Synopsis (From GoodReads):
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 heard about Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland as a book similar in tone to All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. As dark as the Jennifer Niven novel was, I enjoyed it due to the strong relationship between Finch and Violet. I was not as thrilled with this book. To say that this was not a romance for the ages is a gross understatement. While there were some nice elements to the story, I found the central character of Grace to be problematic.
What I Liked:Humor:
This was written from the point of view of seventeen year-old Henry and is told, at times, with lots of humor. With self-depreciating charm, Henry explains why everyone thinks he is NOT a chick magnet, why Grace should date him, and how his other friends can be annoying. His friend Murry is also a fun character and it was great fun to listen to the audio book and hear the actor's version of Murry's Australian accent.
I enjoyed Henry, and his friends. They had a kind of life-long friendship that I see with my own daughter and her friends. They are always together and help each other through relationships, and school assignments. They don't judge each other, but also push each other to do their best.
I liked Henry's parents too. There was more to them then I originally believed, which I found refreshing. They weren't just there as drop in characters. I appreciated small things like Henry needing to check in with them, his having dinner at home, and their trying to balance acting like cool parents and actually being good parents.
It took until the end of the book to understand its title. But I finally understood that the author was trying to say that we are all compelled by biology to fall in love and that any love, however short is valid. I liked that very much. Too often, adults to brush off love between young adults as infatuation or hormones. But the love one feels at seventeen can be just as strong as that of a person later in life.
The book also shows that you don't have to have a "love of a lifetime" kind of romance in order to be in love. Henry sees love as an ideal, finding a life-long soulmate. When he finally falls in love, it is messy and imperfect, and he finds this confusing. I think many people romanticize love and can't understand when things aren't perfect. They feel very let down, and may even feel the problems is not with their expectations, but with themselves.
What I Was Mixed About:
Considering the timeline of the story (from the beginning of Senior year to Winter break) I was surprised there wasn't more about the pressure of college application deadlines, recommendations, and that all important personal essay. There was talk about college in passing (as in "I need this activity so I will look good on college apps"), but very little about the process itself. This is a huge part of the first part of Senior year. The book felt inauthentic without this.
What I Didn't Like:Grace:
When one half of the main couple in a book is annoying and humorless, this is a problem. I found Grace to be clinically depressed, even with her insistence that she was just really angry. The girl is hanging on to her old boyfriend in a very strange, unhealthy way. How is it that the adults in her life are not intervening? She needed some serious counseling to get through her problems, but the adults just seem oblivious.
Plus, I didn't like that she treated Henry so badly. Time and time again, she is neglectful and rude to him. Henry was a great guy who deserved better. he even says this, himself. But the author seems to give Grace a pass because she is going through something (I can't say what). I don't care what your problem is, it is no excuse to treat people like disposable tissue! This made me so mad, and I don't see how anyone could excuse this.
There is also the issue of Grace's excessive drinking, which I felt was glossed over in the book. It was obvious that she was using alcohol to escape her problems, and was drinking to the point that she was doing, and saying, things that she regretted the next day. She needed some intervention but no one seemed to think it was that big of a deal.
Release Date: October 4th, 2016
Genre: YA Romance
Source: Public Library
Format: Audio Book
Recommendation: While I would definitely recommend getting this book for free at a library (as I did), I wouldn't spend money on this book. It was just too problematic for me.