You don’t want to read this book. I’m warning you. This isn’t a heartwarming, boy-meets-girl, high school romance. I wish it were—God, do I ever. No, if you read this, you’re going to be angry… with me, mostly. You’ll probably yell at me, if you’re the type of person who yells at books. You’ll tell me not to be so stupid, but I won’t listen. I’ll be exactly as stupid as I need to be to destroy everything I love because that’s who I am: a walking, talking tragedy. That’s who I’ve always been. But if you’re determined to read on despite my warning, I may as well introduce myself. My name is Claude Frollo, I’m nineteen going on ninety, and this is my story. It isn’t pretty, but it’s honest. And it’s the only story I have left to tell.
Release Date: June 10, 2015
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from author
Reviewed By: Kelli
I've never read a book quite like Chemistry. It was dark, twisted, and tragic. I was simultaneously appalled and intrigued by the plot and found this book nearly impossible to put down.
I didn't realize at the time I started Chemistry that it is a retelling of Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Now that I know this (after finishing the book), the entire story makes so much more sense. There were times while reading that I was just confused, overwhelmed and shocked at the way the story was going. Claude was far from a likable narrator and he got worse as the story progressed. But after finishing the book and realizing it's a retelling, I completely understand why things went the way they did.
If you're unfamiliar with the basic tenets of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, read about it on Wikipedia here. I highly recommend being familiar with the plot of The Hunchback of Notre Dame before reading Chemistry. Don't make the same mistake I did. You'll like Chemistry so much more if you have a little bit of an idea why these shocking and scary things are happening.
I could see Chemistry being used as a read-along novel to The Hunchback of Notre Dame in classrooms. It certainly gives a modern, contemporary feel to the classic historical fiction.
With all that said, I have to say that I did overall enjoy this book. The intensity of it was unique. It was definitely a consuming read, one that I finished in two sittings. I kept thinking, "surely, now will be Claude's redemption," and then he would go and do something else even more twisted. Some of the appeal of Chemistry was a voyeuristic sense of "how bad can things get?" not unlike being unable to look away from a car wreck on the highway.
Lamm does a great job at depicting her characters' emotions, especially the tormented Claude. It is the hallmark of great writing when an author can make you care about a character that you don't even like. And in the end, I did care about Claude. I refused to give up hope for him no matter how deplorable his actions were.
If you like contemporary retellings of classic novels, I would recommend Chemistry. Just be forewarned that it is not a feel-good book, but it's still a good book. Chemistry is one of those books that will be hard to forget.