I received Our Chemical Hearts in exchange for an honest review
The Goodreads summary for this book reads: ”John Green meets Rainbow Rowell in this irresistible story of first love, broken hearts, and the golden seams that put them back together again.” And this is one of those rare cases where the blurb is pretty much spot on.
Our Chemical Hearts isn’t a hugely original tale – it felt strongly reminiscent of other novels in the genre, particularly Jennifer Niven’s All The Bright Places and Paper Towns by John Green. But while there’s echoes of other stories I’ve read, this debut author has a voice all of her own. I whizzed through this book in just a day or two – it’s the type that will have you laughing out loud in some places, but also break your heart just a little in others.
Henry Page is a pretty average guy, embarking on his final year of high school. He’s got a small but close network of friends and works hard for the school newspaper. He’s never really been particularly interested in girls, until Grace Town walks into his class.
Grace is almost the polar opposite of Henry; where he conforms, she rebels. Her outlook on life is different to anyone else Henry has ever met, and yet as the two are thrown together to work on the school newspaper, he begins to fall for her. But there’s more to Grace than meets the eye. Why has she suddenly transferred schools in her final year? Why does she seem to always wear guys’ clothes? The path of true love never runs smooth, and Henry’s first love is no different.
What made this book was the main characters made. They’re all well-drawn, relatable and enjoyable to read – Henry is far from perfect, but he did feel real and he made me smile. Grace is a little more prickly but I felt I understood her too and the two of them had such a great rapport with plenty of witty banter peppered with astute cultural references that was a joy to read. The rest of the characters were a little hit and miss for me – some felt like they were slightly exaggerated for comical effect – but they served well as a supporting network for the protagonist Henry and his strong character acted as a glue, holding some of the weaker roles together.
I found some of the revelations around Grace fairly obvious from quite early on, but that didn’t detract too much as this is more a tale of emotion than fast plotting. And the author portrays emotion well, exploring the complicated facets of loss and grief and how they can affect a character, without ever getting too morbid. She tops it off with a realistic, authentic ending which wasn’t perfect but completely real.