Can’t Beat The Chemistry – Kat Colmer – Wombat Books – Published 20 April 2019




Ionic and covalent bonds are a piece of cake for MJ. But human bonds are a little harder …
There are only two things MJ wants in her final year of high school:

1) Glowing grades and …

2) to convince uber-smart, chiselled-jaw Jason they’d be a winning team outside the science lab as well as in.

Tutoring deadbeat drummer, Luke, isn’t part of the plan. After all, he has average intelligence, takes disorganised notes and looks like a partied-out zombie at their study sessions! Not even his taut biceps will win MJ over.

But MJ learns that she could be tutored in a few life lessons too: That sometimes there’s good reason to skip chemistry tutorials. That intelligence is so much more than a grade average.

And that sometimes you can’t beat the chemistry.

My thoughts

If you are looking for a fun and lighthearted YA romance, then you’ll love Can’t Beat The Chemistry by Kat Colmer. Music, chemistry, hate-to-love romance and great character development, Can’t Beat The Chemistry has a winning combination of elements to produce a thoroughly enjoyable novel.

MJ is finishing her final year of high school while also taking two university courses. It’s all part of her mother’s plan for her to become a doctor. MJ would rather study genetics but after the falling out between her mother and brother, MJ knows better than to deviate from the plan. That’s why she need glowing grades. The chance to work with Jason (smart and super focused) on their group project doesn’t hurt. But when MJ’s brother asks her to help tutor his best friend Luke in chemistry, MJ is sure she doesn’t have time to waste with the slack, disorganised drummer. Yet it seems MJ has something she could learn from Luke about family, commitment and maybe even love.

Can’t Beat The Chemistry fills a nice gap for crossover YA that is still clean and suitable for younger readers. It has a young and fresh tone to the writing, but MJ is finalising her last year of high school while also completing university classes (which are the focus of the setting and plot) and Luke is a first year uni student, which gives the book a mature edge, not in content so much as perspective. And bonus, it is written by an Australian and set in Australia. There are just a few mentions of settings and Aussie culture, but it give a nice familiarity (for us Aussie readers) yet will appeal to all readers.

I enjoyed the blooming relationship between MJ and Luke. They do not have a smooth start – MJ is judgemental and Luke understandably withdrawn. As they begin to work together, learn each other’s story and experience the other’s world, they develop a nice friendship. I really liked that the chemistry and romantic feelings came much later in their relationship and wasn’t a quick (or unbelievable) flip from not-quite-enemies-but-certainly-not-friends to friends and then something a little more romantic..

MJ has a lot to learn about friendship, relationships and expectations of other people. She is judgemental. But, through her time spent with Luke and his family, she learns not to limit her judgements to her jaded point of view and to be surprised about people. From Luke’s delightful younger sister, his hobbies, friends and constant giving spirit, he is unexpected and teaches MJ a lot. And MJ is open to learning – in fact learning is something she does really well. My only concern with the story was regarding MJ’s friendship with Sandy. When MJ starts falling for the boy Sandy likes I thought there would be more drama. Instead Sandy simply bows to MJ. It’s very supportive of her, yet MJ doesn’t ever seem to return that support.

Can’t Beat The Chemistry is a fun and lighthearted novel with a great message about true intelligence, judging others and fighting for your dreams.

The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.

More information

Category: Young adult fiction

Genre: Contemporary.

Themes: Intelligence, study, friendship, romance, music, chemistry, family, tutoring, mother-daughter relationships.

Reading age guide: Ages 13 and up.

Advisory: Occasional coarse language, sh** (5), bit** (1), co** (6), pis* (5).

Published: 16 May 2017 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

Format: Paperback, ebook. 274 pages.

ISBN: 9781925563696

Find it on Goodreads