Books & Writing

Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland: Book Review

Our Chemical Hearts

Obtained: Penguin Random House Canada, ARC
Pages: 320
Publish date: October 4, 2016
Rating: ★★★★★

It’s been a while since I’ve read a YA romance novel that completely wrecked me, so when I read the synopsis for this one, I figured I’d give it a shot. Being compared to the work of John Green and Rainbow Rowell helped pique my interest, too, but I did not expect to fall so hard for this book. I have to say, this is probably my new favourite YA of all-time.

Our Chemical Hearts is told from the perspective of Henry – a boy who has never had the misfortune of having a high school crush before. That’s when Grace Town gets transferred to his school and they both get stuck editing the school paper together. Grace is a little bit stiff and grungy and wears over-sized boy’s clothes all the time, but creeping her on Facebook proves to Henry that she has a side to her he’s never seen – a feminine beauty with a gorgeous smile. Henry wonders what had made her change, and begins to fall in love with this idea of the girl in her Facebook photo.

If anyone’s read Paper Towns by John Green, this book definitely has elements of that lesson: falling in love with an idea of a person rather than who that person is. But Our Chemical Hearts is so much more. I’ve never read a book that so accurately described what it was like to love someone who didn’t feel the same way, or to feel heartbroken, or to feel so entangled with someone and hating how much you loved and depended on them to be happy, knowing you’d get hurt anyway. I’d say it was very comparable to the film (500) Days of Summer, actually. It was utterly heartbreaking and beautiful to read.

Besides the fact that this book was so incredibly written with regards to the characters’ emotions, I have to say my favourite part was just the characters in general. They were all so real and honest and diverse (yay lesbian couples!) I also loved the immense amount of nerd culture Sutherland brought into the book. At times it felt a little forced, like she was trying to make it ultra-relatable, but at the same time, it did make it ultra-relatable. Henry and his friends casually describing opposing sports team members as “the Mountain from Game of Thrones“, or mentioning their Doctor Who merchandise. I also appreciated the more random references and quotes from pop culture that were a little more subtle (“You know nothing, Henry Page” was one of my favourites; or their discussion about not reading Harry Potter – “HOW DARE YOU STAND WHERE HE STOOD”; or there was a fun 10 Things I Hate About You quote that made me squee pretty good).

I could talk about this book for another few paragraphs, but I won’t bore you. Just please, if you loved (500) Days of Summer, or you wished Paper Towns was a little more in depth philosophically, or if nothing else, you want to read a book that will make you laugh out loud at the Harry Potter references and then sob yourself to sleep (which I totally did NOT do after reading this…), I think you need to read Our Chemical Hearts.

Our Chemical Hearts is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

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