Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland
There’s already quite a bit of buzz about Krystal Sutherland’s debut novel, with comparisons being drawn to John Green and Rainbow Rowell and a movie already in the works. It’s a big vote of confidence in this young Queensland writer, and a good indicator of what’s to come from her.
Our Chemical Hearts is a funny and heartfelt story about first love and, of course, a story about first heartbreak. Henry Page is a smart and self-aware teenager who’s happily managed to make it to the ripe old age of seventeen without losing his heart to anyone. Content to hang out with his friends (Murray, the Australian Steve Irwin parody; and Lola, the gay Chinese/Haitian ‘diversity triple threat’), avoid the scandal that dogged his older sister’s senior year, and secure his position as editor of the yearbook, Henry is totally unprepared for Grace Town.
Greasy-haired, shrouded in men’s clothing, and burdened with a cane to help her walk, Grace is an unlikely romantic interest; but her closely-held secrets, enigmatic behaviour, and quick wit soon has Henry smitten. But is he falling in love with the girl, or the idea of one? Sutherland isn’t writing in a vacuum, and there’s a slightly manic immediacy to Our Chemical Hearts that will be appealing to young readers who live in a fast-paced digital world. It’s peppered throughout with pop-culture references and in-jokes, sly little nods and winks for experienced readers who are familiar with the tropes that crop up again and again in YA fiction.
Our Chemical Hearts acknowledges and pays tribute to the ever-popular genre of Manic-Pixie-Dream-Girls-and-the-men-who-love-them, but turns it gently on its head by developing into a story that proves that love is complicated and people more so. This is an accomplished first novel and an enjoyable read that blends humour with heart.
Lian Hingee is the digital marketing manager for Readings.