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“But just know that no one gets what they want in the end,” Brian. —Chemistry Lesson
by Meredith Goldstein
Maya has her summer all planned. She has an internship at MIT and the perfect boyfriend, but before the summer fun can start, Maya’s boyfriend breaks up with her. Maya, who is still grieving her mother’s death, has one thing on her mind—getting Whit back.
When Maya finds her mother’s old notebooks, she thinks she’s discovered the perfect way to get her boyfriend back. With the help of her mother’s lab intern, Ann, Maya makes a love serum. But before Maya can use it on Whit, she needs to test out the serum on two test subjects. Maya embarks on an adventure that leads her to discover the unpredictability of love.
The best part of Chemistry Lesson is the relationship Maya has with her best friend, Brian. Realistic, funny, and kind, Brian shows what true friendship should look like. Another positive relationship in the story is between Maya and her father. Both are trying to deal with the loss of Maya’s mother and struggle with the grieving process.
Although the storyline has an interesting premise, Maya’s willingness to ignore moral codes to get Whit back seems farfetched. Whit’s early disappearance from the story leaves the reader wondering why Whit is worth all of the effort to create a love potion. For a person who is so smart when it comes to science, Maya is completely clueless when it comes to guys. By completing the experiment, Maya does learn about herself and others, but her naivety when it comes to boy-girl relationships comes off as false.
Chemistry Lesson is a quick, easy read that has a diverse cast of characters. Even though the story focuses on a love potion, the love scenes won’t stir up much emotion. For those looking for a fun, unique love story, Chemistry Lesson will hit the mark.
- Brian is gay, but the only reference to his sexuality is when Maya asked, “Were you ever this upset about Matt?”
- Maya’s aunt has a female partner “of more than 20 years.” Pam tells Maya that when she “had crushes on women and men while I was with Pam,” but because she was older, she was “able to ignore the crushes.”
- Maya’s friend Yael told Maya “how a woman she’d met in undergrad pursued her for months only to dump her for a guy on the rugby team.”
- Maya and her boyfriend, Whit, decided “we’d have sex in four weeks—once Whit moved into off-campus housing, where he’d have his own room.” Maya was “unable to stop myself from imagining what was going to happen in less than a month.”
- When Maya’s boyfriend breaks up with her, her friend tells her, “This whole ‘losing my virginity thing is a heteronormative concept anyway.”
- Maya makes out with Kyle. The scene is described over three pages. As they kiss, “He tipped me back so that my head rested against a couch pillow, and then he was half on top of me, one leg on the couch, one on the floor. . . He shifted so that his knee fell in between my legs.” Maya stops Kyle. Then he said, “This kind of thing happens all the time in college.”
- Maya thinks back to visiting Whit at college where, “I’d seen students bring strangers back to their rooms and then say goodbye forever the next morning.”
- One of Maya’s friends “hooked up with one of the techs from next door.”
- Maya makes out with a boy at a party. “He pulled me close and hugged me, and I reciprocated with my arms around him. Then I felt a tickling wetness on my neck. . . He put one hand on my butt like it was no big deal . . . I couldn’t do much besides keep my mouth open as his tongue began wagging from side to side inside it.” The scene is described over four pages.
- Someone tells Maya, “sometimes the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else.”
- When Maya is in Whit’s room, she teases him for having Bananagrams in his nightstand. She says, “You’re supposed to have condoms and drugs in there.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- For an experiment, Maya takes drops. When her friend catches her taking the drops, she tells him, “I’m ingesting a pheromones-masking formula to get Whit back.”
- Maya thinks back to “the wine that Whit once stole from his parent’s liquor cabinet so we could share it on one of our first real dates.”
- After dinner, Maya’s aunt poured her a “full glass of sweet wine.”
- Maya goes to several parties where there was alcohol. At one, “Most of the kids were drinking beer procured by someone’s older brother.”
- When trying to explain an experiment, one of the characters mentions Viagra.
- Maya, her father, and her friend go to an outdoor play. Her father brought “water bottles filled with his special juice drink.” Maya’s father said, “I’m teaching her that alcohol isn’t something you consume in excess for the purposes of getting drunk.”
- Maya goes to a party where teens are drinking and she “could see a pack of adults smoking something in a circle.”
- When Maya hurts herself, she takes Percocet for the pain.
- When someone makes fun of Kyle’s singing, he “lifted his middle finger in our direction.”
- When Maya visits her aunt, her aunt uses profanity including “goddamned.” The aunt’s accent is so thick that the curse words sounded like “fahckin’ or ‘gawhddamned.’”
- “Oh my god” is used as an exclamation.
- Profanity is used infrequently but includes bullshit, dammit, hell, and shit.
- After Maya sings karaoke, her friend says, “you sounded like a fucking robot.”
- “Jesus” is used once as an exclamation.
- When Maya falls down, a guy says, “Holy shit, she’s down.