Our Chemical Hearts

Our Chemical Hearts

by Krystal Sutherland

SYNOPSIS:

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.

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4.5

A bittersweet story.. like a tender, distant memory that lingers.

I read “Inimi Chimice” (“Our Chemical Hearts”) at the end of 2016 and it’s the first international YA book I actually read in Romanian . It is also one of my favourites of the year, not as much because of the love story (quite a bit strange unusual that one), but because of the beautiful writing style, the narrator’s tone and the messages hidden between the lines.

I love male narratives. They are somehow less angsty, probably more cynical, or maybe it’s just the different perspective that feels so refreshing and makes the connection with the characters that much stronger. I’ve had a lovely time reading this book and the beauty of it lies in the lingering feeling of déjà vu I got when I stumbled upon some concepts mentioned here (the idea of people falling for illusions  – something I’ve already reflected upon, the art of repairing broken things with golden seams – known as Kintsukuroi; and then a few more).

STORY

I will start my review with the thoughts I had midway through reading this book.

couple-kissTo be honest, it feels pretty much like a train wreck waiting to happen, but I am unable to take my eyes away from it. I sense heartbreak in every drop of ink.

It is also lyrical & beautiful, I love so many quotes, it will be hard to pick some favourites.

And I won’t tell you if I was right or wrong in my assumptions, I will get again personally involved with this book and let you see it the way I see it.. Not as a love story, but as a revelation of sorts.

This is the story of Henry trying to decipher the mystery that his loved one is, but also a story about friendship and family and possibilities and heartbreak and everything in between. One can read this book and see romance in it. I, on the other hand, got lost between the lines, got lost inside some ideas that were perfectly in sink with me, so that it felt like parts of this book reflected parts of my own self. It happens to me from time to time. Like with Every Day, though in “Inimi Chimice” (“Our Chemical Hearts”) the love story made a lot more sense to me.

Anyways, I was just thinking (before even reading this story) about this concept that stands at the base of this book… that we don’t love people, we love ideas, projections made up by our own minds. We love the person we want / we believe our loved one to be. And no matter how accurate that projection might actually be, we never love a person fully, because we don’t know that person fully. In fact, we don’t know ourselves that well either. We get surprised by our own choices from time to time, we spend our lives trying to find out who we really are. Sometimes we get close to acknowledging this fact, sometimes we simply don’t.

“When I look up into the night sky, I remember that I’m nothing but the ashes of long-dead stars. A human being is a collection of atoms that comes together into an ordered pattern for a brief period of time and then falls apart again. I find comfort in my smallness”  *

And then there is this need we have to always fix things, to put all of the pieces back together. But we grow each and every day and the pieces we left behind, the ones we once lost, won’t fit anymore no matter how much we try. And we put people on some high pedestals and it’s selfish for us to do so, because the higher we place them in our minds, the lower they might have to fall in our eyes.

CHARACTERS

Henry was a fun and witty teenage guy, though a bit insecure and quite a bit naive when it comes to love. It’s nice that the story is told as if adult Henry might look behind at his teenage years and reflect on all the facts and moments contained within the pages of his story, because you can’t help feeling that all his flaws have been left behind in time. He is also more cynical and sarcastic when it comes to his own mistakes and I always appreciate that in a book.

girl-boy-clothesGrace is this strange creature that walked into his life like a tornado, without warning and leaving his world all messed up. She was nothing but background noise (intriguing, yes, but not worth troubling his mind about) up until he got a glimpse into her old life, her old self that he started to longed for so very much. It’s strange how our minds and hearts work, how we want something that is not even there, some fort of mirage that blinds us to what reality actually holds for us.

Their relationship was the hot and cold type, he didn’t see past the present moment and she was such a mystery he craved to unfold with all his being. He believed that he could ‘unbreak’ her with his love and tried hard to make her happy, without actually acknowledging (for most of the book) all the hurt inside her broken mind.

“Sometimes I feel like you don’t exist”  *

Character related, I also enjoyed the family dynamics and the relationship between Henry and his two best friends. They were supportive but they also knew to warn him when he was about to step off on the wrong foot.

CONCLUSIONS

With the many references it points towards (some other books, songs, movies) “Inimi Chimice” / “Our Chemical Hearts” feels authentic and real. The characters are tridimensional and the emotions are raw and heartwarming. The writing is incredibly beautiful (not to mention that this is actually a debut novel), flowing easily, and at the end I was left with a deep feeling of rightfulness. I deeply recommend this story and I’ll keep an eye on this author.

Book Source: Copy provided for review, courtesy of the local publisher, Storia Books.
Thank you, it was a lovely surprise!

ro Note: The Romanian review can be found here.

* Quotes given to me by a friend, from her English copy, to match my selected ones. My top favourite ones didn’t make the cut though, as they would spoil the story.

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