“My family is FUBAR.
That’s the word my part-time friend Claudia used to describe her own family at school yesterday… It’s short for ‘Effed Up Beyond All Recognition,’ except in the military, they don’t say ‘effed.’”
You know that old 70’s show, The Brady Bunch? What if someone wrote a book like that, except in the present-day, and everyone didn’t get together all fine-and-dandy? Apparently, Susin Nielsen decided to answer that question in the award-winning book, We Are All Made Of Molecules. The basic premise is that the two protagonists, Stewart and Ashley, have their families collide when the two children’s external conflicts cause their parents to get together, and eventually move in. From there, the story only gets more complicated when the two children adventure through school together, face adversities, make friends and enemies, and balance a slew of other complicated issues. Will the two teens be able to survive in one of the most dangerous habitats in the world… high school?
We Are All Made Of Molecules begins during Stewart’s point of view, with the sentence, “I have always wanted a sister.” After this, Stewart begins to describe his family, which is essentially just his mom and dad. He tells a story about how he overheard his parents talking about his mom being pregnant when he was 10 years old, how he was overjoyed about the overheard news, and then…. his mom dies. Yes, you heard that right, and no, that’s technically not a spoiler. But seriously, though, Susin Nielsen actually went to all the trouble of introducing Stewart’s mother’s character, telling a story about her, then killed her on page two. It’s quite a way to start off the story, I must say. Anyways, after that introductory story of Stewart, Ashley’s backstory is presented, in which she describes how her dad divorced her mom, since he came out one day that he was gay. Her biological dad now lives in the laneway house which is right next to Ashley’s house. The two main characters’ families finally meet when Stewart’s dad and Ashley’s mom met up through work, started dating, and then moved in together. The problem here is that Ashley and Stewart are complete opposites, with Stewart being the socially inept and nerdy one, and Ashley being the, “It Girl” of her school. Ashley, because of this, is very resentful towards Stewart, but he is just trying to be friendly. The two families must find a way to cooperate with one another, while simultaneously dealing with the secret of Ashley’s dad’s homosexuality, the grief of Stewart’s mom’s death, bullying, social awkwardness, peer pressure, and many more. There is certainly a lot going on in this story, and I can promise it will never get boring.
We Are All Made Of Molecules does a lot of things really well that makes this story an absolute joy to read. But, the three main things that are really good, are the characters, the conflicts, and the humor. Let’s begin with the first one. The characters in WAAMOM (yes, that’s what I’m going to call it from now on) are absolutely beautiful. The fact that the two narrators of this story are complete opposites is an ingenious concept, as it allows readers to see two different perspectives to the same aspect of the story. Not only that, but it is also so interesting to see the two narrator’s motivations throughout the story, and just how vastly different they are from one another. This is explicitly shown in how each of the character’s first chapters start. Stewart immediately brings up mathematics and biology straight from chapter one, while Ashley starts by talking about how crazy her family is, and how she wants to get emancipated when she is old enough to legally do so. Let’s not forget about the voices in this story either. I realized the reason why each character felt so real in this book when a user, Ann, pointed it out on Goodreads: “Authentic, accessible voices made this a quick and fun read…” which I personally couldn’t agree with more. The other aspect of this book that made it surprisingly action-packed for a realistic novel were the conflicts. There were so many conflicts going on at one time, and as a result, whenever the story starts to dip a little in excitement, a new conflict always arose in some way. You know that part in a James Bond book that is just so action-packed you have to read on? This story is like that, except for 245 pages straight and to a lesser degree, obviously. And finally, I have to of course mention the shining star in this story: The humor. I must say, for a story that can get quite serious at times, there was a lot of really good comedy in this book. I’ve found, for me at least, that it’s not really the laugh-out-loud, Jeff Dunham kind of funny; It’s more like the ‘hearty chuckle’ kind of humor, of which I really enjoy. To be frank, I could go on and on about everything that the author did that made me love this book to pieces. However, since that document would most likely be as long as the entirety of the U.S. constitution, I will have to unfortunately refrain myself from continuing. Long story short, I recommend this book… like, a lot. ‘Nuff said.
Susin Nielsen has been praised several times for a few of her other stories, including titles like Word Nerd, Dear George Clooney: Please Marry My Mom, and The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen. WAAMOM is her newest book, and has been nominated for the 2016 Red Maple Award, the 2015 Governor General’s Literary Award of Children’s Text, and has won Kirkus Reviews “Best Teen Books of 2015,” Quill & Quire’s “Best Kids’ Books of 2015,” and The Globe 100’s “Best Books of 2015,” among others. Susin Nielsen started her writing career when writing for a show / book series called Degrassi Junior High, and went on to write the rest of the award-winning TV show. Her newest, unreleased book is called Optimists Die First, and is scheduled to release sometime in Spring of 2017. For more information, visit her official website on susinnielsen.com, or find her on Twitter @susinnielsen, Facebook (goo.gl/pYOm0M), or Goodreads (goo.gl/TKq6Az).
Tyler B., EMS Blogger