Be still my chemical heart

13 Nov

In my immediate review on Goodreads, I spouted about the manic pixie dream girl that goes so wrong for me in many YA books, yet this one be it Sutherland’s writing or the slow-peel of the layers of this onion make it sweet with a pang of heartbreak. I am not a lover of happy endings and this one did not disappoint: it was complete, real, and not hopeless either.

Memorable character: I want to highlight Henry Page, not Grace Town as the most memorable character, if in part because he is the narrator but that his self-awareness is wise and yet still impulsive and questioning. He gets his heart broken by his parents and Grace Town and several others along the way, but he keeps moving forward and that strength I respect. I can also empathize with his explanation of why he can’t put into words answer to some of Grace’s questions,”Exactly, I’m a writer. I could go home and write you an essay on why I’ve never had a girlfriend, and it would be awesome. But I… kinda suck at telling stories when they’re not on paper.” Me too, Henry Page. Me too.

Memorable scene: There are two distinct scenes that Sutherland’s words capture the essence of the emotions felt in that moment. The first is as Henry is trying to figure out just who Grace is and begins with the very 21st century Facebook stalk and he shares “… feeling a strange, unfamiliar pang of excitement at the sight of her. There was something deeply confusing about looking at Grace, like that feeling you get when you see a colorized photograph of the Civil War or the Great Depression and realize for the first time that the people in them were real. Except it was reversed, because I’d seen the colorized Grace on Facebook, and here was the sepia version- the hard-to-grasp version- ghostlike and ashen in front of me.” I get it Sutherland, oh how you’ve described it perfectly. And then as Henry happens upon Grace after an all-out search for her in town, worried about what she might do and he finds her in “the spot.” “Grace turned to face me. Although there was no light except from the moon, I could see trails of tears falling down her face… I slowed for a moment, sure that I was dreaming, because she looked like something out of a myth… Here was Ophelia, in the flesh.” And I got the picture. Again, Sutherland’s words touch the reader deeply. There nothing to say other than to quote her own words.

Memorable quote: So you can imagine that in trying to add just one quote to sum up the story, that there are many as I’ve already shared above. But there is one more, one more that might give a little bit too much away for the reader who hasn’t read Our Chemical Hearts yet, so I’ll share that you must skip this quote and return to compare notes once you have read it and tell me whether you agree. And here it is: “People are perfect when all that’s left of them is a memory. You’re never gonna measure up to a dead dude.”

Henry is a sympathetic narrator who just wants to love an imperfect girl, the manic pixie dream girl, yet this one is just a little different. With a dose of gorgeous writing, a fully-realized cast of characters, and a well-paced story I advise that copies be purchased and distributed ASAP along with Pablo Neruda’s poetry, which I adore and puts the cherry on top.


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Posted by on November 13, 2016 in Authors, Fiction, Young Adult


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