Book Review: “We Are All Made of Molecules” by Susan Nielsen

Rating: 2/5

“I put my hands on my hips. ‘I just want to state for the record I feel like I and my wishes are being seriously taken for granite lately.’

‘For granted,’ she replied.”      ~Ashley, We Are All Made of Molecules

we are all made of molecules
Image Source: Goodreads

I had high hopes for this one after reading its synopsis. At first glance, We Are All Made of Molecules seemed like an interesting and meaningful contemporary novel. However, my impression was wrong.

The idea itself behind the novel is intriguing, focusing on how two step-siblings learn to adjust to their new lives and each other – a challenge, since they are so different. The execution, however, is extremely flawed. The chapters alternate between the perspectives of thirteen-year-old Stewart whose mother has passed away and fourteen-year-old Ashley whose parents have gotten an unexpected divorce. Nielsen’s decision to alternate perspectives is clever and makes the novel more exciting; the characters, on the other hand, are intolerable.

Although Stewart and Ashley are teenagers in high school, their thoughts and actions made me feel otherwise. Ashley is as stubborn and selfish as a toddler. I kept waiting for her to mature (and consequently, to begin liking her) throughout the novel, but this never happens. Nielsen seemed to be trying way too hard to portray Ashley as unintelligent, going as far as having her mix up “granted” and “granite” in a sentence to display her limited vocabulary (see above quote). This just seemed highly unrealistic to me, as did many other similar mix-ups. To make matters worse, Ashley literally thinks through exclamation points, and her ideas and statements are childish and cringe-worthy. All attempts at humor throughout the novel, from both the young and the old, were childish, which characters giggling at words like “unconstipated” and “Spewart”. Yet, despite the immaturity these characters displayed, I found myself unable to dislike Stewart. Stewart is such an adorable, compassionate kid that it’s easy to forgive him for acting as though he is half his age at times.

Simple diction and a lack of stylistic devices turned a concept with a lot of potential into something dull and lifeless. I also thought the ending was forced and clumsy. Nielsen attempts to wrap things up nicely by mentioning the title of the novel in its last line, but fails miserably as this just ends up sounding amateurish. Overall, this novel just wasn’t for me, and I don’t think I would recommend to anyone either, as the novel tackled serious issues in a light, flippant manner. I find it saddening when a promising story fails to please me, and several minor mistakes throughout the novel combine to form a fatal flaw. Hopefully, I’ll enjoy Nielsen’s upcoming release, Optimists Die First, more than We Are All Made of Molecules.




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