Thirteen-year-old Stewart is academically brilliant but socially clueless.
Fourteen-year-old Ashley is the undisputed “It” girl in her class, but her grades stink.
Their worlds are about to collide when Stewart and his dad move in with Ashley and her mom. Stewart is trying to be 89.9 percent happy about it, but Ashley is 110 percent horrified. She already has to hide the real reason her dad moved out; “Spewart” could further threaten her position at the top of the social ladder.
They are complete opposites. And yet, they have one thing in common: they—like everyone else—are made of molecules.
Note: I received this book from Maximum Pop! in exchange for a You Review on Twitter.
This book deals with a lot of issues in a quick and easy read. It is written with a dual first-person narrative, from the individual perspectives of Stewart and Ashley. Stewart is set up quite early as a character you can empathise with, while Ashley is pulled from the hormonal maelstrom of the teenage years we all loved. Susin Nielsen says in a Q & A with this book that she is based somewhat on an angrier version of her teenage self.
Stewart is gifted, and sees the world as black and white, unafraid or undaunted to talk about potentially embarrassing subjects for teenagers. He’s also conscientious and caring. Ashley is more concerned with her appearance, how her family appears to other people, and her social standing in school. She’s also written as not as intelligent as Stewart, sometimes to hilarious effect. For example, one particular chapter long joke has her constantly mixing up constipation and emancipation.
I liked how the narratives were written, as if they were a diary or the character retelling their story with no filter and in a stream of consciousness kind of way.
Molecules explores primarily the evolution of Stewart and Ashley’s new and modern version of a family. Stewart is logical and accomodating, while Ashley is resistant to change and embarrassed by her mother’s new boyfriend (Stewart’s father) and Stewart, and her own father’s situation. Because of this, she can be a frustrating character but her arc is probably the most satisfying. You have to feel for her too, as she goes through a lot over the course of the few months of the book, mainly thanks to a less than gentlemanly guy, Jared.
There is also a strong exploration of homophobia, which is from a different angle than the usual, which again involves Ashley. There is also a subplot of bullying, involving Stewart, and some touching writing on grief.
Molecules is a fun read, as the voices of Stewart and Ashley are likeable. I haven’t even mentioned some of the great quirky features, such as Stewart’s brilliantly named cat, the whole molecules thing, creepy figurines and school mascot shenanigans. It all makes for an enjoyable book, and Susin Nielsen is an author I’ll be watching out for.