[522]: We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen

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GOODREADS SUMMARY | Tundra Books | Hardcover, 256 pp. | May 12, 2015 | Young Adult Fiction | Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


Truth be told, this book started off like a Middle Grade read. After all, the kids in here are only 13 and 14 year-olds. But as you get further into the book, scary, unpleasant things started happening. Things that kids this age should never have to go through. If I had any choice, that is.

I look at my 13 year-old, who by the way is about to start public school in September, and I’m immediately overcome with fear and worry. I want to believe that kids aren’t mean. I want to believe that kids are more kind than how most of the YA books have portrayed them to be nowadays. But we all know things happen beyond our control and whether we like it or not, we have to let our kidlets go out into the world.

This book is about Stewart. Thirteen-year-old boy-genius who thinks a little differently than kids his age. He is gifted, and possibly a card-carrying member of MENSA. His life was already on a tailspin with the sudden death of his mother. A year later, when his dad announces that they’re moving in with his girlfriend and her daughter, he was anxious. He’s always lived a regimented life. He goes to a small school for gifted kids. Now, not only is he moving in with a couple of strangers, he’s also about to go to a scary public school.

But even with all the upheavals in his life, he manages to keep an optimistic view of the world. Bullies never seem to bother him. And he always tries to be himself, even if it opens himself up to ridicule. Even his step sister Ashley treats him like a pariah. He reminds me of  Professor Don Tillman: unintentionally funny, quirky, strait-laced and serious. He warmed my heart, and felt this protective streak for him. I worried about him on his first day of school. And because he’s so smart, he got bumped a grade up. That landed him in the land of the giants.

Then there’s his step sister Ashley, who was the exact opposite of him. She’s on top of the social ladder, popular, not very smart, and mean as they come. She is a brat and just an unlikeable character altogether. I had to grit my teeth a few times because it was difficult reading her perspective.

The titular concept is actually quite brilliant. I read it a few times because I wanted to wrap my head around it. After a few tries, I hugged the shit out of the book because it was so perfect. I’ll leave it for you to digest. I hope you’ll give this book a try. It has underlying seriousness hidden in the banalities of a teenager’s life, but don’t hold that against this book. It is a sublime story about family, love, grief, and friendship.