Chemistry by C. L. Lynch is a thoroughly enjoyable, fun novel to read due to its clever twists in dialogue. I found it hilarious and highlighted many, many examples of unusual sentences that I believe won’t be found anywhere else. They wouldn’t work in another context. There are occasional uses of words some will feel uncomfortable with but this warning, given by the author is also clever. You will have to read the novel to find out why the warning, in itself, is clever.
“For my mother, who always believed that I would write a book, but never dreamed that I would put in so many swear words.” (loc 41-43)
Then there is this at the end of the book. I take it as a given, perhaps mistakenly, that authors write descriptions of themselves. This particular description so accurately mirrors and expands the character of Stella (main protagonist) that I felt it deserved a quote.
“C.L. Lynch is a thirty-something socially awkward introvert. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia with her husband, two kids, various pets, and far too many unwashed dishes. She enjoys smashing tropes and hiding from adult responsibilities.” (loc 4536-4538)
Stella might be described as a socially awkward teenager. She has few friends, seems to be mentally gifted, and is physically “big built.” While that may be a politically correct term, Stella carries the words “fat” and “obese” around in her head. Admitting and even embracing reality, Stella works from a position of “Here I am, take it or leave it.” She doesn’t care about others’ opinions of her but she doesn’t enjoy receiving insults. Stella is not above using her martial arts training to answer offensive behavior directed against her. At home, she has a remarkably open relationship with her parents. They feel comfortable joking with her almost as an adult equal. She feels comfortable with sharing and revealing sometimes shocking truths. Stella’s character is well developed, the characters of the parents less so, and some readers might find this unrealistic. But this provides the opportunity for the author to write some great dialogue.
Howie or Howard (but not to be confused with Howard the Bear) is the other principal around which the tale progresses. Howie is socially inept, a nerd, a geek, wears the stereotypical glasses, and is completely smitten with Stella at first sight. He is so smitten that he wanders around with a deer-in-the-headlights look that is apparent to all other students. Stella is also amazed by his blue eyes and the attention paid by Howie but she is also put off by the constant minute-by-minute attention paid. Although flattered, Stella suspects she might have a stalker. For Howie’s part, while he tells Stella she is beautiful, he emphasizes he is primarily in love with her brain. At this point, I should have heard alarms.
No alarms until Chapter Nine when Stella says “Okay, I need to hear you say that you’re not zombies.” (loc 1647). This was said to Howie and his family at their home. I was as surprised as Stella that I was in the middle of a zombie story. The fast moving dialogue was so entertaining up to this point that I knew there was something to be revealed about Howie but that wasn’t one of my guesses. I don’t read zombie tales (I thought this was horror) but there was no way I was going to put this book down; I was having too much fun. Then the story took on other elements equally entertainingly offered through clever dialogue.
Zombies exist alongside humans although neither group is aware of the other. There are very few zombies; Howie and his family of a sister, brother mom, and dad are one such zombie family. Dr, Mullens, Howie’s dad is a research doctor (and zombie) who has been recruited by the government to theoretically control the virus which turns people into zombies. But the Canadian government research project has become corrupted by the efforts of an ultra-right wing extremist fanatical Canadian zealot. This creature may be rarer than a zombie. Agent Baum believes Dr. Mullen’s research could be more positively used to create a zombie army that could be used in an upcoming war with the US, a necessary war to prevent American culture co-opting and wiping out Canadian culture. Baum also worries Howie and family might go to the US and participate in the upcoming struggle on the American side. Baum is further morally horrified by the prospect of a romantic relationship between human Stella and zombie Howie.
While I found all this fascinating, for me, the dialogue did it. So, two examples. In the first, Howie is announcing his undying (think about it) love for Stella and she answers.
Howie: “How could I not love you? The way you can wield a chainsaw, the way you karate chop your way through every problem to cross your path?”
Stella: ““It’s kung fu, not karate,” I said. “It’s a style of wu-shu, and it’s Chinese, not Japanese. And I don’t chop much. I’m more about the kicks and the hand blocks.” (loc 3505-3512)
My second example shows the open dialogue relationship between Stella and her parents. Stella is going to her bedroom to study with zombie boyfriend Howie.
“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” called Dad as we went upstairs.
“Would you pee sitting down, Dad?”
“Would you wear a v-neck top, Dad?”
“Would you have long chaste conversations with your boyfriend?”
“Yeah, yeah. Just don’t have unprotected sex.”
“Thank you for the reassurance that you wouldn’t have unprotected sex. I’ll leave you and Mom to work out the mystery of my paternity and go upstairs, shall I?” (loc 3081-3086)
I highly recommend this book to the YA and above crowd despite, as the author noted, the swear words. This book was fun and I enjoyed writing the review.