Stewart Inkster and Ashley Anderson are complete opposites. Stewart is smart and loyal though rather socially awkward while Ashley is beautiful, insecure, and unkind. They are thrown together when their parents move in together.
After Stewart’s mother dies, his dad finds love again with Ashley’s mom and so Stewart and his dad Leonard leave their North Shore home and move in with Ashley and Caroline. Somewhat awkwardly, Ashley’s dad lives across the yard in the lane house. That hasn’t kept Ashley from avoiding her dad ever since he announced he was gay and moved out.
Stewart is initially excited to have a sister of sorts and to get to know Ashley. He even takes the bold step of leaving his gifted school and transferring into the same public school as Ashley. Ashley, who sees herself at the top of the Social Ladder, is horrified by Stewart’s presence in her life and her school. She lives in fear of being vulnerable, even with her best friends, and anyone finding out why her parents divorced.
The story here is pretty predictable but a fun read nonetheless. Chapters alternate between Ashley’s and Stewart’s perspectives and Nielsen does a nice job of capturing their different voices. Stewart is a quirky but fairly self-aware character who it’s easy to feel sympathy for. Ashley comes across as maybe a little too dumb but Nielsen does a decent job at slowly revealing how hard it is for Ashley to relax and feel safe.
The adult in me questions why Leonard and Caroline as parents wouldn’t have had their kids spend more time together before joining households but the glimpses we get of these parent characters are quite good. They seem to have a real relationship with real ups and downs and the parent-child relationships are great all around.
The book is set in Vancouver which I didn’t realize until I started reading and I enjoyed that aspect as the characters move around in a city I know well and where I spent my own teen years.
This is very much a teen read. It probably wouldn’t appeal to most adults but I think it does a great job at reaching its intended audience.
5 thoughts on “Book Review: We Are All Made Of Molecules – Susin Nielsen”
I read this a couple of years ago with my daughter. I also thought she did a good job including a lot of teen issues in an engaging way. I did think it was too bad that Ashley had to be quite that dumb – it didn’t make much sense given that both her parents seemed bright. On the other hand,
Agreed! I kept waiting for Ashley to have a little more to her. There’s something there with her talent for sewing and fashion but I would have liked to see more depth overall. But Nielsen did fit in a lot of different issues and the book was a fun read.
Whoops… On the other hand, you could argue that it’s good to include all types of characters!
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