Chemistry is a modern reimagining of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, told in first-person, present tense from the perspective of the high school senior Claude Frollo. It tracks his dysfunctional relationships with everyone who looks up to him; his growing obsession with the new girl, Esmeralda; and his downward spiral into self-destructive sociopathy.
Chemistry is addicting. I ploughed through it in less than a day, and even when I had to put it down, I stayed caught in the horrible, piercing, electrifying world Lamm has created inside Claude’s head.
Insanity is becoming an over-used trope, especially in tragic romance, but Lamm refreshes it and makes it unnervingly real. Claude is a maniac – dangerously charismatic inside his own mind, even though he cannot be in real life. The horrors he concocts are made all the more filthy by the good he has done and the heights he dreams of reaching. The worst part is that, right up to the end, you want him to win. He does a fantastic job of convincing the reader that he deserves his little sins, even though the words themselves press constantly for condemnation.
The story Lamm has woven is enthralling, stomach-turning in the best possible way. I went in with high expectations and came away with aching teeth and a burning throat, simultaneously shattered and satisfied.
I’m still a bit shell-shocked.