Tournament of Books, Round One: Strange the Dreamer vs Upside of Unrequited

The two books I read were Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor and The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli. Both of these books have been on my radar, so I’m glad I had an excuse to read them. I was obsessed with the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Taylor, and I adored Simon vs. The Homosapiens Agenda by Albertalli. I couldn’t wait to dive into these and devour them.

Devour them I did.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

strange the dreamerStrange the Dreamer follows an orphan, Lazlo Strange, who ran away from the monks he was staying with and found himself in the library. Lazlo became a librarian, as one does, with an obsession of this distant city that he can’t remember the name. It’s right on the tip of his tongue, but it seems to have been erased from his, and everyone else’s, memory. The only name that comes out is “Weep”. Lazlo becomes enamoured with everything to do with Weep. He studies the origins, the folk tales, and even teaches himself the language. Lazlo forever stays in the library, until the day he doesn’t.

The Godslayer, a mysterious warrior, comes from the city of Weep searching for philosophers, mathematicians, alchemists, all of the greatest that neighboring cities have to offer. He’s looking for the best of the best to go back with him and solve a problem. What the problem is, these recruits do not know. They’ve been promised they will know once they look upon the city. Lazlo is one of the lucky few who embark on this journey.


  • Taylor’s writing borders purple prose, which might turn some people off. However; it’s pretty poetic and beautifully written
  • Build-up is amazing
  • Insane character development

  • Pretty hefty book, with over 500 pages.
  • Was not aware that this was a first in a two-book series, so now I have to wait to see what happens
  • Might be written with a tad too much detail for people who are not interested, and want more action throughout

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

upsideThe Upside of Unrequited brings us back to reality with a realistic, contemporary, fiction. Molly Peskin-Suso and her twin sister, Cassie, are both trying to figure out love and dating. Cassie has had no problems getting girls to notice her. She’s the life of the party, the outgoing, confident, one. Molly is the more reserved twin, who has had 26 crushes with no partner as a result – not even a kiss.

Things get a little crazy once a new girl enters Cassie’s life. Molly is trying to come out of her shell, put herself out there. There’s a super cute hipster she has her eye on, but then there’s this guy she works with who is obsessed with all things Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings. She can’t have crushes on both at the same time, can she? Maybe it’s something more; maybe these crushes will be the ones that turn into something more than a crush.



  • Positive character and portrayal of a heavier girl
  • LGBTQ characters who are not stereotypical
  • Characters of color represented who are not stereotypical

  • Molly bases a lot of her self-worth on what others, specifically boys, think about her
  • Super boy-crazy – if you’re into that, then it’s all good. If you’re not, there’s an overwhelming amount of obsessing.
  • This is a tad bit dated, even though it came out in 2017. Teens don’t use Facebook; there were a couple other dated references that I found as well. (Yes, it’s a super minor thing.)

As I’m sitting here, I’m still having a hard time picking which one to move on in the bracket. I enjoyed both of them, though they had their issues.

And the winner is…

strange the dreamer.jpg

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

I think I’m going to have to go with Strange the Dreamer. While it is a bigger book, and stylized, I couldn’t get over Molly’s obsession with boys and being in a relationship. I would have preferred if Molly discovered herself and realized she doesn’t need a partner to validate who she is. There were a few “awww” moments, but I had a hard time looking past the superficial need to be with someone. It’s important for teens to know they don’t have to have a partner before they exit high school; it doesn’t make them more or less of a person.

Strange the Dreamer is simply beautiful. Taylor is a poetic writer with the ability to transport you to a different world without feeling like the rug has been pulled from under your feet. I love all of the character developments, and felt a connection with them, including the side characters. I was just so involved and wrapped up in this story. It’s adventure, fantasy, love, revenge, loss, all the things you’re looking for in a hard-to-put-down book. The characters are dynamic and interesting, the plot held my attention, and the build-up was epic, and I am super psyched for the next installment.

Megan is a Teen Services Advisor at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library. When she’s not studying for her Masters in Library Science at the University of Alabama or working, she’s either working out or binge watching Netflix.


Back to Round One, Bracket Four

Onto Round One, Bracket Six