The Premise: 17 year old Molly is used to her endless cycle of unrequited crushes: a self-perpetuating sequence as she is too afraid of rejection to actually act on any of these feelings. But then her twin sister gets a girlfriend, and the girlfriend has a single friend, and Molly’s love life gets complicated, especially when you factor in the nerdy but nice guy she works with.
Thoughts: the first thing I have to point out about this book is that it has Simon Vs crossover appeal. Yes, really. As Molly points out (actually an amount of times that makes you wonder why she’s so obsessed with this fact), her cousin is Abby, who Simon befriended in Albertalli’s previous book. This leads to some truly delightful guest appearances and I was basically too excited because I love Simon.
Something else Upside has in common with Simon is its inestimable charm; Albertalli certainly knows how to write an incredibly cute but somehow not nauseating group of characters. I liked nearly everyone in this book, particularly Molly’s amazing mums; with lesbian mothers and sister, a mixed race brother and a pansexual character, among others, there’s a level of diversity here that I loved. It doesn’t feel forced; it just seems completely normal, and I am absolutely here for that.
It’s also really clear how much affection Becky Albertalli has for her characters; it really comes across that they’re real and important to her, which makes them real and important to the reader too. I felt like Upside was more character-focused than Simon (which was obviously very character-focused too, but also had the whole “who is Blue?” mystery going on), and this allows the author to develop a proper 360 view of Molly, in particular. She’s not perfect or a martyr or a mess; she’s just really relatable and normal, in a wonderful way. In her narrative, Molly makes regular references to being overweight; I didn’t feel like it was a hugely significant point, and I liked that too; while I had all the time in the world for, say, Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy and its strong focus on the main character’s weight, I liked that, in Upside, it was acknowledged but not at all the point of the book.
In Conclusion: obviously, I’m recommending this. There’s so much loveliness in it, and it’s sweet and funny and realistic, and gives you characters you can actually care about. Also, did I mention Simon makes an appearance? Basically, this made my life.