We Are All Made of Molecules

Susin Nielsen
Star Rating
Reviewer's Rating
Jul 27, 2015

The two narrators alternate chapters telling the story of the splinters of their individual families melding into a new one. Eighth-grader Stewart and Ninth-grader Ashley are on their way to becoming step-siblings, with Stewart and his widower dad moving in with Ashley and her divorced mom--though Ashley's recently out-of-the-closet dad is still living in their backyard laneway house. They are a complete contrast of personalities and styles. As Stewart describes:

Our house--I mean, the house where I lived until today--was old. It was built in the 1940s, and it was a bungalow, and the rooms were small and the floors creaked. This house is very big and very clean and very clutter-free. I would call their style minimalist, whereas our house was maximalist. We had stuff everywhere!

Stewart is small, gifted, uncannily mature, and socially awkward:

She was wearing jeans and a plain gray T-shirt, which is all I've ever seen her wear (with variations on the T-shirt color); this tells me she doesn't put a lot of thought into her appearance, an admirable quality since there are so many more important and interesting things to think about.

Ashley is good-looking, popular, fashion-minded, and socially obsessed:

"Jared's just invited me to a movie tonight!"

"Jared?" Mom asked. "Who's Jared?"

"Only the hottest guy at our school."

"I hope he's more than just hot," said Leonard, which was a comment only a non-hot person would make.

"Oh, he is. He's also rich!"

Stewart, still painfully mourning the loss of his mom but trying to move on, is excited about the prospect of having a sister. Ashley is sure the new freakazoid is going to ruin her life (and is terrified someone might find out her dad is gay). They tell very different versions of their new family's story. They are gradually brought together by their interactions with the good looking, popular, new athlete at their school, though both are surprised by the courses those interactions take.

Together they weave an enjoyable tale. There are some brushes with heavy events and themes--just enough to give the story weight and depth--but overall it is a light, breezy read. I especially enjoyed the contrast between the ways the two characters would describe the same events. If I ultimately found Ashley a bit too superficial and dense to believe, Stewart a bit too unrealistically mature and insightful, and the ending a little too perfect and happy, that didn't take away from my enjoyment of the story. The characters grow in satisfying ways and I was always engaged and entertained by them. This should appeal to a broad range of middle-grade and early YA readers.          

Reviewed by Chris K.
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