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Author: Susin Nielsen
Release Date: May 12, 2015
Publisher: Tundra Books
Thirteen-year-old Stewart Inkster is academically brilliant but "ungifted" socially. Fourteen-year-old Ashley Anderson is the undisputed "It" girl of grade nine, but her marks stink. Their worlds are about to collide when Stewart and his dad move in with Ashley and her mom. "The Brady Bunch" it isn't. Stewart is trying to be 89.9% happy about it, but Ashley is 110% horrified. She already has to hide the truth behind her parents' divorce; "Spewart" could further threaten her position at the top of the social ladder. They are complete opposites. And yet, no matter their differences, they share one thing in common: they--like the rest of us--are all made of molecules.
We Are All Made of Molecules is a thoughtful book, a look at change, at perception, at moving on. At the fact that we all have something in common, no matter how different we are.
Stewart is smart and practical, always hoping for the best. He's gifted academically but not socially, which means navigating this new world called high school is a bit of a struggle for him. Which means being in a new environment is a struggle for him. As time passes he learns, he grows. He's hit by some of the more painful and complicated bits of high school but he doesn't let it weigh him down. It helps that he has some very supportive friends to lean on.
His complete opposite, Ashley is bitter and frustrated. She hates the idea of Stewart and his father moving in, her own father divorcing her mother. She over-dramatizes everything and blames everyone. While yes, there are some teen girls who act this way, who love fashion and struggle in school, Ashley's flaws are so overblown she feels like a cliché. She has some depth, I thought her repressed anger towards bother her mother and father needed to be expressed beyond her screams or her silence, but it's hard to find any redeeming qualities. As the book goes on, she does get better, nicer. She learns her lesson, but I'm not so sure that the way it comes about was really the right way.
I think this book says a number of good things about family and friendship, about supporting other people, about working through problems and keeping those you care about close, or in your memories if they're no longer with you. My issue is that most of those moments appear in Stewart's point of view and rarely in Ashley's. I did find some parts of Ashley problematic, as well as some parts of a rather serious near-assault that happens near the end. Perhaps other readers will see her growth more than I can. I do think that some kids will read this and see themselves, or see parts of themselves, and relate to it.
(I received an e-galley of this title to review from Random House Canada through NetGalley.)