Plot and Themes: 2/5
Awesomeness Factor: 2/5
Review in a Nutshell: Chemistry Lessons had the potential to be a fun summer read, but the issues in it are too glaring for me to look over.
Chemistry Lessons follows Maya, a budding scientist who was just dumped by her boyfriend, Whit. When she discovers her late mother’s old research on pheromones and attraction in humans, Maya decides that she will use science to win him back. However, she needs to test it on two other test subjects before she can try it on Whit.
The characters in this book are fairly surface level. Maya is a smart girl who is a bit naive, desperate to make her ex love her again. I found myself frustrated with how oblivious she was to how her choices affected others, and she didn’t have enough development to make that frustration worthwhile. Her best friend was fun, and probably the most entertaining character, but didn’t have enough time on the page. The three “test subjects” were all okay but lacked much personality and development themselves. No character from this book really stuck with me after I closed it.
I was able to read this book in one sitting. The writing stylewas good, simple and basic, making it very easy to get through. The plot was a mix of science and romance, yet both aspects felt lacking. The science was rooted in reality enough to make it hard to suspend my disbelief in how it was done. No MIT Ph.D. student would risk their entire career to do some research, with a girl who only just graduated high school, on an experiment that had too many variables to hold up! That just didn’t make sense to me. I couldn’t even let myself enjoy the science talk and information because I was frustrated by that aspect. As for the romance, the dubious consent (which I’ll discuss more in a minute) left me feeling gross and because Maya was so obsessed with Whit I didn’t really find myself caring too much about the actual love-interest because of how little time was spent focused on him.
Now onto that consent bit I mentioned. Perhaps the biggest issue of this book was that the “test subjects” have no idea that they’re being experimented on. Which, firstly, would not be approved of in the science world, and secondly, brings up the issue of consent. Because there is none, and its barely even mentioned how it would make the “test subjects” feel. A sample of their DNA is unknowingly taken from them and then used to produce a serum to change the pheromones of Maya in order to make them more attracted to her. And (spoiler-except-not-really) it works. And Maya uses these boys for her experiment, to the point of making out with them, all with the goal of getting her ex back, and not telling them a thing. There are just so many problems with that. Imagine if it was gender-swapped, and a guy was experimenting on three girls and making them attracted to him. Wouldn’t that raise a few red flags? I would forgive it if there was more of a discussion of consent, but there really is none.
Pros- Lots of science!
Cons- Problematic premise, hard to suspend disbelief, weak characters
Overall- 2.3/5 stars.
Chemistry Lessons is a quick YA summer romance, but lacks the impact to make up for the concerning issues in the plot.