For every book we read during the book club, we’ll write a review so that anyone who couldn’t be there can still join in with the fun! Saskia den Ouden is our YA book club reviewer, judging all the books we read.
In this book Stewart and Ashley, two fundamentally different kids, are thrown together in a new family. Their parents expect them to make the best of it. Stewart, a geeky 13-year-old, initially tries to make the best of it. However, Ashley throws a wrench in the work. Newly hit by puberty, obsessed with clothes and popularity, she’s trying to find a way through high school and her parents’ divorce. Adding in Stewart and his dad is not something she can handle. In the midst of early teen struggles, they’re going to have to find common ground.
I can be very short about this book, it’s pretty mediocre. In the interest of fairness, I’ll expand a little. Molecules is a pretty entertaining book. It’s written from both the perspectives of Stewart and Ashley. It’s fast paced, funny at times, a little sad at others and it deals with some pretty heavy themes. Stewart’s mother passed away a year and a half previous. Ashley’s parents got divorced around the same time because her dad (who lives behind the main house) is gay and she’s dealing with internalized homophobia. Then there’s the straight white jock who’s also a bully and has issues with the concept of consent. Stewart is trying to develop his social skills, which he doesn’t really have and leaving behind his childhood home and most of the stuff his mother loved. It’s a lot, but it’s good for kids to read about.
Unfortunately Nielsin never really goes in deep. These issues and other teen struggles are touched upon but never really explored. This may be due to the fact that it’s a book meant for a younger audience (12-14), but I think she’s afraid to overestimate her readers. Because of this, all characters, including Ashley and Stewart, remain pretty two dimensional. Stewart is socially awkward, but because of his boldness, he seems to skate through the parts that really matter. Ashley is the popular queen, who’ll always be as dumb as a doornail. Fortunately, she has an eye for fashion. Even though they both are lovable in their own way, it never really touches you on any deeper level.
It isn’t horrible but unfortunately, it isn’t great either. Maybe if Nielsin had stuck to a fewer teens, but really explored those it could’ve been amazing. We’re not lucky enough to experience that particular novel.