Review: We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen

Recommendations, Resources, Review
Image from Goodreads

Author: Susin Nielsen
Publisher: Andersen
Publication Date: April 2015
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads
There are two sides to every story
Stewart is geeky, gifted but socially clueless. His mom has died and he misses her every day.
Ashley is popular, cool but her grades stink. Her dad has come out and moved out – but not far enough.Their worlds are about to collide: Stewart and his dad are moving in with Ashley and her mom. Stewart is trying to be 89.9% happy about it even as he struggles to fit in at his new school. But Ashley is 110% horrified and can’t quite get used to her totally awkward home. And things are about to get a whole lot more mixed up when they attract the wrong kind of attention. . .
A perfect title! Particularly if you are attracted to science! Regardless of our differences, we are have one thing in common, we are all made of molecules! The chemistry that binds relationships and how they are cemented by the trials and tribulations of daily life, is a key theme of Nielsen’s novel.
It is a lovely, powerful, poignant but entertaining read, and is particularly appealing to teenagers like myself.
Nielsen’s central characters Stewart and Ashley are teenagers, and although total opposites, they represent the stereotypes that we relate to today. The novel is described entirely through their eyes. Their individual diaries alternate, cleverly interweaving the personalities of the central characters, and those that support them.
Stewart is a ‘nerd’, a ‘freakazoid’ (Ashley’s loud language!)- a boy who remains true to himself. A nerd maybe, but a coward he is not! He does not worry about what others think of him, because he is socially inept. He draws expertly on his Model United Nations training at the Little Genius Academy to negotiate and compromise his way through situations- but above all diffuses them by establishing a bond. Breathing his mother’s molecules is bold but beautiful, emotional and painful, as he strives to stay connected to her, and maintain that special bond. Her molecules live on.
‘Everything and everyone, is interconnected’, claims Stewart, and as the central characters journey through the novel, this becomes very apparent. Stewart’s feelings attached to moving into a new house, a new school and a new family, while holding tightly on to his past, are described in a balanced way, representing his level headed and compromising approach to life.
Ashley’s feelings are very different! Feeling betrayed by her father, her efforts to bond and blend with her new family are fraught with her desire to be ‘unconstipated’ or emancipated from them! Ashley did not ask for strangers to move in! She is far removed from the ‘Spewart’ like ‘tragics’, super geeks, super losers and mathletes, as being high on the social ladder pecking order is far more important to her. How she tackles this quest is typical of those whose image and vanity is central to their persona, and more important than anything else! Ashley endures the humiliations and embarrassments associated with gaining the attentions of Jared, the gorgeous, ego centric hunk of the Borden Bulldogs basketball team, whilst concealing the true reason for her parents’ separation. How Ashley learns harsh lessons about the real importance of life, is cleverly and humorously described but with emotional poignance attached.  What is great to see is the way Nielsen nurtures the teenager through the bitter sweet experiences and how she comes through them well.
The novel is so 21st century, and its characters and themes very cutting edge. It is a skilfully written portrayal of two teenagers’ vulnerabilities and approach to life. A theme which most adolescents can relate to, at some stage during their teenage life! A perfect teen read.

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