Title: Our Chemical Hearts
Author: Krystal Sutherland
Release date: October 2016
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Genre: YA contemporary romance
Source: Gift from friend
Description: 'I always thought the moment you met the love of your life would be more like the movies...'
Henry Page is a film buff and a hopeless romantic. He's waiting for that slo-mo, heart-palpitating, can't-eat-can't-sleep kind of love that he's seen in the movies. So the last person he expects to fall in love with is Grace.
Grace Town is not your normal leading lady. She dresses in oversized men's clothing, smells like she hasn't washed in weeks and walks with a cane. She's nobody's idea of a dream girl, but Henry can't stop thinking about her.
There's something broken about Grace; a small part of her soul is cracked from the secrets in her past. Henry wants nothing more than to put her back together again, but will she let him?
John Green meets Rainbow Rowell in this heartbreaking tale of bittersweet first love.
My thoughts: This is not your typical YA romance, and I loved all the things that made it different. Unfortunately I can't talk about some of my favourite bits without giving away too much, so I'll keep this brief!
Henry is drawn to Grace right from the start, but for the first few months, they're just friends. Good friends, a lot of the time, but Grace never talks about why she left her old school, or what happened to her leg, and although Henry eventually figures those things out, there's not much he can do to help her on the days she's miserable and dwelling on the past. On her bad days, she barely talks, and even once their relationship drifts past friendship Henry still mostly skims over these days in his narrative.
I loved that his attention and the relationship didn't 'fix' Grace. She doesn't 'come out of her shell' or move on from the past. She changes, sure, but in believable ways. It was a little heartbreaking to watch through Henry's eyes and see the problems with their relationship: things which he doesn't acknowledge as problematic, or skips over as being just a blip or ordinary part of things, when from an outside perspective you can see that it is a problem, and that he really should be looking at that.
I think we need more YA books like this which show... not unhappy but un-ideal relationships. I would have benefited a lot from reading this as a teenager.
The book does not just focus on the relationship - it also has a great portrayal of the senior experience in high school. I felt like it was so spot on with what the final year is like. The language the characters use and the situations they go through felt real and were similar to what I experienced as a 17/18 year old in high school. Krystal Sutherland has really nailed the older teen experience. I really enjoyed this book, and I did go through a couple of tissues at times - be prepared! Overall I'm giving it 8 stars. If you've read this book, I'd love to hear from you and talk about it more!