Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers (4th Oct 2016)
Source/Format: ARC (sent by Penguin Random House Malaysia)
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.
To sum Our Chemical Hearts up in a sentence would be such a difficult task because it’s such a clever love story that isn’t very much like a love story, but it is also one of those books that keep occupying your brain space because of how good it was and how you start missing the characters you’ve grown to love so much.
For a quasi-love story, it was quite good in my books because I am particularly picky when it comes to reading contemporary YA. I know, I expect too much! Only because there are so many YA books out there with similar, overused tropes and it’s not easy to be satisfied with something fresh and entirely different. It deals with the notion of falling in love with someone and falling in love with the idea of someone.
One of the things that made me enjoy Our Chemical Hearts was that it’s told from the perspective of Henry Page, who’s never been in love (properly) and his journey of finding love is very much like the ones you find in a John Green novel. Not sure if this is a bad thing, but he reminded me a bit of Charlie from The Perks of Being a Wallflower but only more lovesick and witty when it comes to pop culture and book references.
Which brings me to point number two. Why was Our Chemical Hearts such a fun read? The pop culture and book references. ESPECIALLY the Harry Potter ones because they made me laugh out loud and I can’t stop thinking about how funny it would be if that were to happen in real life. Though there were quite a number of pop cultures that were a bit lost to me, I have to admit that Sutherland knew how to charm her readers with them.
Henry, oh Henry. If only I could give you a hug for being such an adorable muffin (most of the time). He’s definitely the star of the show because Sutherland wrote the story from his perspective with such adorable charm and wit. I had some problems with Grace because there were times that she made me roll my eyes, but thank you, Jesus! Because she’s not another one of your Mary Sues. Bless Krystal Sutherland.
The other characters were fine for me. I really liked Sadie, Henry’s older sister and I would have liked the book more if she had a bigger role in it. Henry’s best friends, Lola and Murray were weird, eccentric and at times, funny, but Murray just got annoying after a while so you can go shave your back now, Muz.
Moving on to the point that it’s not just a love story. Our Chemical Hearts deals with so much more than falling in love. It’s also the protagonist’s journey of self-discovery, acceptance and understanding that happy ever afters are often sugarcoated by books and films and this little sliver of realism made me think about life, love and family and friends.
I do not wish to spoil this book for you because spoilers are the devil’s balls, but I strongly recommend this book because it’s definitely a book you wouldn’t want to miss. If you are still not swayed by what I’ve written above, let me sum it up for you. Our Chemical Hearts is the lovechild of John Green and Rainbow Rowell as it’s quirky, funny and heartwarming.
Although my friend, Malie from Maliemania, agreed with me that Our Chemical Hearts is just another addition to the long list of contemporary YA books, what made Sutherland’s debut so good was the fact that it had different tropes that made the book fresh and so enjoyable.
This book deserves to be read.
With its undeniably solid writing, witty voice and complex explorations of first love and acceptance, Our Chemical Hearts is a bittersweet story that will have you laughing one moment and with the flick of the page, you’ll feel that familiar pang of dread and sadness. The ending was brilliant and the metaphor with the vase? Genius. Please read Our Chemical Hearts so we can talk about it.