We Are All Made of Molecules
by Susin Nielsen
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Pub Date 12 May 2015 | Archive Date 12 May 2015
Random House of Canada Limited, Tundra Books
Written in alternating voices, Susin Nielsen deftly explores family tragedy and family ties; sibling rivalry and union; and adolescent confusion and revelation.
"A nerdy boy and a queen-bee girl become stepbrother and -sister in this comedy/drama. Hilarity ensues when 13-year-old Stewart learns that he and his dad are moving in with Caroline and her 14-year-old daughter, Ashley. Stewart copes well enough, thanks to his outstanding intelligence, precocious emotional maturity, math skills, and the calm outlook with which he assesses his successes and failures. He’s excited to have a sister. Ashley, on the other hand, couldn’t care less about school and wants nothing to do with her new almost-stepbrother—who, to her mortification, has been bumped up a year and is now in her class. She’s also terrified that people will learn her estranged dad is gay. Ashley scores big when she lands the handsome Jared as a boyfriend, but Stewart knows Jared is a bully because he’s trapped in physical education class with him. The psychodrama is narrated by the two kids in alternating chapters, leavened with constant, wry humor that should keep readers chuckling even as the story grapples with serious emotional issues. Stewart comes across as absolutely adorable. He knows he’s a complete geek with imperfect social skills. His disarming honesty about his intelligence and especially about his weaknesses holds the entire book together, allowing readers to take self-absorbed Ashley with a grain of salt as she goes through what her mother terms the “demon seed” stage. This savvy, insightful take on the modern family makes for nearly nonstop laughs." - Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews
Average rating from 23 members
We Are All Made of Molecules is a funny and heart-warming story about a newly blended family, told from the alternating viewpoints of Ashley, the stereotypical mean girl and Stewart, the stereotypical nerd. The two of them are thrust together when Stewart's dad and Ashley's mom decide to move in together.
You can't help but like the characters in this book. Stewart is adorably goofy, trying to live up to what his mom would have wanted for him while still staying true to himself. Ashley, the popular, pretty girl is kind of terrible at the beginning, but I couldn't help but like her as I got to see her vulnerable side. I think Susin Nielsen did a great job at portraying young teenagers, and I loved the different tone to the different viewpoints.
This book dealt with some tough subjects, and I thought they were dealt with superbly! Susin Nielsen is a fantastic author and I can't wait to read her other books.
Two vastly different only children come together as a family. The only thing that they have in common with each other is that they’re both down one parent. Stewart’s mother passed away and Ashley’s father recently came out to his family which lead to a lot of hurt feelings and divorce. Now their parents have gotten together and Ashley is totally not okay with it and is embarrassed by her new pseudo step-brother while Stewart is initially really excited to finally have a sister.
I really loved reading the chapters from Ashley’s point of view because she’s just so ridiculous. She’s the quintessential popular girl who is frenemies with her best friend, believes everything she reads in her magazines about guys, is a bit of a bully, and can’t remember the proper word for anything. These chapters were really funny. Stewart is a really cool character. Although it is not explicitly stated, I did feel like he is somewhere on the autism spectrum. As a gifted student, he skips a grade and ends up in the same classes as Ashley. But, he doesn’t have the best social skills and being smaller than the rest of his male classmates leads to a lot of difficulties for Stewart in this new school.
They both need to find their courage and Ashley needs to learn that we’re all made up of the same stuff, molecules. I felt like this novel was realistic and ultimately heartwarming.
Similarly to Kate DiCamillo and R.J. Palacio, Nielsen's work in children's and YA literature is elegant, meaningful, and utterly affecting. I mentioned on Twitter to the lovely Canadian author herself that her work can- within the space of just a few paragraphs- move me from laughter to tears. I would argue that there are not many authors who can do that with a reader's emotions!
We Are All Made of Molecules, Nielsen's fourth novel, is broadly about family and change- and the many variations, difficulties, hurt and love that come with the territory. Told in two alternating first-person narratives, we are brought into the lives of Stewart and Ashley: young teens from disparate backgrounds who have clashing perspectives regarding their respective parents come together. Stewart, while still wholly missing his beloved mom, is initially pretty pleased to be gaining a sister and a mother figure; Ashley is just...enraged. She does not want her beautiful and successful mom to be with Stewart's father. And in her mind, having the slightly awkward, slightly peculiar and highly intelligent Stewart as a sort-of-brother is terrible. A potentially cataclysmic social disaster. This is made even worse by the fact that Ashley cannot face that her parents are separated primarily on account of her father's sexual preferences.
It would be easy to write off Ashley as the typically snooty and non-academically inclined mean girl, and Stewart as the typically kooky and kind, somewhere-off-the-spectrum kid. However, Nielsen carries off their distinct narratives seamlessly, folding back layers of their personalities and psyche so well over the course of the novel that I felt their characters to be more whole than just embodying parts of stock characters. I enjoyed reading the evolution in thought and intent of both the characters, and while the ending is perhaps too orderly and sunny for both Ashley and Stewart, it did not detract from my sincerely joyful reading experience. Nielsen has a way of constructing noteworthy characters one grows to love and remember; there will be a number of new ones you will meet and adore here! Fans of Nielsen's previous work will also welcome the return of Violet and Phoebe from Dear George Clooney: Please Marry My Mom: they have some terrific moments here. (A few other characters from previous novels also make appearances!).
If you have read Nielsen's previous titles- Word Nerd, Dear George Clooney: Please Marry My Mom or The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen- then I would definitely recommend this title. While, for me, this novel did not pack the same level of emotional intensity and urgency in plot and characters of The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen (a favourite of mine), We Are All Made of Molecules is still a wonderful read- poignant and beautifully written. Fans of Canadian it and readers who enjoy the work of the aforementioned DiCamillo, Palacio, as well as Kenneth Oppel, Kit Pearson, Rebecca Stead or Sheila Turnage, might be especially drawn to this novel.
Verdict: Very Good/Excellent Review appears on FAB BOOK REVIEWS: http://fabbookreviews.com/2015/04/23/review-we-are-all-made-of-molecules-by-susin-nielsen/
I received this book as a digital galley from Tundra Books, imprint of Random House of Canada Limited, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I want to rent a commercial trailer, hire a truck driver and fill the van with Molecules and travel across the country delivering this book to people, schools, hospitals, sports teams.. everywhere.
We are all made of Molecules is written from the viewpoint of two different teens. One, a gifted young boy named Stewart who is socially challenged and Ashley, a popular young girl who is obsessed with fashion and climbing the social ladder at school. Their parents are dating and they find themselves forced to live under the same roof. Through them, we meet their parents and friends. We get a first hand look at the challenges they face and how they deal with them. The book alternates between the two teenagers, starting with Stewart. Now, if you are thinking “but stories like this have been told a gazillion times” Well, I say… Susin Nielsen draws you in with authentic characters and emotion. She brings you on a bumpy ride towards change and a quest of sorts on finding the power of genuine friendship.
Bonus points for getting me teary eyed within the first few pages! I found myself chuckling throughout the novel (I loved the humor in this read), but the book deals with some serious and sensitive topics such as death and dying, bulling, homophobia and more !! The ending was a smidge candied but that doesn’t take away the overall feel of this novel.
Nielsen sucked me in right away with her writing style, her humor and well, of course, Stewart. I could have read this book in one sitting, but when I realized that I was half way through I put it down. I didn’t want this book to end. I wanted to have at least another day with Molecules and with Stewart…. therefore I kept some reading for morning.
We are all made of Molecules is touching, actual, funny and an absolute must read! I’m so taken with this book, I want to read this book again, I want to gift it and I also want to buy the T-Shirt.