“John Green meets Rainbow Rowell”, this is how Our Chemical Hearts is described in the blurb. As a big fan of both of these authors, I had to add this to my TBR, and I am forever grateful to the wonderful Reg for sending me this book as a part of our #SFATW exchange.
A BOY-MEETS-GIRL KIND OF STORY
“…Tell me you believe that our lives are anything more than a ridiculous cascade of random chances.”
This story is about Henry, falling in love with the new girl at school, Grace. Messed-up hair, wearing boy clothes and walking with a cane, she is far from looking like this perfect Malibu Barbie, yet Henry sees something in her, behind this unusual appearance. As the story goes on, they get to know each other and develop a relationship, all in a very contemporary and character-driven book style. Meaning, there is not much of a plot, and this is not an action-packed story. This is a story about its characters, what they are going through and how they evolve and change through the story as they get to know each other and interact with each other.
A CHARACTER-DRIVEN BOOK
“We were characters out of a movie. We were thoroughly alive. And we were absolutely beautiful.”
I love character-driven stories in contemporaries, especially when they are done well, and Henry was for sure an unusual character to follow. He feels like a teenager from page one, which I was very grateful for, because how often do you read a book and the teenager’s voice doesn’t feel authentic? Henry’s a bit naive, sarcastic, he looks up people on Facebook, and overall had a typical teenager behavior, which gave this book a very realistic dimension. Also, he was far from being perfect, which I appreciated. The story is told from his point of view from beginning to end, and despite this realism, I felt a bit distanced from the story and couldn’t quite connect to it, which made me sad. I’m thinking it’s probably a case of “it’s not you, it’s me”, though.
Unfortunately, I felt the same about the other characters in the story. Grace was an interesting character and there was definitely more to her than it appears to be, however I couldn’t quite feel connected or understand Henry’s feelings towards her – which annoys me, a lot, because it prevented me from rooting for their relationship a lot more. The side characters had a lot of potential, from the Australia best friend struggling with his own relationships to Henry’s best female friend, first kiss and more in love with girls. They ultimately felt a bit one-dimensional to me, which I regret a bit because I thought they were interesting and maybe with a bit more exploration of their relationship with Henry, I would have enjoyed them a lot more.
“Love doesn’t need to last a lifetime for it to be real. You can’t judge the quality of a love by the length of time it lasts. Everything dies, love included. Sometimes it dies with a person, sometimes it dies on its own. The greatest love story ever told doesn’t have to be about two people who spent their whole lives together. It might be about a love that lasted two weeks or two months or two years, but burned brighter and hotter and more brilliantly than any other love before or after. Don’t mourn a failed love; there is no such thing. All love is equal in the brain.”
One thing I really appreciated about this story, is how it didn’t seem like the typical boy-meets-girl, instant-love kind of thing, manic pixie dream girl of sorts and everything. Maybe it seemed like it a bit, but as the story develops and we get to know the characters better, especially Grace and what’s really going on with her, it appears that there is definitely more to the story than it appears. It’s a story about love, for sure, but it’s also a story about tragedy and grief, about seeing people from the outside, and really seeing them from the inside. This book is compared to John Green’s, probably because of the themes and similarities to the Looking for Alaska (boy meets girls he barely knows and falls in love with her, but there is more to her than there seems to be); however I didn’t find myself relating as much to the characters in this story. Also, there is something about the writing of both Green’s and Rowell’s stories that always capture my attention, and some sentences made me think so much they are actually stuck on my room walls. Despite the fun, easy writing and tons of Harry Potter and pop culture references, I don’t see that happening with this book.
Despite my feelings towards Our Chemical Hearts, and a little reservations about both the characters and the writing, I can’t deny that this book was a good read. I had fun while I read it and if I didn’t fall in love with the characters, I still wanted to know what would happen next. If you enjoy contemporary and unusual love stories, I’d recommend Our Chemical Hearts warmly, because it was still an enjoyable read.
Final rating: 3 drops!
Did you read Our Chemical Hearts? Did you enjoy it? Do you want to read it?
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Krystal Sutherland, Our Chemical Hearts, Published by G.P Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, October 4th 2016.
Henry Page has never been in love. He fancies himself a hopeless romantic, but the slo-mo, heart palpitating, can’t-eat-can’t-sleep kind of love that he’s been hoping for just hasn’t been in the cards for him—at least not yet. Instead, he’s been happy to focus on his grades, on getting into a semi-decent college and finally becoming editor of his school newspaper. Then Grace Town walks into his first period class on the third Tuesday of senior year and he knows everything’s about to change.
Grace isn’t who Henry pictured as his dream girl—she walks with a cane, wears oversized boys’ clothes, and rarely seems to shower. But when Grace and Henry are both chosen to edit the school paper, he quickly finds himself falling for her. It’s obvious there’s something broken about Grace, but it seems to make her even more beautiful to Henry, and he wants nothing more than to help her put the pieces back together again. And yet, this isn’t your average story of boy meets girl. Krystal Sutherland’s brilliant debut is equal parts wit and heartbreak, a potent reminder of the bittersweet bliss that is first love.