Book Review: Our Chemical Hearts

Posted October 12, 2016 by Kara in book review, Kara, Lyn / 1 Comment

Book Review: Our Chemical HeartsOur Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on October 4th 2016
Genres: young adult, romance, contemporary
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: ALA

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. 

Lyn: So, Our Chemical Hearts. It has some strengths and some gaping weaknesses.  It had a lot going for it, but I wish I had liked this one enough to have it go above three stars. Did you feel that it was outstanding or stood out for a contemporary read?

Kara: Not really. I liked it enough to finish it, but it wasn’t really my thing, unfortunately. I didn’t connect with any of the character emotionally, and I feel I should have because there were some particularly emotional scenes that should have evoked some kind of feeling inside me, and I am definitely a crier, but this time I didn’t feel much of anything. I don’t know what it was because I had no issues with the story or writing itself, but it just didn’t work for me as much as it should have.

Lyn: This book is one of the rare books that remind me that I am reading YA. I love reading YA books. I love the message that girls can do anything at any age. But this one felt like I was trying to watch a high school TV comedy and I wasn’t the target audience. It tried to force too much pop culture and Tumblr culture down my throat to the point where it was just trying way too hard. And the super specialness of each character just gave the entire book a JG fanfic feel. It was just so…..cheesy. Which made me sad, because I liked how it ended, and the message that sometimes you’re going to love someone more than they love you, which isn’t something that is brought up a lot in YA books. It is usually true love at 16, which is some wish fulfillment right there. So it was hyper-special characters in a hyper special situation with hyper special emotions with a very down to earth message. Which just killed the entire mood of the novel.

Kara: I actually believe the author was trying to subvert some of those JG manic pixie dream girl tropes, but I just think the execution kind of failed. In my opinion, the book handled loss and grief rather well and realistically, which is one of the parts I really appreciated, because it didn’t have your typical ending. So yeah, I almost always enjoy books that don’t end in a traditional way, and I liked that here. But the characters felt like caricatures to me and I couldn’t get past that. I never used to be a major character reader, but now I know I won’t fully enjoy a book even if the plot works.

I see what you are saying about the pop culture stuff, but it never really bothered me. In fact, I quite liked the scenes set in the newspaper office, and I liked Henry’s friends much more than Henry and Grace, although the Australian guy felt like a complete Australian stereotype minus a can of Foster’s, a boxing kangaroo, and shrimp on the barbie.

Lyn: It is amazing how offensive I find that whole Australia thing now that I know some Aussies, and I got sick of it real quick, even if it was a joke. Like, how would people like it if every book they picked up had the American friend talk about eagles and hamburgers and always looked fat and stuff? It isn’t cute anymore. Hell, I can’t even tell you how happy I am that we have books set in Texas without having a ton of cowboys. If you go to Dallas or Austin, there are no freaking cowboys or horses, so…..stop.

I’m glad you pointed out the MPDG trope. I don’t get making fun of it while you are doing it without being ironic. I mean, if you want your characters to be that, then just do it unapologetically.

Kara: I don’t actually think she was making fun of it though. Grace was…different, but I think finding out WHY Grace was the way she was in the end was how the author tried to subvert the trope. Grace ended up not actually being a manic pixie dream girl. She was just a teenager REALLY afflicted with loss that she didn’t know how to manage and had no way to heal from. The problem I had with all of it was my lack of connection to Grace. I wanted to like her; I tried very hard to understand where she was coming from, but I just found her selfish and kind of mean. The way she treated people around her was inexcusable, even with the great loss that she suffered. Regular people are not going to understand why you are a selfish shithead, regardless of what you have gone through because they won’t get to know you if you are like that in the first place. I don’t know. I just got irritated.

Lyn: Yeah, I understand. She came across as holier than thou. I’m glad she was never flat out judgemental but she didn’t seem like she was in mourning, she just came across as arrogant and smug for the sake to keep the story going. Even when all the pieces were right there, the story just kept dragging. I think that was another issue I had. I pretty much guessed it and I was irritated and bored for the rest of the time. I never fell into the story. I was just limping along, like a kid forced to shop with his mother. I actually did like parts of this book, but I felt that what could have been great sold out for a contemporary paint-by-the-numbers story line. The big bangs were the original parts of the story, but the rest was just the same old thing over and over.

Kara: Yeah, I hear you. I just saw so much potential in this one and very little of it came to fruition. Thankfully it is the author’s debut, so maybe the next book will get it together better. I’m rating this one 3 stars for trying and being somewhat enjoyable. You?

Lyn: 3 stars for me as well. Because the ending about what happens afterwards is great, and honest, and I did enjoy the opening, about the fakeness of finding “the one.” I’m just sad that this felt more like that Teen Book instead of Young Adult.

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