Review: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

I’ve been curious about Becky Albertalli’s The Upside of Unrequited for a while, and after hearing great things about it — along with her other book, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda — I decided to give it a shot. I was intrigued by the story, as well as the many, many reviews I read that praised its diversity and swoon-worthy-yet-not-cheesy romance. It sounded like the perfect book to include in my month of contemporaries!

Not sure what this book is about? You can find a short synopsis in my August TBR post! πŸ™‚

What I Liked: I think the question should really be what didn’t I like? Because this book was wow. Really wow. ❀ Albertalli drops you into this world, with these distinct, dynamic characters, and it all feels so real. Like I could go to Takoma Park and have dinner with the Peskin-Susos, eat cheesecake with Molly, Cassie, and Mina, paint pottery (and maybe get some blue streaks of my own) with Olivia, talk Game of Thrones with Reid… By the end of the book, I didn’t want to leave them behind. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before made me feel like I was back in high school, but this book made me feel like I was crushing on a boy all over again. The descriptions of those pleasurable-and-yet-also-panic-inducing feelings are perfect, and even though the reader sort of knows from the start that Molly is going to fall for Reid, watching them grow closer to one another (The cookie dough! The texts! That first kiss! 😍) is too freakin’ adorable.

What I Disliked: Honestly, nothing. I couldn’t put this book down. Much likeΒ Fangirl, I stayed up way too late reading it, and then I spent half of the next day finishing it. I’ve seen some criticism about the plot — or, rather, lack of plot — but I was totally fine with the focus being more on the characters’ relationships and less on external events or situations. And yeah, I wasn’t a huge fan of Cassie, or even Will. But I think it’s important to remember that they’re teenagers, and bad decisions and bad attitudes are par for the course. (And this is something I’ll try to keep in mind re: Peter K. in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. I promise.Β πŸ˜…)

Here’s something I’ve realized about myself: I do not miss teenage drama. When you’re a teenager, everything is a big deal. Like, an end-of-the-world kind of big deal. And trust me, I’ve definitely been there. But when you hit your 20’s and 30’s, it all seems so… unnecessary. And exhausting. And occasionally very, very embarrassing. Here’s a quick example that I’ll probably regret, but OH WELL. I wrote a love letter to a guy — who happened to be a senior football player — when I was a freshman in high school. And I GAVE IT TO HIM. This wasn’t even a Lara Jean situation, with me keeping my love letter in a super-secret, private place, never meant to see the light of day. I gave it to him. And he shared it with his friends. And I was teased about it for the rest of the year. And I pretty much thought my life was over. (Spoiler: It wasn’t.) After I graduated and began teaching freshman college classes, I found myself thinking, Wow! Don’t they realize that [INSERT SMALL, SEEMINGLY-RIDICULOUS THING HERE] isn’t even going to matter five years from now? Or maybe even one year from now? But that’s the thing. When you’re a teenager, everything is either the best or the worst, and small things can be huge, earth-shattering things, and your emotions are on this constant, vomit-inducing roller coaster ride that you can’t stop even if you try. So… I get it. I do. But I’m so glad that I’m done with it.*

*If you, dear reader, are a teenager, please know that life gets better after high school. And also after college! I may have to pay lots of bills every month and do boring things like taxes and staining my kitchen cabinets. But I can also go out whenever I want (or stay in all day!), eat cheap wings for dinner, and buy cheese cubes and wine and pretend to be fancy while sitting in my pajamas and binge-watching something on Netflix. What I’m trying to say is, being a grown-ass adult is pretty cool. So hang in there! 😁

Anyway, overall…

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

About the Author: Becky Albertalli
More Books by This Author:
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Yet another book I’ve seen all over bookstagram, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was a sweet read, like the book version of cotton candy. I was surprised I read this so quickly, but once I started, I found it really hard to stop. By the end of the book, I was utterly smitten with Lara Jean, and I’m excited to see what happens in the next two books — P.S. I Still Love You and Always and Forever, Lara Jean. (After I finish my August TBR, of course.)

