Here’s a review in honor of International Book Lover’s Day!

Growing up with a mom who was a science teacher, I’ve known what molecules are since at least fifth grade. Defined as the smallest part of a chemical compound made up of atoms. However,  Canadian author Susin Nielsen uses molecules as a metaphor in her novel, We’re All Made of Molecules. 

Nielsen’s novel tells the story of teenagers Stewart Inkster and Ashley Anderson, who become stepsiblings when Stewart’s widowed father marries Ashley’s divorced mother. Stewart is excited about the prospect of having a sister, having wanted one since he was little. Ashley, on the other hand, is resentful of her mother’s remarriage, and feels betrayed by her father, who recently came out as gay. The two of them must adjust to their new family and going to the same school.

This set up may sound like a cliche, but Nielsen’s writing is what made this novel fun to read. The chapters alternate in the perspective of Stewart and Ashley, so we get both sides of the story. Stewart is an intelligent boy who is trying his best to cope with a new school and honor his late mother, who died of cancer. Ashley is a stylish girl who is pursuing Jared, the new handsome jock, but soon finds out that he is not who he seems to be. Nielsen is able to write both characters realistically and believable. I found her portrayal of a blended family trying to adjust to living together realistic, with the disagreements over decorating and arguments about different lifestyles. Merging two families does not go smoothly.

Nielsen’s use of molecules refers to Stewart saying that everyone is made up of molecules, indicating the connection of all human beings. No matter who someone is, they are made up of molecules.

The fact that this novel is set in Canada and deals with blended families reminded me of the Disney Channel TV series Life with Derek, which was also set in Canada and dealt with a teenage girl suddenly having a brother the same age as her. Turns out, Susin Nielsen has written episodes for the TV series Degrassi Junior High, produced by the same company. I always admire writers who write different types of media.

I definitely recommend this funny, insightful book.

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