Advice columnist Goldstein's YA debut features a teen science whiz in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who has recently lost her mother to cancer and her boyfriend to the vicissitudes of young love. Using her science chops, she tries to crack the chemical equation for lasting love and instead wreaks havoc on herself and the young men in her life.
Anyone who’s ever been unceremoniously dumped—i.e. most of us—will feel for Maya, the narrator of Meredith Goldstein’s wise and surprisingly moving young-adult novel, Chemistry Lessons ... To its great credit, Chemistry Lessons goes all in on the science and—refreshingly—with characters who aren’t stereotypically geeky. And while women scientists are underrepresented in real-life labs, not to mention in YA novels, Goldstein gives Maya an impressive cadre of female PhDs in her extended family. Even better, Goldstein embraces the lingua franca of the lab, and the reader learns a thing or three about epigenetics along the way. Like all good rom-coms, Chemistry Lessons sometimes teeters on the edge of plausibility ... And yet the beating heart of Chemistry Lessons has little to do with experiments, geography, or boys—really, it’s a beautiful book about grief ... Goldstein explores how a smart, funny narrator moves forward after unimaginable loss. The prose helps, too; Maya’s voice is both specific and stripped-down, well suited to her scientific sensibility ... For STEM-lovers or just the lovelorn, this charming novel is all the boost required.
I really wanted to connect with Chemistry Lessons. It's an exceptionally clever idea at heart, and it would probably make a great film premise. Film audiences tend to be a lot more forgiving when certain processes in the formula aren't explained, but as a scientifically-minded supernerd, I had difficulty. If you are not of the scientifically-minded supernerd persuasion, this might very well be the book for you. There are definitely jumping-off points for discussions on women in STEM, ethics in science, and proper scientific procedures. The formula looked good—but I wish the book hadn't felt so formulaic in its execution. It just wasn't the sort of Chemistry I was looking for.
Although the supporting cast is a little flat, Maya feels like a fully fleshed out character, confused and lost after her first breakup and floundering for a way out. She makes mistakes, owns up to them, and truly feels like a real person who would do anything to get their first love back ... Recommended purchase for a library with a romance fiction following, especially those who can't get enough of Sarah Dessen.