Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from Pansing Books, a regional distributor, in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland • contains 320 pages • published by Hot Key Books on October 4, 2016 • classified as Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult • obtained through Pansing Books • read as ARC • shelve on Goodreads
Henry Page, a hopeless romantic and film buff, is smitten as soon as Grace Town walks into his classroom. But Grace – who looks in need of a good bath, is dressed in guy's clothing, and walks with a cane – is unlike any leading lady he's ever obsessed over. And when Henry and Grace are both offered positions as editors of their high school newspaper, the mystery of Grace begins to captivate him. Why does she visit a graveyard every afternoon? What secret does she keep locked away in her bedroom? Above all, why is Grace Town so deeply sad? Before he knows it, Henry is sure that he is the one to unlock her happiness. But Grace is capricious, changeable, infuriating, and, above all, damaged. Henry will need to be the strongest he has ever been to survive this particular love story.
Love in Many Forms
In the first chapter Henry, the protagonist, introduces Our Chemical Hearts as kind of a love story. Kind of a love story, it is. It also is a remarkable eloquent book on heartbreak and love in various forms — romantic, friendly, parental, and so on.
When Grace enters Henry’s life she’s absolutely broken. She’s a shadow of who she used to be. As expected, Henry tries to piece her together again. In that process he discovers it takes more than loving her. Neither is it his job to fix her.
Weird Friends are Friends for Life
Murray and Lola are hilarious best friends to Henry. Murray particularly has strange quirks and is unapologetically besotted with an ex. This makes for quite a number of comical moments. Add the fact that he’s Australian and uses expressions the rest don’t understand and you’re good for even more laughs.
Lola and Henry too have a great dynamic going on and she’s biracial. Too bad for Henry that after his first kiss with her years ago, she came out as a lesbian. So yep, readers on the look-out for books containing a diverse cast, add Our Chemical Hearts to your TBR piles!
Amidst the sadness and laughs, I like that Our Chemical Hearts is considerably introspective. Death and grief are treated with the depth due to heavy topics such as these. While I thought Grace’s coping mechanisms severely unhealthy, I definitely felt for her.
What Our Chemical Hearts portrays especially well is the difference between loving a person and loving the idea of a person. How can we be sure we know a person? At what point are we projecting? Can the past self be erased or does it remain part of the present self?
One Problem I Have
Some might consider this a spoiler, so I’m adding spoiler tags to my problem: View Spoiler »stalking.
I know in the age of Facebook, we casually fling around this term. We think nothing of wanting to find out everything there is about a person. Henry, though, he takes to the streets. He follows Grace to find out where she disappears to every afternoon. That is considerably creepy, even if he has no malicious intents.
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This is why I docked half a star. As much as I enjoyed Our Chemical Hearts, the normalisation of that made me uncomfortable. No foul, no harm, you might think but that’s not how I see it. Not if it intrudes on another person and isn’t treated as problematic at all in the book.