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Our Chemical Hearts Book Review

This book is one of those contemporaries I had heard so much about from friends and bookstagram but just never got around to buying because I already have so many of those on my shelves. However, it just happened that I found out through a newsletter that this book is getting its own movie, featuring Lili Reinhart, that comes out in August on Amazon Prime and Penguin Teen Australia were kind enough to send me a review copy before I could watch the movie. So, a huge thank you to Penguin Teen Australia because I LOVED this book and I cannot wait to see the movie adaptation. I’ll be doing a comparison post and a bit of a movie review as well once I see it but let’s keep the focus on the book today and get on with my review!

Goodreads Blurb:

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.

Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

This story started off as fun and mysterious and turned out to be so heart-wrenching and about the most important topics young adults should read about. One of those things is love, and the other is grief.

In Our Chemical Hearts, we meet Henry; a lovable geek with amazing parents and a pretty good life. His friends are supportive and they have the best banter, and he’s looking forward to making his way into college and becoming the editor of the high school newspaper. Henry hasn’t really thought much about love and it’s not his priority until he meets Grace; a new student at his school who becomes a mysterious enigma. She’s unusual in her tomboy outfits, unkempt appearance and unfriendly, though witty, demeanor. Somehow, he can’t help but feel a pull towards her to love her and help her through trauma as she grieves a boyfriend that passed away in a car accident.

This book has easily and very unexpectedly become a favorite contemporary. The story and particularly the characters were amazing and I swear to god if they screw up the movie, I loved all of them. They felt so unique and realistic and the dialogue with its myriad of pop culture references flew off the page and I could not stop reading. Henry’s best friend, Lola, and Murray were iconic, Henry’s parents – honestly the best parents I have ever read in any YA book. Every character felt so well fleshed out and it made me enjoy the story even more.

Unfortunately, this story is bittersweet because Henry’s love story with Grace is not ideal. The depiction of grief and guilt were so accurate as we see Grace holding on to the remnants of someone she loved that is no longer alive. You can feel her hesitation when she becomes so comfortable with Henry even when she can’t let go. It almost felt toxic at one point because Henry bore the brunt of the relationship but it brought up some important lessons about love and about how one can fall in love with an idea rather than reality. Henry was such a hopeless romantic and reminded me so much of Ted from How I Met Your Mother, and really emphasized how even if there aren’t concrete reasons, you can be attracted to the wrong type of person or someone who isn’t ready for what you are ready for in a relationship – and that’s life! This story isn’t supposed to be perfect and Henry and Grace’s relationship was far from it, and I think that’s what made this book so interesting and realistic.

“I’m not broken, Henry. I’m not a piece of pottery out of your cabinet. I don’t need to be fixed.”

Krystal Sutherland

Sutherland’s writing flowed incredibly well and towards the end, portrayed the feeling of pain and grief impeccably for a young audience. It was so heartbreaking and done in such a graceful way, being able to read about these teenagers go through different types of experiences and traumas and work their way through it.

The cons, you could say, I found that despite the great humour, Murray’s character as very Australian guy came off as very cliched and cringey at many times (speaking as an Australia). It did also take about half of the book for the story to really hook me in but by the end, the wait was most definitely worth it. I’d highly recommend it to readers who like a complex and non-orthodox love story with a big chunk of coming-of age. I am most definitely highly anticipating the movie adaptation and really hope that it does this book justice!

Let me know any of your thoughts in the comments if you’ve read this one,

Until next time,

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One Comment

  • Anand P

    Fantastic read. It is one of the rare stories that didn’t divulge deeper into the intricacies of high school life, say drugs, booze, and you name it. Use of Neruda to depict the Henry-Grace love fits aptly to story narration. The kid is to the writer.

    Ps: an excellent review.

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