Henry Page has never been in love. He fancies himself a hopeless romantic, but the slo-mo, heart palpitating, can’t-eat-can’t-sleep kind of love that he’s been hoping for just hasn’t been in the cards for him—at least not yet. Instead, he’s been happy to focus on his grades, on getting into a semi-decent college and finally becoming editor of his school newspaper. Then Grace Town walks into his first period class on the third Tuesday of senior year and he knows everything’s about to change.
Grace isn’t who Henry pictured as his dream girl—she walks with a cane, wears oversized boys’ clothes, and rarely seems to shower. But when Grace and Henry are both chosen to edit the school paper, he quickly finds himself falling for her. It’s obvious there’s something broken about Grace, but it seems to make her even more beautiful to Henry, and he wants nothing more than to help her put the pieces back together again. And yet, this isn’t your average story of boy meets girl. Krystal Sutherland’s brilliant debut is equal parts wit and heartbreak, a potent reminder of the bittersweet bliss that is first love.
It could’ve been so good; there were flashes of brilliance, sure. But they were quickly dulled by half-formed characters who deceptively sounded larger than life. Moreover, these characters easily fit in the pages of a John Green novel: quick-witted, obnoxiously smart however physically flawed. But the story took forever to come to life, and I wouldn’t have minded it if the book offered more.
Grace Town is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.
Truthfully, readers don’t really get to know Grace Town. Her past defined her as a character and we don’t see anything else but her visceral, all-encompassing grief. She didn’t apologize for not being able to give more of herself or her heart to Henry, and because Henry was so smitten, he didn’t ask for what he deserved. If you haven’t read this book, be warned that this is a disastrous kind of love story. Though, that’s hardly a spoiler since it said so on the back of the book.
On the other hand, Henry narrating the book might be the reason why we don’t get to know Grace. Grief and debilitating guilt are all we know about her. But it’s really tough to connect to a grieving character when we don’t their history. And that is what I struggled the most about Our Chemical Hearts. I think I spent most of the time waiting for the story to develop. The majority of the book focused on Henry and his inexplicable attraction to Grace. He was drawn by her enigma and the more she kept him at arm’s length, the harder it was for him to resist. Overall, this was not an insightful book about grief. I think it would be more effective if this was told in Grace’s perspective.