Published by Penguin Australia on October 3rd 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson
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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.
Contemporary is my favourite genre but unfortunately Our Chemical Hearts fell into the sub-category of contemporary that I don’t enjoy reading. I couldn’t connect with the characters or their stories at all and almost gave up after 100 pages. The ending did redeem the book slightly but overall, the novel was a bit unmemorable and falls into the small pile of contemporary books that I’m never going to rave about, rant about or talk about ever again.
Our Chemical Hearts explores grief, first love and redemption. And while these are themes that I love reading about, my biggest struggle with the novel was the plot. I found it to be extremely boring and for a good 150-200 pages, I had no idea where the book was going or what it intended to do. I wasn’t interested in anything that was happening and I never really got into the story. Ultimately, the book did redeem itself with its last 50 pages and I really enjoyed how realistic the book was, but it was a case of too little, too late. However, I really must emphasise how much I liked how the themes of grief and first love were explored at the end of this book because that was what made me increase my rating by at least one star. I thought it was realistic and thought-provoking, and a nice change from other similar contemporary stories that I’ve read. It was just a bit unfortunate that I never got into the book and it was pretty much a race to the end for me.
This is quite a character-driven story and I didn’t care for any of the characters. I don’t typically like novels that are narrated by male characters and this one was no exception. I actually did enjoy Henry’s voice and perspective for the first 3-5 chapters of the book but it started going downhill pretty quickly. While I did think his voice was sassy and fun, I couldn’t connect with anything that he was saying, especially when he was interacting with or thinking about Grace, the love interest. Grace was a strange character for me. She came across as extremely Manic Pixie Dream Girl for the first half of the novel and I couldn’t really stand her and how Henry waxed poetic about her at every turn. But her character did start to develop into somebody much more complex and I started to appreciate her character more towards the end of the novel. The side characters were perhaps my favourite characters of the book. Lola was the one that I enjoyed reading about the most because she was pragmatic and relatable. She was one of the only characters that I felt any kind of connection with and she definitely was the one character that kept me reading long after I wanted to quit.
“There’s more beauty in mystery.”
“I don’t want you to be a mystery.”
“Yes, Henry. You do.”
I couldn’t really get on board with the romance in Our Chemical Hearts. I didn’t think there was any spark between the characters and it just came across as kind of dull for me. Henry is in love with Grace, or the idea of Grace, but he wasn’t able to articulate what it was that he liked about her. I was just really confused about what they saw in each other and why they were together. Having said that, this book does explore first love and being in love with the idea of someone, rather than who they actually are. So from this perspective, the novel actually does quite well. However, I just couldn’t connect with it and there was nothing keeping me interested.
Our Chemical Hearts had some great themes and great moments but the majority of the book was a bit boring and confused. The ending redeems the book and makes it great but there were too many elements that I didn’t enjoy and even a great ending couldn’t bounce back from that.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Thank you to Penguin Teen Australia for providing a review copy of the book.