Not sure what this book is about? You can find a short synopsis in my August TBR post! πŸ™‚

What I Liked: It’s been a while since I was in high school. (*cough* 10 years… πŸ˜‚) But this book made me feel like I was back in high school. The details were spot-on, and the social dynamics felt very familiar. I loved Lara Jean’s family. It honestly took me a while to warm up to Kitty, and I had some conflicted feelings about Margot towards the end. But as an only child, I’m always curious about what it’s like to have siblings, and I enjoyed seeing both the tough times and the happy ones. ❀ I also liked that we learn by the end of the book how Lara Jean’s love letters ended up in the mail. (I won’t spoil it, in case you haven’t read it!) I wondered if that plot detail might be stretched into the second book, or even the third, but I appreciated not having to wait that long. And although I haven’t read the other books yet, I feel like getting that out of the way early will open them up to explore Lara Jean’s relationships in the aftermath of those letters, along with everything else that happened in this book.

What I Disliked: Guys… I spent most of this book not liking Peter K. AT ALL. Sure, he had his moments, and there were times when I thought, Okay, that’s kind of sweet. He’s not so bad. But then he would do something — usually involving Genevieve — that would make me want to throw the book across the room. πŸ˜‘ I wasn’t entirely convinced that he liked Lara Jean. I know she says that, despite his flaws and the fact that he’s a little self-absorbed, he truly sees her, but sometimes… Geez. πŸ™„ Maybe I’m too far removed from high school ~feelings~ to give him a total pass. (And I didn’t date anyone until college, so I’m also not too familiar with actual high school relationships.) But hey! I’m willing to give him a chance and see how things go in the next book. I’m honestly a little more into Josh right now — despite his complicated past/present with Margot — but that might have something to do with that Lord of the Rings marathon he mentioned to Lara Jean… πŸ˜…

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

About the Author: Jenny Han
More Books by This Author:
The Summer I Turned Pretty
It’s Not Summer Without You
We’ll Always Have Summer
Burn for Burn (co-written with Siobhan Vivian)
Fire with Fire (co-written with Siobhan Vivian)
Ashes to Ashes (co-written with Siobhan Vivian)
P.S. I Still Love You
Always and Forever, Lara Jean

My Five Most Anticipated Reads

There are so many great books coming out this fall and winter! I started with aΒ hugeΒ list and managed to narrow it down to just five books. (I’m sort of on a book-buying ban, after all… πŸ˜‰ ). Organized according to release date, these five are the ones I’m most excited to read, and they range from epic fantasies to thrillers to mysterious fairy tales.

NOTE: Rather than include links to the Amazon listings for these books, I’ve instead included links that will take you to their pre-order listings at Parnassus Books. I’m a big believer in shopping small, and Parnassus Books is an independent bookstore located in Nashville, Tennessee. They also happen to have an impressive selection of signed books, and if you live nearby (or nearby-ish), they have plenty of amazing events coming up, including author events with Sarah J. Maas, Kristin Cashore, Leigh Bardugo, Celeste Ng, and Shanthi Sekaran.

Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas
Available September 5th, 2017Β 

Chaol Westfall has always defined himself by his unwavering loyalty, his strength, and his position as the Captain of the Guard. But all of that has changed since the glass castle shattered, since his men were slaughtered, since the King of Adarlan spared him from a killing blow, but left his body broken.

His only shot at recovery lies with the legendary healers of the Torre Cesme in Antica — the stronghold of the southern continent’s mighty empire. And with war looming over Dorian and Aelin back home, their survival might lie with Chaol and Nesryn convincing its rulers to ally with them.

But what they discover in Antica will change them both — and be more vital to saving Erilea than they could have imagined.

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
Available September 26th, 2017

Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron — Rook, the autumn prince — she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes — a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love — and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic by Leigh Bardugo
Available September 26th, 2017

Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price.

Perfect for new readers and dedicated fans, the tales in The Language of Thorns will transport you to lands both familiar and strange — to a fully realized world of dangerous magic that millions have visited through the novels of the Grishaverse.

There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins
Available September 26th, 2017

It’s been almost a year since Makani Young came to live with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska, and she’s still adjusting to her new life. And still haunted by her past in Hawaii.

Then, one by one, the students of her small town high school begin to die in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt for the killer intensifies, Makani will be forced to confront her own dark secrets.

Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce
Available February 6th, 2018

Arram Draper is on the path to becoming one of the realm’s most powerful mages. The youngest student in his class at the Imperial University of Carthak, he has a Gift with unlimited potential for greatness — and for attracting danger. At his side are his two best friends: Varice, a clever girl with an often-overlooked talent, and Ozorne, the “leftover prince” with secret ambitions. Together, these three friends forge a bond that will one day shape kingdoms. And as Ozorne gets closer to the throne and Varice gets closer to Arram’s heart, Arram realizes that one day — soon — he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie.

