Our Chemical Hearts – Krystal Sutherland

26836966Hot Key Books tweeted the other day that this book was on their NetGalley, so I had a look. it’s just been optioned for a film, but it isn’t even out until October, so that has to be a good sign. I also really liked the cover of this book – so much so that I will consider buying it once it’s published. Look how beautiful those little fish are!

I’m not that fond of John Green. Or, in fact, Rainbow Rowell. But this looked like the kind of smart, funny, cynical book that I would like, so I clicked the download button. It’s definitely one of the best choices I’ve made this year. Whip-smart, heart-breaking, and at times hilarious, this book kept me up until 3am finishing it. The only problem (besides my immense tiredness the next day) was that I had no more of it to read then.

Our Chemical Hearts – Krystal Sutherland

John Green meets Rainbow Rowell in this irresistible story of first love, broken hearts, and the golden seams that put them back together again.

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 absolutely loved this book. So much so, I can’t even really put into words what it was about it that I really liked. Henry and Grace were so real, so vividly drawn that I felt like I was in school with them. Being the editor of the school newspaper was bound to tick boxes for me, but it was much more than that. Henry and Grace felt like they could step off the page at any point, and I would meet them walking down the road the next day.

There was so much about this book that I really liked. Grace walks with a cane, but it’s never presented as pandering, more a consequence of the circumstances which brought her to Henry’s school. The book presents Grace as a classic Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but destroys that trope by acknowledging it in text, and drawing a relationship which is much more nuanced and subtle than that. Grace is damaged and grieving, and for all Henry’s love for her, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to. The book was realistic in its refusal to present Grace as an MPDG, or Henry as a saviour for all of her issues. The supporting characters were strongly drawn, from best friends Murray and Lola to reformed bad girl, his sister Sadie and her adorable son Ryan (a nephew named Ryan? Well I can’t argue that that’s wonderful!) and I felt that all of them were definitely more than just created to push Henry on to his own realisation.

Henry is by no means a perfect character – he’s selfish and whiny sometimes, and fails utterly to understand what Grace is struggling with. But that’s what makes him more believable – he’s very much a teenage boy wrapped up in his own head and unable to see that while what he has is wonderful, Grace might not be on the same page. For most of the book, he totally fails to think about what Grace is thinking, her backstory, or in fact anything about her other than the fact that he thinks she’s perfect. In some ways, Henry is a lot like Tom from 500 Days of Summer – his view of Grace is warped by the pedestal he’s put her on, and his kintsukoroi idea of her is something which is damaging both to her and to him. Henry’s a typically melodramatic teenage writer – he believes that Grace is his one great love, and doesn’t really take into account that she’s a real person with her own life to live. He’s selfish in this way, but also so, so real.

Grace, similarly, is far from perfect – she’s damaged and hurt, she’s grieving, and she’s not dealing with it in the best of ways. Her quicksilver personality and changes of heart about Henry, as well as her utter change of personality when she’s drinking, and using Henry as a crutch to help her grieve don’t make her a nice person, but they make her an utterly believable one. That, I thought, was one of the great strengths of this book. Everyone in it felt so real.

The climax and conclusion of the book were heartbreaking while still being wonderful, and I believed every second of it. It was a really beautifully drawn story of first love, and first heartbreak, of loss and grief and the excitement of the final year of high school.

I really did like this book. I can’t wait to see more from this author, and will also look forward to the film adaptation of this.

Five Stars
*****

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Our Chemical Hearts – Krystal Sutherland

  1. Pingback: July Round-Up | Much Ado About Books

  2. Pingback: Best Books of 2016 | Much Ado About Books

  3. Pingback: Weekend Book Haul | Much Ado About Books

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