Our Chemical Hearts
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Henry Isaac Page is a senior in an American high school. He is not particularly talented academically but he has a burning ambition nurtured fortwo years. Henry is dead set on becoming the editor of the school newspaper, the Westland Post. Finally he achieves his ambition. But affairs are disrupted by the arrival in the school of Grace Town. Grace dresses like a boy. She walks with a cane. She has a boy’s haircut. And it seems her personal hygiene leaves much to be desired.
On the strength of her writing career at her last school, Grace is appointed deputy editor of the Post. To Henry’s surprise, she indicates that she will help with the paper but has no intention of writing for it. The novel now poses two questions: who is Grace Town and why does she refuse to employ the talent she supposedly has in abundance?
The strength of this book lies in the depiction of its two protagonists. Henry and Grace are utterly believable three-dimensional characters whose conversations are sometimes wonderfully funny.
It comes as no surprise that there is talk of filming Sutherland’s book. But having said that, as the true sensational story of Grace’s personal history emerges, so the narrative loses its grip on reality. Not only does the reader ask could this have happened, but also if it had happened how could it all be kept secret? High schools are usually pretty good at ferreting out secrets.
In the end we learn that Grace walked with a cane because she had an accident that left her impaired. Her impairment is cured, in much the same wonderful way as impairments were cured in sentimental nineteenth century fiction. She no longer needs the cane. If the film is made, there is work to be done by the scriptwriters.