Book Review: Our Chemical Hearts

Our Chemical Hearts

I do not usually do Young Adult fiction, which is strange as when I was in my early twenties I used to read it like there’s no tomorrow. While my friends were reading much more complicated stories, I had my nose in Gossip Girl (back before it was cool) and The Princess Diaries.

I’ve always liked YA because I think that authors have a more challenging task at hand – to show the young reader how to cope with challenges in their lives. In The Princess Diaries, Mia’s dad died of testicular cancer. Gossip Girls deals with rape, harassment, divorce and so much more. YA isn’t just about telling a story it’s about showing young people how to deal with life.

For the longest time, I’d not read any YA at all, but somehow I bought a copy of Our Chemical Hearts on my Kindle. I think I just judged the book by the cover – after all, it’s a lovely cover.

Our Chemical Hearts is about Henry Page, a teenager minding his own business until Grace Town joins his school. She wears guys’ clothes, is a bit unkept and despite being a great writer she doesn’t write anymore. Teenagers being teenagers, he falls in love.

The writing is very…youthful. It’s written as if a teenager is writing it, with waffle and irrelevant information all over the place. I wondered who might write like this, and when I found out, I wasn’t surprised in the slightest.

Here are some choice quotes:

“But what do you give a girl whose mind is like the universe, when the brain inside your own head is stuck firmly on planet Earth?”

“If people really were assembled from pieces of the universe, her soul was made of stardust and chaos”

The downside of reading this on a Kindle is that you can see when other people have highlighted stuff, and there were many parts when 100s of people have saved snippets of the most god-awful cringey crap. All I could do was roll my eyes and move on.

HAVING SAID THIS, despite the fact that I wanted to hate it (spoiler reasons below), I was pretty hooked. I found myself putting down other books to be able to finish this faster, and although it took me a long time to get into the writing style (I read the first chapter then put it down for a month) I really blitzed through the rest.


The most annoying thing about the story was Henry himself. Grace, as it turns out, is mourning the loss of her boyfriend, and it’s his clothes she wears all the time, his grave she visits every night and his bed she still sleeps in.

Even once he works this out, even after she kisses him and says that Henry makes her think of him, he still pursues her, saying that he just really wants her.

His behaviour with her is the typical “nice guy expecting girl to fall for him because he’s nice”. At no point does he ask her if she’s ready to move on, if she is in the right position to date again having suffered this loss. Sure, she kisses him, and they have sex, but it is because she misses her dead boyfriend. You’d think that if you had sex with someone like that and when they think you’re asleep you hear them cry, saying “I miss you” you might back off and reassess the situation instead of assume that you’re in a couple now.

Protagonists don’t always have to be perfect, and the voice of reason throughout the book is best friend Lola, who is a welcome referee through the story. However, even she doesn’t ever question whether Henry has actually asked if Grace is ready to date again, or berate him for putting his own feelings of wanting her over her sorrow of having lost the guy she loves.

Going back to why I like YA, in that they present difficult situations, I feel that YA authors have a duty to lead good examples. Yeah, I know, it’s a bit harsh but if you’re aiming your content at young people I feel you should be cautious and aim to guided them. I feel that Henry is presented as a romantic hero (as the author even describes him in the video above), where he’s actually just a sucky “nice guy”. No one should be confusing his selfish needs with romance.

Though I didn’t want to, I did enjoy reading the book. Even though it was probably hate-reading it. She has a new book out, and I probably wouldn’t want to put myself through that, nor the film of Our Chemical Hearts which is apparently on its way.

Have you read this? Let me know in the comments?


  1. I love YA as it’s easier to read for a non -native English speaker as myself. I do like weird writings though, maybe I will enjoy this?
    Kal recently posted…The World Culture Postcards ProjectMy Profile

    • Charlotte says:

      I think you might do! It has a LOT of cultural references so maybe they might be difficult to pick up on, but the writing is very simple.

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