CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number 32. . . .April 24, 2015
Thirteen-year-old Stewart has had a challenging few years. His mother has died, and his father has met someone new and wants to move in with her and her 14-year-old daughter Ashley. This change also means Stewart’s leaving his small safe school of academically gifted children and entering the world of regular public school, something the socially awkward Stewart finds daunting. School queen bee Ashley has no plans for helping Stewart navigate this minefield of social cues.
With this backdrop, the scene is set for an enjoyable adventure through the challenges of modern families and modern life. Susin Nielsen’s We are all Made of Molecules weaves together an amusing and engaging story that many readers will easily relate to and enjoy. These are characters that we have seen before, the socially awkward but well-meaning genius and the socially conniving but not that bad once you get to know her queen bee. Nielsen deftly uses this familiarity to create intimacy. Instead of seeming unoriginal, the two lead characters seem like people you know.
The storyline features elements of family life that represent a diverse section of society, including single parents, stepparents, same-sex couples and pets that are treated no differently than other members of the family. Borden Secondary is constructed in a similar manner to Nielsen's lead characters. Most readers will recognize the order: nerds hanging out with other nerds, socially adept young women trying to negotiate their way up the ladder, star jocks, etc. Once again, instead of seeming stereotypical, the effect is a high school most readers can recognize and understand.
It is between these groups of students that the story really builds. As Ashley manoeuvers to get the athlete boyfriend she wants and Stewart makes friends through Mathletes, the groups of friends merge to fight bullying of all kinds. The story has the nicely wrapped ending that is typical of this type of literature and will satisfy most readers.
We Are All Made of Molecules is highly recommended for school and public libraries. It will appeal to wide range of teenage readers. The ease of the read will make it an effortless and fun read for sophisticated teen readers while weaker readers will be motivated to continue reading by Nielsen's engaging story and regular teen characters. This book will also be a hit with fans of Nielsen's earlier work.
Sophia Hunter is a teacher-librarian at Crofton House Junior School in Vancouver, BC.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.