Worried Chemical Hearts Will Ruin You Emotionally? Here's What Happens in the Book
High school romance films are as sweet and irresistibly charming as freshly baked cookies — I just can't get enough of them! Because this is one of my favorite movie genres, I can't wait for Chemical Hearts to premiere on Amazon Prime on Aug. 21. The movie, which stars Lili Reinhart and Austin Abrams, is based on the book of the same name by Krystal Sutherland. If you read the book way back in 2016, you're probably already super excited for the movie to come out (although, to be fair, it could be different). If not, keep reading for some major spoilers. You've been warned!
When Henry Meets Grace
When Henry (Abrams) meets Grace (Reinhart), he even admits that it isn't memorable — she simply shuffles into class wearing oversize "boy clothes" and holding a cane. When the class ends, he doesn't think about her again until they are both asked to be editors of the school newspaper. Grace turns down the job, saying, "I don't write anymore," which leaves Henry so confused that he follows her home.
She gives him a dark poem that he had spied in her book earlier titled "I do not love you" and offers him a ride home — as long as he drives. When they arrive back at Henry's house, she walks away, and her car mysteriously disappears later. His many questions are left unanswered, as he greets his older sister, Sadie, and his nephew, then goes downstairs to hang out with his friends Muz and La.
Grace agrees to take the editorial position as long as she doesn't have to write. She gives Henry a ride home from school every day, then someone picks up her car afterward. When Henry looks her up on Facebook, he discovers a completely different version of Grace, one who is healthy and vibrant.
Grace invites Henry on an after-dark adventure, where they hop a fence and check out an abandoned steam-train station that is now closed to visitors. Grace shows him the flooded basement filled with fish and views of the stars. She asks him why he's never had a girlfriend, and he tells her he wants the kind of extraordinary love that his parents have. She tells him about the severe car accident that caused major surgeries and led to her limp and the boy who showed her this place. Henry is drawn to this unusual girl, who makes his life more exciting.
Henry and Grace's Friendship Turns Into Something More
They go to a party one Friday night in October, and Grace actually seems happy, joking and flirting with Henry for the first time. Their first kiss is wild and passionate and lasts for two whole songs before they go home. Afterward, Grace gives him the cold shoulder, so Henry and Muz decide to follow her to her old running track, where she hurts her leg even more by sprinting on it. Although both of Henry's friends are worried that the emotionally distant, broken Grace will end up breaking his heart, they encourage him to actually ask her out instead of moping around.
Henry decides to make a PowerPoint presentation titled "Why You Should Date Me." It is hilariously cute, and Grace seems to love it — until he states that he won't abandon her like her grade-school boyfriend. She explains that her boyfriend died in the car crash that injured her leg. Henry now understands why she wears her old boyfriend's clothes, goes to the train station he found, visits the cemetery, even listens to The Strokes. Then, she starts crying, they start kissing, and Henry says something so utterly romantic that I hope he repeats it in the movie: "I want you anyway."
Grace agrees to date Henry in secret. She finally meets Henry's quirky, loving parents, who find Grace strange and broody. Henry realizes he hasn't seen his parents dance or kiss in a long time, which doesn't fit with his idea of their extraordinary love. After a Halloween party, Grace and Henry go back to Henry's house to have sex. It is intense and awkward but good — until Grace starts crying for her lost boyfriend, breaking Henry's heart.
What Comes Between Them
A few days later, Grace drives again for the first time since the accident, taking them to a restaurant inside a national park. Henry confronts her: he wants to be official. Grace isn't ready to move on. She accuses him of being in love with the idea of who she once was, and he thinks she is in love with an idea, too — that every time she closes her eyes and kisses him, she is picturing her old boyfriend.
Meanwhile, Henry's distracted at school, failing his classes, and behind on the newspaper. One day, he goes to Grace's house and discovers the truth: Grace lives in her deceased boyfriend's (Dominic "Dom" Sawyer) house with his parents. She wears his unwashed clothes to preserve his memory. Grace catches Henry snooping and makes him leave, so he goes to save Muz from his despair in finding out his ex-girlfriend has another boyfriend. La is pissed at both of their teenage hormonal-ness and wants them to both get their acts together.
Grace invites Henry and their friends to her birthday party over Thanksgiving weekend. That night, she's her fun self again, wearing cute clothes with red lipstick and her hair curled. They spend hours wandering the fair, and she tells Henry she likes him, but she feels bad for moving on so quickly. He asks if she would ever be his girlfriend, and she becomes frustrated that just being with him isn't enough. She admits that she's pretending to be her old self to see how he would react, and she's upset that he looked at her in a new way, totally in love with this perfect version of her.
Grace Disappears, and the Truth Is Revealed
Grace goes missing on the anniversary of Dom's death, sending everyone into a panic. Henry finds her at the abandoned train station, where she is wearing a white dress and crying in the water. Finally, Grace opens up to Henry about Dom, whom she had loved since they met as children. Her uncle brought Grace to live with Dom's mom when her own mom was on another binge, and she moved in permanently with Dom's family a month before the crash. She was in the hospital during the funeral and couldn't write the eulogy because it was too painful. She decided not to write anything else until she could finish the eulogy. According to Grace, it was her fault Dom died because she had distracted him while he was driving. Later, Grace strips off her dress — which was intended to be her wedding dress.
Grace explains that she feels less guilty for what she's done when she's sad. She admits that she only kissed Henry because she missed Dom, and she tells Henry that he doesn't know what real love is. Henry feels sorry for himself, but Sadie comforts him by explaining that the extraordinary love he is after doesn't really exist the way he thinks. She tells him that their mom left their dad before Henry was born, and she came back because she was pregnant. Sadie explains love is just a chemical reaction: sometimes it lasts over and over, and sometimes it's like a supernova and then fades. She tells him we are all just chemical hearts. Heartbreak is physical pain, but he will heal.
Saving the Paper and Moving On
Henry enlists the help of Sadie and his friends to break into school and save the newspaper. They decide on the theme "redemption" and get contributions from several classmates. Grace shows up with the taped-together "I do not love you" poem that she had given to Henry at the beginning of the book and he ripped apart later on. She confesses that Henry helped make the grief go away for a little bit, and he realizes he was just a blip in her love story — not the love story himself.
A week later, Henry starts to heal. The newspaper turns out OK, like a catastrophic collage of the semester. La's girlfriend, Georgia, breaks up with her, and Muz and Henry help her get through it like she had helped them. Henry's parents separate, and his dad moves out to his carpentry shed in the backyard (although they still eat breakfast together). Grace's ability to walk slowly improves, and Henry notices her smiling more and wearing her own clothes. Henry realizes he loves Grace like Grace loves Dom, leaving neither one of them fully happy in the end.