Book Review: The Chemist


Well... I finished it. End of review.


Just kidding. Mostly.


Like many a teenaged girl of my generation, I got sucked into the Twilight vortex. I didn't just read the books, I devoured them. Big fat tomes, all consumed in a matter of days. At the time I thought they were good. I've learned a lot since then. Mostly about the power of marketing. Because no book I've read by Stephenie Meyer has been well-written.


(Want some proof? Check out the website Reasoning With Vampires. Not affiliated, just amused.)


I'm not going to talk about Twilight here. It's a young adult series I enjoyed as a young adult, and who the hell cares what I think about it now. Nor will I talk about The Host, which is a book for adults that I read as an adult for reasons I still haven't sorted out. I should have known after reading The Host that Stephenie Meyer's style just isn't for me, but when she put out a thriller, I just couldn't not read it.


I learned recently that the development of brand loyalty occurs before age 25. Maybe that's the problem.


Dammit, Meyer.


As I do before picking up any book, I perused reviews to get a feel for The Chemist. People seemed to like it. People swore it was way better than her previous books. Some people even dared to call it fast-paced, which was encouraging, since there was an abundance of standing around and talking about feelings in The Host. And hey, it was at the library, so why not give it a shot?


So I did. And I tried to keep an open mind, honest. But it just wasn't that good.


I read a lot of books. I read a lot of mysteries and thrillers. I'm familiar with the genre conventions, and I really, truly appreciate when authors break those conventions and do something different. You know, as long as it works. And this didn't work for me.


First, the pacing. It's 500+ pages long, which is not something I have an inherent problem with. I wrote a 500 page thriller too. But if your book is that length, there's gotta be more action, more plot. There was too much backstory and sitting around for my taste. And if sitting around isn't bad enough, try reading about characters sitting around talking about their feelings. There's no place for that in a thriller. If you're going to talk about your feelings, at least do it during an epic car chase while getting shot at from a helicopter. Or, preferably, find a way to show it rather than have the lovebirds come right out and say it. A confession basically eliminates all romantic suspense, and suspense is pretty integral for a thriller.


Second, the twist, if you can even call it that. The revelation of the bad guy's identity was less than skillfully done. If hints had been woven through the preceding narrative, it may actually have been impactful, and, more importantly, true to the genre. Instead it felt like it was hastily slapped on in the end just to tick a box. By that point the romance subplot had taken over anyway, and I didn't care who was behind the evil scheme. I was just waiting for Daniel to get shot in the chest and almost die, except of course he wouldn't, because he was a mirror twin. As soon as that nugget dropped I knew exactly how the book would end, and I was right. So there was no anticipation leading up to the reveal of the big bad, or drama associated with Daniel's seemingly fatal wound. Strike two.


The third, final big deterrent for me was the general hokeyness of it all. The main character (the titular chemist) gets her life-on-the-run tips from novels. The guy she tortures falls in love with her. The guy she tortures has a twin, who is basically a superhero. The guy she tortures has the same amazing aim and healing powers as his superhero twin, even though he's Joe Normal. The superhero twin has a bunch of genius superhero dogs who go from wanting to kill the chemist to inexplicably loving her. I could go on.


Ultimately, this is not a thriller to me, which is fine. But it's also not a good book. It's a story that doesn't know what it wants to be, and ends up muddled as a result. For the amount of time it took to read, the return was disappointing. If you're in the market for a fast-paced thriller, look elsewhere.


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