All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland

on December 8, 2017

Our Chemical Hearts
Krystal Sutherland
Penguin Teen AUS
2016, 313p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

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.

I actually received this last year but I think it was during a time when I wasn’t really reviewing and so it’s sat on my TBR shelf ever since. I picked it up on a whim the other day and ended up reading the entire thing in one sitting in an afternoon. It’s not exactly what I thought it would be. I thought it was going to be a cute little romance but yeah……definitely got more than I bargained for.

Henry has never been in love but all this changes when he meets Grace, a new student who has transferred to their school. Grace and Henry are jointly chosen to edit the school paper and this leads to them spending time together outside of that and forming a friendship that on Henry’s side, is much more. It’s not a ‘typical’ relationship though – Grace has secrets, she is hot and cold, she clearly has a lot going on in her life. But Henry doesn’t care. He wants her anyway and continually puts himself through the wringer in order to do so.

I really enjoyed the offbeat character of Henry, his unusual family and his two friends, Lola and Murray. As an Australian, I found Murray a bit overdone – an Aussie who speaks like a combination of Steve Irwin and Alf Stewart from Home & Away, something that is apparently deliberate as an Aussie living in the US, he finds it ‘gets him the ladies’. I honestly can’t imagine that persona getting anyone any ladies, but anyway. It did add the occasional bit of humour tilted towards Aussies and I really liked Lola. To be honest I didn’t find Henry’s family particularly believable but I liked them anyway. They were fun and it was good to see parents feature so heavily in a story, as well as Henry’s older sister Sadie and her young son Ryan.

Grace was a far more complex character and her story is pieced out very slowly but it’s not hard to take a few guesses as to why she is the way she is, why she wears what she does, etc. It’s a very heartbreaking story and I couldn’t really blame Grace for a lot of her actions because I don’t think she was really fully responsible for what she was doing. She was not in any position to be able to give Henry what he wanted, not emotionally. And I think part of the problem was that Henry didn’t care – he would take her however, even with her hot and cold mood swings, her secrets, her obvious emotional distance and that wasn’t healthy for either of them. And yet that was believable because we’ve all done that. Well, I know I have. I’ve thought that either my feelings would be enough for both of us or their feelings would be or we’d ignore this or that and everything would be fine. It’s not though. Not really, not deep down.

This is an important exploration of teenage grief, an attempt to deal with a life changing tragedy and all the mistakes made along the way. I thought it was a very honest portrayal – no idealistic endings. Fair warning, if you’re a HEA only kind of person, this is not really the book for you. But it wouldn’t have been the sort of story it was with one. And I think the kind of story it is, is important. I didn’t love every page – there were times when I was frustrated, when Grace made me annoyed but then there were times when I also felt desperately sorry for her and thought that Henry ought to just leave things be. It’s a rollercoaster this book and I appreciated it. Krystal Sutherland has another book out now and I’d be interested in reading that for sure.


Book #195 of 2017

Our Chemical Hearts is book #57 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

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