Saturday, October 15, 2016

Review: Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland

Firstly, thanks to the author for this review copy <3 (This in no way influenced my opinion of the book.)

Date Read: September 14 - 18 2016
Date Released: October 4 2016
Publisher: Putnam (Penguin) US / Penguin Australia
Source: Review copy via author
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating:

"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."


It’s always a tough job reviewing books for an author I know personally. It’s even tougher when they’re a friend. I was all kinds of excited when Krystal sent me a copy of her book but I was also practically shaking with nervousness when I started because WHAT IF I DIDN’T LIKE IT? I’d have to go hide in a corner for the rest of my life is what. Well silly me there was nothing to fear because Krystal’s book is as fabulous as her person - that is say, extremely fabulous.

Our Chemical Hearts is a romcom about first love, written with a witty voice and poignant touch. The characters and story drew me in, made me laugh and cry and then spat me back out leaving me reeling from the experience (a good one mind you).

Told from the first person POV of Henry Page, the ‘hero’ of our story is drawn to new girl Grace Town from the first moment she steps into class with her shaggy unwashed hair, boyish clothing and limp. He’s intrigued by her, at times infuriated by her, then falling head over heels for her. I loved Henry’s perspective; his voice was snarky and he had occasional cynical views of the world while also being a big romantic and dreamer. I relate to this boy. His burgeoning obsession with Grace drives much of the novel and it was so interesting to see his emotions as the book progressed and his growth by the end. His realisations about life and love aren’t profound in the way that he’s suddenly discovered the meaning of life, but it’s a coming of age for sure.

Grace Town was an enigma that I was completely drawn to. She’s far from perfect and while she seemed like a Manic Pixie Dream Girl at first (and this is acknowledged in the book), by the end I could see she wasn’t put there just for Henry to have his epiphany of first love. Grace was by no means selfless - she had her own agenda. She was selfish and she used people and she was dealing with her own issues which we discovered. Her relationship with Henry was growth for her as well, helping her come to terms with something she didn’t want to face. There was a lot of depth to her character and THINGS that triggered certain actions which made her story mysterious.

Kaz (in the tradition of Aussies butchering people’s names and chucking a ‘z’ on I am henceforth referring to Krystal as Kaz or Kazza) made this a multi-dimensional story with her wonderful cast of supporting characters. Henry’s family was lovely. I adored his sister Sadie (Suds, I LOVE THE NAME SUDS) who was a terror in high school but also a genius. She’s got dreadlocks but is an acclaimed surgeon. Suds has such wit and sarcasm (more intense than Henry) but also words of wisdom too. Their parents are also hella cool. Then there’s Henry’s besties Lola and Muz - firstly, diversity done right. I loved that Kazza put Lola in as a diverse character but didn’t make it a thing - I can’t bloody deal with racial tropes. Lola’s a great artist with a love of music and is the down to earth one in their group. Then there’s Muz the Crocodile Hunter wannabe who was my comedic relief, he made me laugh so hard. Each character has their own sort of romantic storyline going on in the book which I really enjoyed.

These cool kids and their love lives are set against the backdrop of the encroaching deadline for putting together the school paper, of which Henry and Grace are chief co-editors. The progress of the paper rivals with Henry’s romance and Grace’s increasingly erratic behaviour. Just what on earth is Grace Town hiding? I’m not gonna lie I knew immediately what the deal was but it was still interesting to see it unfold. I laughed a lot but my heart also fractured bit by bit with each turning page. And will they ever get the paper’s theme and finish it in time? You’ll have to read to find out.

Kaz’s writing is sophisticated without being overdone. Her style is entertaining; a little tongue in cheek, a lot of philosophical musings that, given any other context, would seem try-hardy, but given the story, balances the humour with the serious touch that’s required. She gives Henry a voice that leaps off the page and made me feel for the guy.

And in the end? Well in the end many lessons are learnt. I freaking adored the ending. It was so realistic and believable and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a satisfaction of sorts because had it ended differently, the integrity of the novel would have been compromised and wouldn’t have the effect Kaz had built up throughout. YOU GUYS READ THIS BOOK.

Sutherland (Suz?) apparently has another book coming out SO KAZ I NEED IT YESTERDAY.

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