Susin Nielsen's We Are All Made of Molecules
Book review by Rosalyne Bowmile
Stewart Inkster has always wanted a sister, and finally at age thirteen, his wish has come true. Her name is Ashley Anderson, fourteen, strikingly beautiful with a major attitude.
This newly blended family holds its challenges for both Stewart and Ashley. They are nothing like the television show, The Brady Bunch.
Stewart is intelligent, a gifted student who lacks social skills, making him a target for bullies.
Ashley is no scholar, but the most popular girl in school. Nothing matters more to her than maintaining her social status.
Conflicts arise right from the beginning between Stewart and Ashley. She wants nothing to do with this new living arrangement, and expresses her feelings loudly. Stewart adjusts to her mood swings and outbursts, making the best of his new situation.
The characters of Stewart and Ashley may appear stereotypical: one a geek, the other a beautiful narcissist. But beyond the top layer lies a much deeper emotional level. Stewart and Ashley are coping with their own personal issues that have and continue to affect their lives.
Stewart and his father have had to make many adjustments since the death of his mother. Stewart misses her every day, and that's compounded by a new house, family and school. He keeps a few of his mother's items-- his favorite an Afghan blanket.
Each day Stewart spends time alone beneath the blanket inhaling his mother's molecules, feeling her presence and connection. Throughout the story, Stewart's character evolves, but not without complications and conflicts.
Ashley struggles with her parents' divorce and adjusting to her father's newly announced homosexuality.
She blames her dad for the demise of her family, their happiness, security and stability.
Ashley at first keeps her dad's new persona a secret hidden from her
friends, but over time, cracks emerge in her armour-and her story--as he
becomes more involved in her life.
It's not an easy adjustment for Ashley, and one that takes time to develop throughout the book.
The book delves into major issues--social anxiety, bullying, homosexuality and acceptance. Divorce, blended families, drinking, sexuality and longing to belong are themes addressed throughout the book.
Susin Nielsen mitigates all that seriousness by intertwining humor throughout a story that often had me laughing aloud.
We Are All Made of Molecules is written in first person from two alternating perspectives: Stewart's and Ashley's. From the onset, I found the characters lively and easy to connect with.
Susin Nielsen is a Canadian multi-award author and screenwriter. Young adult writing is her specialty; her start was with the television series, Degrassi Junior High. Some of her other books include, Word Nerd, Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom and The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen. Her keen ear for the teenage voice makes We Are All Made of Molecules a real winner.
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