It’s been awhile since I picked up a contemporary YA novel, my last being All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (which, by the way, I will never stop mentioning because it’s one of my favorite YAs ever), and I’ll be frank: I picked up Our Chemical Hearts because of the attractiveness of its minimalistic, white cover, not minding the blurb at the back. I know that could be dicey, especially if you’re a bookworm with a tight budget like me, but could you blame me? With a title like Our Chemical Hearts, who wouldn’t be curious?
After finally reading the blurb, I started the book with much gusto. The story is told in the point of view of Henry Page, a hopeless romantic writer who has never been in love – until Grace Town. Now, before you go all “not another one of those cliche, cheesy romances”, it isn’t. I’ve read my fair share of those John Green-esque novels, so I could tell this one would be special.
Henry reminds me of Calvin from Ruby Sparks and Tom of 500 Days of Summer. He is an honest, hilarious, witty, sweet, and a well-developed protagonist who, from time to time, breaks the fourth wall. I enjoyed reading his narration – poetic, and at the same time as innocent as a boy in love, though a bit obsessive and idealistic. I feel for him, though. Everyone’s had crazy phases in love.
Meanwhile, Grace Town is your Manic Pixie Dream Girl who wears oversized boys’ clothing and walks around with a cane. I can’t say much about Grace, because she’s intended to be a mystery all throughout the book. She’s kind of like Cassidy from The Beginning of Everything or Alaska from Looking for Alaska, only less annoying because I couldn’t stand both female leads. Anyway, you’ll either love or hate Grace, but you’ll appreciate her character as the story advances.
Even the secondary characters, Henry’s best friends Murray and Lola, Henry’s parents, and Henry’s older sister (the best secondary character imo) Sadie, were more than just interesting. They were characters with solid personalities that just stick to you, you know? Henry’s friendship with his besties felt real, and not fabricated for the sake of having the “Supportive Bestfriend” trope. Heck, I could write a whole page about the characters, but I’d rather you find out yourself.
What I really, really like about the book is its brutal honesty. The narrative was on point: teenager becomes delusional after falling in love with the girl of his “dreams”, and it shows. Everytime Grace appears in his line of sight, Henry’s character lights up, and when she’s gone, you could feel it dying out. I loved that the adults were also very realistic – Sadie to be specific. My favorite part of the book was when she explained that love was just a chemical reaction (hence, the title).
Our Chemical Hearts is about all types of love as much as it is about friendship and family. Anyway, if you want your heart to swell (the good kind), I’d recommend getting this book. It’s as real as real gets, it’s got the right mix of funny and heartbreaking, it’s serious when it needs to be, and it’s definitely worth the read.