We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen

Bibliographic Citation:
Nielsen, Susin. (2016). We Are All Made of Molecules. New York, NY: Ember. ISBN 978-0553496895.

molecules

(Image from GoodReads.com)

Plot Summary:
We Are All Made of Molecules tells the story of of a blended family through the eyes of the children, Stewart and Ashley. Stewart’s dad and Ashley’s mom fall in love and move in together, but Stewart and Ashley could not be more opposite. Ashley has a secret and cares too much about appearances to give her new stepbrother a fair chance, but they bond when he comes to her rescue.

Critical Analysis & Personal Opinion:
I enjoyed reading this story because Stewart, Ashley, and their parents seemed to be authentic. While Ashley isn’t always that likable, she is believable. Her sass, her concerns, her conversations are all within the realm of possibility for a girl her age and mindset. The best thing about these characters and this story line is that it is not a love story. Literature for children and young adults tends to always have a happy ending, this story does too — which I like — but it wasn’t cliche about it in my opinion. I like that *SPOILER ALERT* Stewart and Phoebe don’t magically fall in love and start dating. That would seem forced. I like that everyone comes around and that the blended family starts to feel more natural, but I didn’t want it to feel predictable or cliche. It really didn’t. As an adult reading any YA lit there are parts where you don’t buy into it as much because you’re really not the intended audience, but it was still enjoyable. I will recommend this to my students who aren’t big love story fans.

This book is heartwarming and has a strong message. There are some more mature scenarios and language, but it is a complex story that is worth reading.

Awards and Honors:
Longlisted for the 2016 Carnegie Medal, UK
2015 Governor General’s Literary Award Nominee, Children’s Text
Winner of the 2016 Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award
2016/17 Texas Lonestar Award Nominee
2016/17 Georgia Peach Book Award Nominee
A USBBY 2016 Selection for Outstanding International Books
2016 Canadian Library Association Honor Book, Young Adult Novel category
2016 OLA Red Maple Award Honor Book
2016 Saskatchewan Snow Willow Award Nominee
2017 Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award Nominee
2017 Rocky Mountain Book Award Nominee
Kirkus Reviews “Best Teen Books of 2015”
Quill & Quire’s “Best Kids’ Books of 2015”
The Globe 100’s “Best Books of 2015”

Author Info:

Susin Nielson is the author of 4 (soon to be 5!)  books. Her work has received a hefty amount of praise including many starred reviews and two IndieFab Awards, one for her novel Dear George Clooney: Please Marry My Mom and the other for her first novel Word Nerd.

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Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Bibliographic Citation:
Rowell, Rainbow. (2011). Eleanor & Park. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press. ISBN 9781250012579.

Image from Amazon.com

Image from Amazon.com

Plot Summary:
Eleanor & Park is an unexpected love story between two teenagers who feel that they don’t quite belong. Eleanor Douglas is a plus sized girl with red curly hair and a fashion sense all her own. Park Sheridan is a biracial teenage boy trying to find his place in Omaha, Nebraska. He doesn’t fit in but he doesn’t stand out until the new girl at school, Eleanor, sits next to him on the bus. After sharing his comic books with her and letting her listen to his mix tapes, they enter into a crazy and sweet romance. Ripe with nerves and uncertainty, the pair decides that despite the odds they want nothing more than to be together.

Critical Analysis:
I’ve read a lot of books lately and this book, without a doubt, takes the cake on being the best of them all. I love absolutely everything about Eleanor & Park’s romance. I love how much Park loves Eleanor. I love that he isn’t afraid of it. I love that he hesitates at first but once he’s in, he’s all in. He gives it everything. He fights for her. He fantasizes about her. He thinks she’s perfect and he thinks she’s weird. Park is the kind of guy every insecure high school girl wishes she had in her life.

Author John Green says, “Eleanor & Park reminded me not just what it’s like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it’s like to be young and in love with a book.” It does that and so much more. From the moment Park holds Eleanor’s hand for the first time, I was hooked. I didn’t put it down again. I devoured their story with girl-like wonder and enthusiasm. I wanted to be Eleanor (except for the whole crappy home situation). I wanted to have Park in my life. I thought how wonderful it would’ve been to be sixteen and have someone love me like that. Something so real, so raw, and so new. Park is a rockstar of a boyfriend. Sure, he doesn’t always do things right, but what sixteen-year-old boy does? Eleanor is a mess. Her life is a mess. And she can’t hold it together on her own. Park becomes her glue and together they are a beautiful pair.

I spent much of the book envying them and cheering them on. When I finished, I cried. Tearing streaming down my face, I told my husband that it isn’t fair! That Eleanor and Park didn’t get a fair shake. That I can’t believe what she did to him. Denying him. Forgetting him. I hated her. I hated her so much that I threw the book across my living room. I’m a librarian, throwing a book is a big no-no but I was angry. I was sad. My heart was broken. I was Park. I don’t want to give too much away, but when I explained what happened to my husband, what Eleanor said, what she did, the path their relationship took he said, “But doesn’t that make sense for a couple of sixteen year olds? Can’t you see some high school girl rationalizing that in her head?” And yes, I can. But that doesn’t mean I like it. Because I don’t. I love love love love LOVE this book. I hate the way it ended. But I love the rest of it and I wish I had that kind of love in my life in high school. But since I didn’t, it was at least nice to imagine what it would’ve been like to have my very own Park. I hope every high school girl out there has a Park one day because the world would be a better place and life would be sweeter.

 Other Information:
2013 Boston Globe Horn Book Award for Best Fiction Book.
As of today, Rated best teen & young adult book of 2013 by Amazon.com (so far)