OUR CHEMICAL HEARTS
By Krystal Sutherland
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: G.P. Putnam (September 6, 2016)
John Green meets Rainbow Rowell in this irresistible story of first love, broken hearts, and the golden seams that put them back together again.
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.
"Oblivion isn't scary; it's the closest thing to genuine absolution of sin I can imagine."
There are instances in a person’s life that change them in ways that cannot be imagined. Sometimes those instances are people. In OUR CHEMICAL HEARTS those instances are people. Henry and Grace are two people who are incredibly different. This is not a love story. I think it’s a story about losing people, and the love that you gave them.
When Grace rolls into town, Henry doesn’t experience the heart-stopping attraction he’s imagined for True Love. Grace has suffered insurmountable trauma. Both of these people want Something from the other, and this book is about how they dealt with these Things.
I’m going to just go ahead and dive right into character assessments, because this book is character driven. I have a love / completely despise relationship with both of the main characters in the novel. I love them because they’re (read Henry, pointedly) selfish in what they want, and in who they are. They really do only think about what will benefit them the most. And as much as I love it, it also breaks my heart. This is also the part that I hate about them. Their selfishness. It was an intimate part of who both Henry and Grace are—and why shouldn’t they be worried most about themselves? And their own happiness? It was for different reasons: one was sanctity and safety while the other was more so just. . .because he couldn’t be bothered to thing about the emotions of someone who had just suffered and unimaginable loss and was literally emotionally unstable.
Their teenage self-involvement (especially Henry) came off as aloof and inconsiderate. I can’t even say I actually liked either one of them by the end of the book. I can say, however, that I felt so, so horrible for Grace.
I wish that there had been a bit more focus on her mental health in the book because I felt like her actual state of mind (and healing) was waved over. And that’s just really not acceptable.
The character development itself was amazing. And, to be completely honest, it was my favorite part of the book. Even if the main characters themselves weren’t my favorite. (Henry’s 30-year-old, tattoo and totally pieced, neurosurgeon and mother of one sister was) Krystal Sutherland really peeled back the layers of the characters as the book progressed. Much like an onion.
This book had a kick of realism. There was family drama, and personal life hell on earth, falling in love, high school, and the friendships that are with you through it all. This isn’t my favorite book (not by a long shot) but it is a book with a unique story line, I think. Not only because of the sheer amount of trauma that Grace is trekking through, but also because of Henry. I don’t like him at at, but on some weird platform I sort of get where he’s coming from.
And that, folks, is why I think this story is valuable. You don’t have to like something/one to be able to try to understand where they’re coming from.
So in the end, OUR CHEMICAL HEARTS is about breaking hearts, and the chemical reactions in our brains that let us experience the emotion.