So I’ve been in a bit of a book slump since the release of A Court of Wings and Ruin back in May and it’s only been recently that I’ve picked up a book, let alone one that I’ve wanted to write about (I’m not entirely sure why because unlike a lot of Maas fans I enjoyed the book). Between then and now I’ve also started a new job so life has been a little up in the air recently but we’re finally getting there. I picked this book up in ASDA to keep me occupied at work. Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland seemed to be the fluffy feel-good story that I needed to pull me out of the slump. I read this book in less than two days. I think it was worth it.
The book is a love story. Almost. Kind of. Not really. It’s set out that way, with Henry Page looking for that heart-stopping kind of love that he’s read about (he’s an English Lit student at heart), and seen in movies and witnessed first hand in his parents.
He works hard at school, has a few friends and wants little more than to be the editor for the school magazine. Enter Grace Town. In the beginning, she is far from the leading lady you might suspect in a love story. She’s unkempt, she walks with a limp, she wears guys clothes and has a less than desirable mannerism towards everyone. She’s a mystery, but not one that you would want to investigate further. That’s how Henry feels when they meet; indifferent to this strange girl he finds himself forced into a partnership with on the editor’s team for the school magazine. Henry finds himself falling for Grace, but it is hard to tell if he is in love with Grace or simply the idea of Grace. They become friends and Henry quickly begins to unravel some of the mystery that is Grace Town for himself regardless of how much it might ruin him in the process.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and soul.
The book almost reminds me of John Green’s Looking for Alaska with the way our protagonist falls in love with the manic pixie dream girl that’s really just there to make their lives seem a little more exciting for a brief period before they disappear again. Grace Town is our manic pixie dream girl in this story and it’s appropriate to love her and hate her simultaneously. She is wicked and cruel, self-destructive and broken. But she is also bright and glowing, and life radiates around her when she chooses to let it. The parallels between Our Chemical Hearts and Paper Towns are there in the way that both protagonists chase their MPDG but ultimately let them go. Love with MPDG’s doesn’t seem to be a healthy obsession to pursue, and Grace Town is not an exception to this statement.
This book feels so familiar and it’s not too hard to figure out why. The book holds its own uniqueness but has similarities to other YA novels that I’ve read. But one of the things that I really enjoyed about this book was the way that it was a teenage love story that wasn’t revolutionary. It didn’t fix anyone or solve the mysteries of the universe. It was teenage sex and house parties, petty crimes and hurting and hurting others in the process because we are humans and we are messy and selfish and unpredictable. People got hurt and it didn’t magically solve itself because there was the mention of love. It was dirty and unadulterated, young love that wasn’t meant to be. It was perfectly imperfect.
The main thing about this story that pulled on my heartstrings was the way that this story almost dissolves the idea of the romantic, heart-stopping kind of love that people strive for. Henry grew up seeing his parents so completely in love with each other, it was there in the way they touched and loved and were. But then later in the book, he realises that his parents aren’t that way anymore and that they haven’t interacted that way in a long. It sets a tone that this kind of love doesn’t really exist or if it does then it is most definitely finite in the duration of human lives, that it will not outlive us or live with us.
However, don’t let that put you off the story. For the most part, it is a love story. It’s sarcastic, witty and funny. One of the great things that I realised once I had finished this book is that there are more! Not about Henry and Grace but about others in the area that this story was set. A Semi Definitive List of Worst Nightmares is the next one to sink your teeth into and I just hope it’s as fluffy as Our Chemical Hearts. The book claims to be John Green meets Rainbow Rowell, so I don’t know what’s not to love about that combination. If you’ve got a few hours to spare and are looking for an easy read book to fill a space then I recommend this book.
Let me know if you’ve read any of Krystal Sutherland’s work and recommend anything that is similar to her work. Thanks, guys!
Our Chemical Hearts – Krystal Sutherland