A powerful, moving and entertaining story that has everything: strong and believable characters, laugh out loud moments, a plot that keeps you turning the pages and times when you find yourself biting your nails or blinking back a tear.
After two years of pain following his mum’s death, Stewart is pleased his dad has found someone else and he’s 89.9% excited that he and his dad are moving in with Ashley and her mom. Ashley, however, is 110% horrified at the prospect of a new ‘blended’ family. She’s still dealing with her parent’s breakup and the revelation that her dad is gay. She’s simply not prepared for a new step-dad and his geeky, socially clueless, son.
If you check out Susin Neilsen’s website you’ll find a very long list of all the awards and honours that have been showered on We Are All Made of Molecules and it’s easy to see why. The book has everything – strong and believable characters, laugh out loud moments, a plot that keeps you turning the pages and times when you find yourself biting your nails or blinking back a tear. And if this isn’t enough, it also addresses a plethora of issues including grief, friendship and attitudes to homosexuality.
The story is told from Ashley’s and Stewart’s point of view in alternate chapters. They’re total opposites and it’s enormous fun to read their differing interpretations of the same events.
The first person is used for both characters but there is no risk that you’ll get the two confused. Yes, their names are at the top of each chapter but this is really unnecessary as the two teen voices are powerfully distinctive. Ashley is very much the airhead teen, obsessed with what to wear and how to maintain her position on the social ladder in high school. I would imagine that author, Susin Neilsen, had great fun selecting the words that Ashley so frequently confuses: literate rather than literal; unconstipated rather than emancipated; or granite rather than granted. Stewart in contrast is much more literal with slightly autistic tendencies: indeed, Stewart’s voice is in many ways reminiscent of Christopher in Mark Haddon’s award-winning The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.
It’s much easier to sympathise with Stewart but there are just enough hints at Ashley’s more vulnerable and generous side that we can empathise with Ashley even when she is being truly obnoxious. We suspect from the beginning that Ashley is going to be somehow redeemed but I liked the fact that the ending was not what I expected. The supporting characters are all strong but, for me, there is one who almost stole the show – Stewart’s cat, Schrödinger. It might be because I’m a cat lover but I had my heart in my mouth, and a tear in my eye, when Schrödinger goes missing in the climax. (You’ll have to read the book to find out why and whether he is found).
Overall this is a powerful, moving and entertaining story that has everything. If you enjoyed this, I’d recommend to other equally good YA novels released this year: More of Me by Kathryn Evans or Lying About Last Summer by Sue Wallman.
Date: April 2016
Publisher: Andersen Press
Author’s website: Susin Nielsen
Review first published on The Bookbag