Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Publication.Date May 12th 2015 Pages: 256 Published By: Wendy Lamb Books Author Susin Nielsen We Are All Made of Molecules on Goodreads My review copy: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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Thirteen-year-old Stewart is academically brilliant but socially clueless.
Fourteen-year-old Ashley is the undisputed “It” girl in her class, but her grades stink.
Their worlds are about to collide when Stewart and his dad move in with Ashley and her mom. Stewart is trying to be 89.9 percent happy about it, but Ashley is 110 percent horrified. She already has to hide the real reason her dad moved out; “Spewart” could further threaten her position at the top of the social ladder.
They are complete opposites. And yet, they have one thing in common: they—like everyone else—are made of molecules.
This is not how I wanted my wish to come true. Ths is not how I would have chosen to become a quadrangle. I would far, far rather still be a triangle if it meant that my mom was alive. But since that is a scientific impossibility, I am trying to look on the bright side. I have always waned a sister. And I'm about to get one.
It was like being in my own private horror movie. It was my house, yet it wasn't my house. It was my life, yet it wasn't my life.
1. Hello Susin! Welcome to Bookish Lifestyle! I am so thrilled to have you over for little discussion about your latest release, We Are All Made of Molecules. I think you already know how much I loved your book - no other book has made me cry on page 2 yet! I was absolutely blown away! Could you please tell my readers a bit about your book (beyond the synopsis)?
Evie it’s so nice to be here, and thanks again for the beautiful photo you took of my book cover (which now graces my Facebook Author page). “Molecules” has two narrators; 13 year old Stewart, academically gifted but socially not so much, and Ashley, 14, socially gifted and academically not at all. They’re being thrust into a “blended family” situation off the top of the book – Stewart and his dad are moving in with Ashley and her mom. It’s not going to be an easy transition, as you can imagine. Beyond that, the book has a lot of other elements – dealing with the death of a parent; dealing with a gay parent; learning tolerance, and sadly learning that sometimes that cute boy who you’re sure you can change, is really just an asshole.
2. We Are All Made of Molecules is a heartfelt and very meaningful tale about new beginnings, second chances, bullying, dealing with loss and being part of a blended family. What inspired you to explore such difficult topics?
Well you covered what the book is about much better than I did! I never start out to write about an issue … in this case, I was sort of building on an arena I’d started in another of my books, “Dear George Clooney: Please Marry My Mom,” which was about the fall-out of a divorce on my 12-year-old protagonist. It felt like a natural progression to want to explore the next step – when two families merge.
Where these ideas come from isn’t a huge mystery; my own family background is rife with this stuff – my parents divorced shortly after I was born, my dad got remarried, I have two half siblings, my mom remarried later on and now I have four stepsiblings. She didn’t remarry till I was older and out of the house, and I selfishly remember thinking, “Thank God!” Because the thought of suddenly living with FOUR MORE KIDS would have been horrifying! (So I actually have a lot of sympathy for Ashley).
3. What do you hope your readers will take away from reading your book?
I hope they’ll first of all just really enjoy the read. And I hope they’ll enjoy walking in my characters’ shoes. And I hope it’ll maybe make them feel a little more compassion toward that kid in their school who’s maybe an easy target. That kid could be the next Bill Gates, or Einstein, or just a really awesome person. Also, of course, there is an underlying message of tolerance. Hence the title: We really are all made of molecules!
4. How long did it take you to write the first draft of We Are All Made of Molecules?
Gosh, I’m terrible at remembering this stuff. I think it took me around nine months? I did a little bit of TV work in there, too, so maybe it was closer to a year.
5. Do you ever suffer from "writer's block"? If so, how do you deal with it? Any tips for fellow writers?
I don’t suffer from writer’s block, and here’s why: If I’m feeling “blocked” – on those many, many days when I have no idea what to write next – I force myself to write. Something, anything. Even if it’s just a page or two. Because even if it’s garbage, and I wind up tossing it out the next day, guess what? I didn’t have writer’s block! And best of all, when I read over the crappy writing the next day, it often (not always) generates another, better idea.
My motto is really simple: Put your bum in the seat. You can’t wait for the muse to strike. If I did that, I’d be waiting forever!
6. I must say that your character development was phenomenal! I really connected with Stewart - I wanted to barge in, hug him close and tell him everything would work out. I did not like Ashley to begin with, but thought she was a fascinating and complex character nevertheless. Which one of your characters do you feel particularly close to?
