Rating: 4 out of 5
Synopsis: 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.
Our Chemical Hearts is a book about first love. It is messy, beautiful, bittersweet and wonderful. But this is not your average love story – it is complex, disastrous, joyous and is poignant in a way that only real first true loves can be.
This story follows Henry – who as a teenage boy has never been in love. In fact, he has never really been interested in any girls or pursuing any type of teenage-right type relationship. He is waiting for the sweep him off his feet type of love that his parents have. And it is here, in the middle of being a happy teenage boy focusing on school and the school newspaper, that Grace enters his world.
Grace isn’t like any girl he has ever met, and certainly not the type of girl he thought he would fall for. She dresses in boys clothes, her hygiene is somewhat questionable, she walks with a cane and she isn’t overly sociable. But Henry and her are both named editors of the school newspaper, and as Henry gets to know her – well, lets say he starts to fall for her, as getting to know her is a lot harder. Grace doesn’t write anything for the paper, she doesn’t talk much, she disappears all the time and she will not talk about her life prior to coming to the school late in the year.
But fall for her Henry does. It is a crush of epic proportions, as all first love/crushes are. Henry is happy to take any tiny bit of herself that Grace is willing to give, as he just knows they are going to work out and that it will all be worth it when Grace opens up to him. It will all work out, they will live happily ever after surely! It is a kind of delusional hopefulness or even obsession-like at times. Oh, the joys of first loves!
A very interesting aspect of this book is that it is narrated by Henry. I love the fact that we are getting a love story from a young male’s POV. Firstly, I find this fresh and interesting, and although I found Henry to be somewhat delusional about who Grace was and what their relationship was, it still removes a lot of the swoony inner monolgue that we see far too often. Henry is confused and intrigued, and although he may be somewhat of a lovesick puppy, it comes with a sense of realism and humor. I cannot say that I connected with him, but I did find him entertaining. And I have to give credit to the Twilight references. These honestly made me laugh out loud, and nearly (I said nearly) made me reconsider my viewpoint of Edward.
The romance itself is understated, confusing, complex and frustrating. In fact, it isn’t even really about being in love with a person – it is more about being in love with a version of them that you believe or hope that they are.
This is not a fairytale, it is a contemporary story with a realistic view of first love, loss, friendship, grief, secrecy, holding on, relentless perusal, and being blinded by something that is so sweet yet so bad for you. There is an honesty in the way it looks at how a person creates an idea of another person rather than seeing them for who or what they really are, and it takes a heartbreaking looking at the effects of holding onto love when it is no longer something you can hold.
There is a strong focus on friendship and family in this story, and I have to admit, I loved the closeness and the banter these friends and family shared. I loved the relationship between Henry and his parents, sister and nephew and with his two best friends. In fact, I loved all these secondary characters aswell, with the exception of Murray. I loved our tough-girl-next-door-best-friend Lola, but I just could not get into love-sick-sucky-stereotypical-Aussie Murray. I know, right – how, as an Aussie, could I not love the Australian character, written by an Australian author? Well, I just couldn’t. He was so over the top American-branded stereotype that I just couldn’t do it. I believe (and really hope) that this over-the-top-Steve-Urwin-cross-Crocodile-Dundee aspect was a façade of the character, chosen by the character to use for his own benefit, but I just couldn’t deal with it. But in saying that, the friendship between Henry, Lola and Murray felt natural and real – supportive, honest, protective, forgiving and patient. I think as a trio they worked well, without any love triangle or jealousy. This was a true love story for me.
Our Chemical Hearts is a different type of love story. It is a story about first-loves, friendship, loss, realisation and acceptance. This book takes an honest look at friendships, longing, sorrow, emotions, infatuation and heartache. What I loved about this book was the honesty of the situation. Sure, the characters themselves may not have seen the situation for what it really was at times, but the author clearly did. The ending of this book is what makes it truly remarkable, especially in today’s market. The realness of the situation is something that not often seen, it was honest and confronting, emotional, heartbreaking and hopeful.
Oh, and PS: I just adore this cover!!! Simple but amazing!