Are you excited about any of these books? πŸ™‚ What are some of your most anticipated reads? Comment and let me know!

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Even though I’d heard so many wonderful things about this book — and people kept recommending it to me — I was afraid I wouldn’t like it. When you choose to read something outside of your comfort-zone genre(s), I think it’s normal to wonder if you’re actually going to like it. But Fangirl was such a pleasure, from start to finish, and it’s the first book in a long time that I honestly couldn’t put down. (I stayed up until one o’clock in the morning to finish it. And if you know me, you’ll know I’m definitely not a night owl!)

Not sure what this book is about? You can find a short synopsis in my August TBR post! πŸ™‚

What I Liked: Can I just say EVERYTHING? Because seriously… I loved this book. I will say, however, that I really appreciated the (in my opinion) realistic depiction of severe anxiety. As someone who struggles with anxiety, it was incredibly refreshing to see a protagonist deal with some of the same things I’ve dealt with over the years. Of course, anxiety is different for many people, so some readers may not see themselves in Cath as much as I did. But I think Rainbow Rowell did an excellent job of describing how severe anxiety can affect your day-to-day life. As for other things I liked: The dialogue was brilliant, the coming-of-age story worked well (and we were able to see Cath change throughout the story), the relationships — from Wren and Cath, to Cath and Levi — were complicated and messy and real, and the ending wasn’t cliched or overdone. Oh, and Levi was a total babe. I could honestly read about his hair all day. πŸ˜†

What I Disliked: I can’t think of much that I didn’t like. I guess one tiny thing is that, as much as I liked the ending, it felt — to me, at least — abrupt. But it’s possible that I just wanted the book to go on and on forever, so any kind of ending was going to feel like waking up from the most incredible dream. ❀

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

About the Author: Rainbow Rowell
More Books (and Short Stories) by This Author:
Attachments
Eleanor & Park
Landline
Carry On

Kindred Spirits

August TBR

Can you believe that it’s already August? Less than two months until the first day of fall! πŸ˜ƒπŸ‚ I can’t wait for cozy sweaters and hot chocolate. But until then, I’m spending the last few weeks of summer reading some much-loved YA contemporaries. I generally read more fantasy/sci-fi than anything else. But I’ve heard nothing but incredible things about each of these books, and I’m excited to take a gigantic leap outside of my reading comfort zone! ❀

Here are the books I’m planning to read this month…

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
I know, I know… I’m suuuuper late to the (emergency dance) party.Β πŸ˜… But I’m finally reading this, and let me tell you, guys. This book totally lives up to the hype. It’s hard to pick just one book that I’m most excited to read this month… but this might just be it!
Here’s a synopsis:

Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let it go. She doesn’t want to. Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
I’ve seen this book — and the two other books in this series, P.S. I Still Love You and Always and Forever, Lara Jean — all over bookstagram. (And if you’ve seen the covers, you’ll know they’re gorgeous.) This sounds like the perfect summer love story, and I can’t wait to get to know Lara Jean!
Here’s a synopsis:

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them… all at once?

Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved — five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
This book was included in the April Head Over Heels box from OwlCrate, and multiple friends have recommended it (along with Albertalli’s first book, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda). Just from reading the back of the book, I’m already positive that I’ll love Molly, and the story sounds fun and refreshingly real.
Here’s a synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. 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. 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 a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.

Right?

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
This is another book I’ve seen many, many times on bookstagram, and people have promised me that it’s a wonderful read. I’m a sucker for love stories — especially ones that take place in far-off, romantic cities like Paris — so I’m sure I’ll enjoy this! (And probably jump right into the two other books in this trilogy, Lola and the Boy Next Door and Isla and the Happily Ever After.)
Here’s a synopsis:

Anna can’t wait for her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a good job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. So she’s not too thrilled when her father unexpectedly ships her off to boarding school in Paris — until she meets Etienne St. Clair, the perfect boy. The only problem? He’s taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her crush back home. Will a year of romantic near-misses end in the French kiss Anna awaits?

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
This wasn’t initially on my August TBR, but I’ve had the ebook on hold since May, and it finally became available this morning! 😁 I’ve heard tons of good things about this book, and the story sounds adorable. Plus, another great cover!
Here’s a synopsis:

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers… right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him — wherein he’ll have to woo her — he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? And what’s on your August TBR? Let me know! πŸ™‚