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


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.


  • Ksenia

    Wonderful review, Joy! I haven’t heard about this book before, but you made me intrigued. And I so relate to your worries about your kid.

  • I’m shocked by the way children and teenagers act in books, too, a lot of the time. The cruelty is astonishing, and horrible to imagine, but… I can believe it, too, and that’s even worse, a lot of the time. I’ve experienced my own type of bullying and it isn’t hard, when you’ve had it, to imagine the other ways it could make itself.
    I hope your child has a really positive experience in school, Joy, and comes out of it stronger and without the awful experience of bullying.
    Also, I agree with the other commenters: Hugging a book is a very good sign. Lovely review. Xx

  • Ahh, gorgeous review Joy. <3 Thank you so much for sharing about this book. It sounds amazing. Yet too sad for me, I think. Kids are so mean sometimes 🙁 And eeek. Best of luck with your child going to public school. <3 I do think and hope he/she'll do okay 🙂 But yeah. Kids can be mean :\ Anyway. I'm glad you liked this book a whole lot sweetie 😀 But ugh. The "sister" sounds so awful 🙁

  • The title sounds so interesting! It’s so sad that he goes through bullying for being smart, but sadly it’s a reality that happens in most schools (I went through it!). I like that he’s unintentionally funny… those are the best kind of characters, haha.

  • Kids are often the extremities; the sweet ones or the mean ones. There’s rarely an inbetween, lol. Great review! 😀

  • Wow, move in with your girlfriend and her daughter only a year after your wife dies?! Can i slap this man (yes, I’m being judgmental)? I hope the step sister she-beast got nicer as the story went on. Fab review, Joy! 🙂

  • I really like the idea of his optimistic outlook on life. And I am not sure about it starting as a middle grade read but I liked that it forms into something else. As you were speaking about the book (or er, writing the review) I came to think about Lord of the Flies by William Golding where it turns out that kids can be meaner and more vicious than we sometimes like to think ourselves. Great review!

  • You’ve convinced me so quickly! I hate bullying, and I hate how just because someone is different it means they’re weird. I’m glad you really liked this book, I think this is also a book I would like 🙂

  • Sounds like an interesting read! The title of this one grabbed my interest. I was just chatting with a guy in work today about how senselessly cruel kids can be to one another, it’s almost ingrained in a way, like something they have to get out of their system until they grow up and gain more empathy (and get a short, sharp shock about the realities of life!). It’s strange for me – I was bullied a lot when I was younger, but in my late teens/early twenties I grew assertive and confident. I abhor bullying now, and go out of my way to prevent it, even in the workplace. It’s even odder, because I’m 25 now, and when I’m talking to young people (I feel I’m sounding patronising, even when I try not to) I very much feel like an “adult” now, telling them the same things others told me, when I was a kid and knew it all, and adults were a different species. It’s so strange the first time you have that realisation that you now think like a grown up, and you’re distant from “the kids”. I can see the struggles of “getting through” to the younger generation. Perpetual cycle really, isn’t it? R x

  • Aw you actually hugged the book, that’s cute. This does sound wonderful though, I adore the cover of it! Lovely review Joy 🙂

  • Tee hee Joy your comment about hugging the book made me laugh hehe super ka-ute! And while reading your review I was reminded of Harry Potter for some reason?? hmmmm. And also my thoughts and prayers for your son because he’s at the age where things are somewhat complicated but he had a good mommy so he’ll be fine. 😉
    Lovely review as usual!

  • Thank you for this review, seems so interesting! Gifted kids are always fascinating, and sadly nobody seems to know how to make the most of their potential properly!

  • Maja (The Nocturnal Library)

    Yours is the very first positive review I’ve seen for this book and now I’m curious! Definitely giving it a chance. Also, we have a new Mary Calmes novella coming up in 3 days. 3 DAYS! *happy dance*

  • Have your kid read this over the summer… Kids are meaner now and social media is encouraging this behavior. Lots of trolls, hate and discontent is spreading like a contagion. My son is a senior and just recently he had a classmate who committed suicide because he was bullied in school.

  • I can tell already that I’m going to love Stewart like nobody’s business. I want to give him a hug (and throttle Ashley) just from reading your review. This isn’t something I likely would have picked up on my own, so thank you for bringing it to my attention Joy! Looking forward to it:)

  • Ahh this sounds fabulous and hey, if you hugged the book, then I just know it will be worth it to read, even if I do want to beat Ashley up on his behalf. 😉
    Wonderful review!!

  • Hugging books is a good sign! This book just sounds amazing–it’s probably the kind that’ll make me laugh, cry and rage all at the same time. I haven’t added this to my TBR before, but it’s definitely going on there now. Fantastic review, Joy!

  • I love the cover of this book along with its title!
    I hadn’t heard much about this one, but your review makes me want to check it out although it does seem like I’m going to have to emotionally prepare myself for it. Honestly, some kids can be as bad as some horrible adults these days, but there are always the good ones as well.
    I’ll have to see if my library has a copy.
    Great review, Joy!

  • It is really sad what teenagers have to deal with these days. Society places such pressure on them. I see it with my nieces and it does make me sad. This sounds like quite an interesting book. I’m not sure if I’ll read it but I will recommend it to my oldest niece who is 14 and is somewhat of a different child. Great review Joy! 🙂

  • Oooh… this sounds really good Joy! It’s a new book to me, but looks like you really enjoyed it enough to hug it! Great review!

    Naomi @ Naomi’s Reading Palace

  • Hugged the shit out of it…cool 😀

  • I didn’t know about this one but it sounds like a good book! It’s true that we don’t really expect to have something more than middle grade when the main character is that young.