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Friday, June 26, 2015

we are all made of molecules, written by Susin Nielsen. Tundra Books. 2015. $19.99 ages 12 and up

"But it wasn't a baby growing inside her. It was cancer. It had started in her ovaries, and by the time they caught it, it had spread. She died a year and three months later. Now I'm thirteen, and I still miss her like crazy, because she was a quality human being. When I was seven, my day and I bought her a mug for her birthday that read WORLD'S BEST MOM ... " 

I tore through this book in an evening this past week. I have great admiration for Susin Nielsen's writing and have read each of her worthwhile and thoughtful books. She does not disappoint here. Her stories of compassion and understanding are perfect for adolescent readers.  

Life has not been great for thirteen-year-old Stewart and his family. His mother's death, after battling cancer, has left he and his father feeling vulnerable and alone. He's happy that his father has found someone else to love; he and Stewart are moving in with Caroline and her fourteen-year-old daughter Ashley. No two adolescents could be more different than they are.

Stewart is an academically gifted and socially awkward boy who must leave the small school that has protected and encouraged his learning and individuality. Ashley is not smart, very popular, and consumed by everything Ashley. She has no intention of making life easy for Stewart. My, what a setting for a book that will make readers laugh, be horrified, and find much to admire about both Stewart and Ashley. Stewart is easy to love; Ashley takes time. Both are worth knowing, and certain to be memorable.

Told in alternating voices, we are acutely aware of the difficulties each is encountering as they forge a new way of living.


Alistair and I had an awesome morning. First, we spent a long time in the basement, working on my bicycle. This is a pet project of mine; a few months ago I bought a used ten-speed for just sixty dollars, and I'm converting it into an electric bike. I'm trying to do the entire conversion for under one hundred dollars, which is a challenge, but doable."


OH. MY. GOD!!!!

Can my life just be normal for twenty-four hours without one of my family members ruining everything? Is that too much to ask?
Lauren and I had a great sleepover. We played music really loud and sang along. We also experimented with makeup. When we were done, we voted on whose makeup job looked best and I won. Then we went to Facebook, and Lauren showed me Jared's home page, because she is 'friends' with him. "Did he friend you?" I asked. "No, I friended him," she replied, which made me feel better."

So authentic and memorable, humorous and honest. They are two classic characters who will wend their way into your heart. The focus is on family in its many guises, and is heartwarming and believable. It is also emotional and powerfully captured by a truly accomplished writer. Adolescent readers are sure to see themselves in the hallways of Borden Secondary. Finding ways to change the culture that is rampant in so many schools is a compelling read, and the ending is hopeful and encouraging - we are, after all is said and done, all made of molecules. Family life, in this new normal, is not easy to navigate for anyone involved. How each member of the blended family manages to deal with the changes is the stuff of great books.

This is a great book.

1 comment:

  1. I really liked this one, too. It will be perfect for 8th graders, especially, since it walked that fine line between YA and Middle Grade.