Book Review: Our Chemical Hearts

Our Chemical Hearts
By: Krystal Sutherland
Published by: Penguin Australia, Hot Key Books
Release date: October 3rd, 2016
Genre: YA contemporary
313 pages
Buy it at Amazon, IndieBound, or Booktopia
Source: Purchased by reviewer

Henry has spent the last few years working towards becoming editor of the school paper, so he doesn't love the idea of sharing it with the new girl, Grace Town. She dresses in over-sized boy's clothes and uses a walking stick, and seems to shower rarely, but despite all that, Henry finds himself falling for her.

In Our Chemical Hearts, Sutherland really plays with the idea of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. Grace is a classic example, and this is really how Henry sees her. It becomes clear that what he loves is the idea of her, not the reality. Because Grace is damaged. Really, truly damaged, and Henry might not be able to fix her.

The idea that you can "fix" someone just by loving them appears often in romance books, but life is far more complicated than that. Our Chemical Hearts explores this theme in some detail.

Although the story is told from Henry's viewpoint, it could be argued that this is really Grace's story. We come to know her only gradually, through the discoveries Henry makes. Grace won't reveal herself to Henry, so he has to go searching for information. Grace seems to like Henry, she offers him a lift home from school (although he has to drive the car himself) and lets him hang out with her, but she can't give Henry what he wants. While the story is Grace's, it's Henry who does the growing.

I loved Henry and his friends, Lola and Murray, and his family. His relationship with his family was possibly unrealistic, but it was fun to read. 

This is not your average YA romance.

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.