYA Book Club from 2013 to 2023.