Thursday, 7 May 2015
Review: We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen
Publisher: Andersen Press
Format: Hardcover / eBook
Released: May 7th, 2015
Meet Stewart. He’s geeky, gifted and sees things a bit differently to most people. His mum has died and he misses her all the more now he and Dad have moved in with Ashley and her mum. Meet Ashley. She’s popular, cool and sees things very differently to her new family. Her dad has come out and moved out – but not far enough. And now she has to live with a freakazoid step-brother. Stewart can’t quite fit in at his new school, and Ashley can’t quite get used to her totally awkward home, which is now filled with some rather questionable decor. And things are about to get a whole lot more mixed up when these two very different people attract the attention of school hunk Jared...
We Are All Made of Molecules is a little gem of a book that I read knowing nothing about it. It follows a very mixed-up family through a difficult period in their lives, doing so with humour and a whole lot of heart. It's one of the best YA books I've read for a good long while, and I defy anyone to read it and not instantly fall in love with thirteen-year-old Stewart. Trust me on this one: he will steal you away!
Stewart's mum has died and he and his dad are moving in with his dad's girlfriend, who also happens to have a teenage daughter. Stewart and Ashley don't hit it off, unfortunately for him, but that doesn't deter Stewart. He's determined to belong, to make the best of a tricky situation, and the only way to do that is to break through Ashley's barriers and make friends with her. This book explores a plethora of themes and issues, including family, love, loss, grief, acceptance, and bullying. Although it deals with each one of these, it never feels forced or too full; Susin Nielsen's writing flows effortlessly and it's very, very easy to get lost in this unusual family's trials and tribulations.
Stewart is the star of this book for me; he's a bit different, gifted academically and very aware of what's going on with the people around him. He's also experiencing the worst grief imaginable: that of losing a mother. I empathised with Stewart straight away - I knew exactly what he was feeling and I understood every one of his thoughts and feelings. I felt like someone else knew what I was going through, and I'm sure that's one of the reasons I love him so much. He knows what this unimaginable grief is like, what it's like to miss a mother like you'll never miss anything ever again, yet still carry on living every day without her. The way he deals with his loss is both realistic and inspirational and, from experience, the ups and downs he goes through are exactly how it is. He's also funny, impeccably polite, kind, thoughtful and would do anything for his friends and family - he's downright amazing!
Ashley is the other voice in this dual-narration novel, and she's the character that took me a little longer to warm to. I didn't like her at first, she was mean and not accepting of Stewart and his dad, but gradually she came around and so did I. She's very reminiscent of every fourteen-year-old girl I've ever known, stuck in the midst of puberty and confusion while also trying to adjust to a new home life and a family secret that, to her, seems to be more of a tragedy. By the end of the book I loved Ashley too, her faults and all. This family works against all the odds, and their non-nuclear assembly really shows that even the most unlikely people can create bonds that will last a lifetime.
We Are All Made of Molecules caught me by surprise; it made me sit up and take notice of a little book about a boy and his cat, about a girl and her mum and how their lives suddenly become irrevocably intertwined. It pulled me from the depths of a month-long reading slump that I was beginning to think would never end, and it made me excited to read again. Susin Nielsen has written a fantastic, heartwarming book that has so much to say, and it's one that will stay with me for a long time. Stewart feels like a friend to me now - a friend who knows how I'm feeling, a friend who knows that everything will be okay in the end. He's like a light in the darkness, and that, fellow readers, is the greatest gift a book can give to any of us.