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

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:
Eleanor & Park
Carry On

Kindred Spirits