I love this question. Well, let’s put it this way. I’d rather have Stewart as my son or my friend in high school, than I would Ashley. That said, if I am “totally one hundred percent honest,” I probably shared more in common with Ashley than I did with Stewart when I was a teenager. I wasn’t quite as, um, un-bright … and I was not good with fashion. And I didn’t blurt out those great malapropisms, and I wasn’t nearly as pretty. BUT. I confess I was just as self-centered as she was. I confess that when my mom dated, I hated everyone she went out with, and I was miserable to anyone she dared bring home (I essentially shut down her dating life from about the time I was 13 to 18 years of age. When I was younger, it was the exact opposite, I was always urging her to get married!). I couldn’t see past my own selfishness to see how things might be affecting others. And sadly, I was easily as naïve as Ashley when it came to boys. Trusting guys who didn’t deserve that trust. Thinking I could change them. Only after the book was written, when I was asked to write about a life-changing experience in high school (non fiction), did I remember an evening that largely mirrored Ashley’s later in the book, with Jared. I had buried that deep! Lucky for me, cell phones hadn’t been invented yet.
7. Do you have a specific writing ritual / schedule? Could you tell us about your writing space?
I get up at 6:30. I have coffee and read the paper (and get irate about our upcoming Canadian election). I try to sit at the computer by 8, and get in a couple of solid writing hours, then I’ll often head to a yoga class or go out for a bike ride if it isn’t raining. Then I try to get in an hour or two more in the afternoon. Oh, and a nap. Not very rigorous, eh? But I also teach up at UBC’s creative writing department, just one course a semester, so I do my marking too.
8. Are there any literary works or movies that inspired you as a writer?
Yes!! “Harriet the Spy” is absolutely number one. I re-read the 50th anniversary edition and I was blown away at just how much Louise Fitzhugh had influenced my writing, even though I’d read that book when I was around 11. Best female protagonist ever. Also, I was a huge Judy Blume fan (AM, I should say). Her books always left me feeling like I wasn’t alone, and that’s a huge part of what I’m trying to do in my books. Lastly I would say Christopher Paul Curtis’s book, “Bud, Not Buddy” was a huge influence. I love that book. He made me think I could try to write a book in first person narrative, a sad story but blended with plenty of humor – which is what he did so artfully in that novel.
9. What are some of the books on your Winter TBR pile? Any upcoming releases you are excited about?
Okay, I have an embarrassing admission: I don’t read a lot of YA. Not because I don’t love it; but because I have this irrational fear that I will get unduly influenced by it. I let myself read stuff that is not “contemporary YA.” That said, I read all the time. Right now I’m engrossed in Jonathan Franzen’s “Purity.” On my TBR pile: Linda Bailey is another Canadian children’s/middle grade author and her novel “Seven Dead Pirates” is on my bedside table; I hear it’s awesome and I can’t wait to read it. Waiting anxiously for Patti Smith’s new memoir, and I’d love to read Jenny Lawson, I haven’t read her before and the cover of her new book of essays, “This is Happy” must be the best cover ever. Also on my pile is a YA novel that my local bookstore, Kidsbooks, insisted I buy, “Au Revoir Crazy European Chick” by Joe Schreiber.
I love that you’re stalking me! That was truly the experience of a lifetime. Festivaletturatura, in Mantua. The festival takes over the entire small town, and let me tell you, Italians LOVE their literature. I was treated like royalty for a week (all the authors were). Connecting with some Italian readers was pretty freaking cool – I mean, I knew three of my novels had been translated, but I somehow didn’t equate that with readers. It was a magical week, made more magical because I brought my mom and my aunt along. We had a blast. The festival treated them like royalty, too. I will definitely send you some good photos.
11. Finally, may I ask if you're working on a new book right now? And if so, could you share some details?”
I’m deep into another, but I have this weird superstition that won’t let me talk about it. It still needs a lot of work. However I can tell you that I sat down and wrote a picture book (just the text) recently. I don’t know if it will go anywhere, but I sure had fun doing it. I wrote (and had published) three picture books a number of years ago, and never thought I’d go back to it.
About Susin Nielsen:
Susin got her start feeding cast and crew on the popular television series, Degrassi Junior High. They hated her food, but they saw a spark in her writing. Nielsen went on to pen sixteen episodes of the hit TV show. Since then, Nielsen has written for over 20 Canadian TV series. Her first young adult novel, Word Nerd, was published in 2008 to critical acclaim. It won multiple Young Readers’ Choice Awards, as did her second novel, Dear George Clooney: Please Marry My Mom. Her third novel, The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen, was published in August 2012. It went on to win the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award, the Canadian Library Association’s Children’s Book of the Year Award, and a number of Young Readers’ Choice Awards. Author Wally Lamb named it his top YA pick for 2012 in his “First Annual Wally Awards,” and recently Rolling Stone magazine put it at #27 in their list of “Top 40 Best YA Novels.”Her books have been translated into multiple languages. Susin’s new novel, We Are All Made of Molecules, will be published in Canada, the US and the UK in Spring of 2015. She lives in Vancouver with her family and two naughty cats.
Thanks to Aisha and Random House Kids, we have two beautiful finished copies up for grabs today! Open Internationally, ends 11/01!