Book 42: Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland

It took me way too long to read this book. It also took me way too long to want to read this book. It had such good reviews, but every time I started it, I put it back down for another time. I finally gave it a 3rd (or was it 4th?) chance.

This book has an important message, but you have to trudge through to find it. I do not think the writing is bad, but it is definitely not Rainbow Rowell or John Green, which the description leads you to believe. It is a book that wants to be great, bold, and important, but as the old southern saying goes, “It’s like putting lipstick on a pig.”

I will talk about what I like first. This book gives a decent idea of what depression is like from a bystander’s point-of-view. You know you should say something, but you don’t know what to say or how to say it. It gives the message that depression does not always mean suicidal. It can mean a plethora of things. It can mean isolation, self-harm, guilt guided punishment, and none of it is less real or important.

Now for the bad things. I really dislike when an author is too lazy or unaware of how to write in teenage voice. What do they do instead? They make a precocious little teenage that is gifted with words and is a timeless, classic person that knows everything from Ariana Grande to David Bowie to Nirvana to ACDC. I don’t think one of these teenagers spoke like a real teenage for more than 15 seconds. Also, the book was riddled with dated pop trivia. Twilight? Really?!

The one thing that almost made me put this book down was the misuse of diversity within the book. One character’s name is Galaxy Nguyen. Sutherland said the Galaxy got to choose his name when he moved from China. Nguyen is not Chinese. Nguyen is Vietnamese. It is the most common Vietnamese surname and one of the most common East Asian surnames. It would’ve taken 5 seconds to Google that shit. It is a pet peeve when people try to add diversity (no matter how secondary or tertiary of a character) and then misuse that diversity.

ALSO, this book was trying to point out subtle racism and sexism, but it failed. This book WAS subtly racist. Sugar Ghandi should never have been created. If you do create it, you should put. that. to. bed. immediately! It doesn’t matter if that character says its okay and endearing. Unless the author is Indian, that character’s voice is not your own.

I started with this book being 3-stars because I was riding the high of finishing the book and enjoying the ending. After reviewing all of the things I disliked about this book, I think I might be generous with a 2-star rating.

I call hard pass on this one. Look elsewhere for your books dealing with mental health issues.


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