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My Chemical Mountain

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  143 ratings  ·  62 reviews
The Outsiders meets Erin Brockovich meets Bridge to Terabithia in this high-octane drama. TIM THARP, author of The Spectacular Now, National Book Award finalist, calls My Chemical Mountain “A gritty, surprising story that confronts important personal and social issues head-on.”

Jason and his friends live for the rush of racing their dirt bikes on Chemical Mountain and swim
Hardcover, 182 pages
Published June 11th 2013 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
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Smog City by Rebecca McNuttBridge to Terabithia by Katherine PatersonCharlotte's Web by E.B. WhiteNever Let Me Go by Kazuo IshiguroThe Plague Dogs by Richard Adams
Fiction novels about friendship
24th out of 71 books — 14 voters
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16th out of 75 books — 83 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,329)
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Shannon Boudreau
SUMMARY: Three boys repress their fear and dive head-first into the thrills of landfill culture: breaking into abandoned buildings, speeding down landfills on their dirt bikes, and worse. Jason, the main character, blames a chemical company for his father’s death, and seeks revenge, but what can he really do against such a powerful enemy? The boys cope and lash out in surprising ways—Jason through his artwork, Charlie through upping the stakes of toxic exposure, and Cornpup through trying to ign ...more
"We live by the best landfill ever. I flipped my dirt bike there once. Plus I've got a sketchbook full of uranium monsters. My friend Cornpup likes to show off the bumps on his back for a dollar. And Charlie, he'll drink red creek water on a dare." Shocking book, very intense. The characters explode off the page.
Michelle (In Libris Veritas)
I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I received no compensation

My Chemical Mountain is a novel that is really hard to accurately describe without focusing on one aspect more than the others. In fact I was asked twice in one day what the book was about and I had think on it. The simple answer: It’s about three boys who grow up in a factory and mill town where a chemical factory is slowly destroying their environment and their lives. The more difficult aspect to capture is the fa
Mary Summer
I can't stop talking about this book. Ever since I read it, it's come up in conversation a dozen times. The content and themes are very relevant to our current environmental circumstances. It's an extreme version of what can happen if we stay as shortsighted as we are.

However, as gripping as the story itself is, what moved me most about this book were its characters. The boys in this story were incredibly real to me. I grew up with brothers, and reading this was like looking into my own childho
Three boys come of age in a town that has been destroyed by the local chemical company where everyone works. Tragic events happen that convince the boys that they need to fight back and save their town from the devastating effects (not only natural but family life) of the chemical company.
Stephanie Diaz
This book is really different, in a good way. The world is so vivid and the characters are brilliantly distinct and unusual. Highly recommended!
Corina Vacco
Nov 19, 2014 Corina Vacco rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
One of my readers created this image, and I had to share! It was inspired by Jason's Freak Museum, and I thought the artist really captured the grotesque beauty of MY CHEMICAL MOUNTAIN. image for bookmark - Copy
I wrote a portion of this book at the foot of toxic landfill in Western New York. I was scared to be there, but I found my voice in the darkness and breathed life into the industrial yards. I hope Jason's story inspires you to find your voice and to fight for the things you love, even when you're afraid, even w
What a beautiful way to tell the story of a town with a dumping problem: from the perspective of a kid who loves it, pollution and all. Vacco beautifully describes the tortured land and wildlife in this town where a chemical company has its headquarters, dumping in the river and piling gunk high on Chemical Mountain. Her teens, too, are tortured, each in his own way, by the town, and the chemical plant. But for all this, My Chemical Mountain is a book with a positive and spirited voice, not one ...more
Joyce Sweeney
This is a powerful dystopia with a strong theme of friendship and loyalty. This book won the Delacorte Prize and it's no wonder. Corina Vacco has an amazing capacity to build a world that is too frighteningly like our own and to show us the human side of our destruction of the environment.
Rebecca McNutt
My Chemical Mountain was definitely one of the most original and thrilling YA books I've ever read, it was a lot like the 2011 film Super 8 except that it has its own original theme - three boys who live in a toxic wasteland. With descriptions of mountainous landfills, streams of glowing chemical ooze and large factories all around, you'd almost think that it was a post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel, but nope, it's just a coming-of-age story with a setting that's a bit more extreme. And yup, the auth ...more
Jennifer Orr
This was a surprising book for many reasons. One, I know Corina personally and know her incredible, amazing, visceral writing, so I knew this book was going to be good. Yet I was still blown away by this heartbreaking story of how a threesome of young boys deal with the destruction of their town and, in come cases, families by a polluting chemical company. At first, the mother in me was unnerved at how the boys embrace their environment, chemical sludge and all. How they revel in the pollution a ...more
A quick book under 200 pages that might fly higher with middle school readers than with high schoolers has a cast of three rising freshman boys living on the outskirts of industrial Buffalo in what seems to be a near future sort of dystopia. What these characters experience—a chemical company and other polluters knowingly and willfully destroying and poisoning Poxton’s blue-collar creeks and neighborhoods--is an object lesson and cautionary tale about what can happen to our environment if corpor ...more
Three boys live in a blue collar town at the base of a toxic landfill, by a creek contaminated with unknown hazardous waste from a large chemical company. One boys back is covered in cysts and he has a nasty rash that comes and goes. One of the other boys has a freak museum with neon green leeches, fish covered in tumors and wingless birds that he collects from the creek bank. One boy lost his father to an accident at the Chemical Plant that no one truly believes was an accident. These boys want ...more
Three teen boys face off against their town's chemically polluting industry, all for different reasons. The story is much more than some kind of EPA tome; it is an archetypal portrait of how teen boys think and act, which is much more complicated than many of us given them credit for.

The chemical company is the life of the town. It holds by its power of employment the survival of families. And families are suffering when the company is challenged or disrupted. I kept rooting for Erin Brokovich t
Frustration is afoot in this nation, and all over the world, as people and planet are facing the results of greed. This first novel from a young Green author has been a prize winner and the journalistic reviews are impressive.

Corina Vacco weaves in environmental and social issues in the sort of novel that reaches beyond it's YA age group to all adult readers, as it subtly takes hold of our interest and broadens our perspectives. The plot focuses on the viewpoint of the protagonist, Jason, a tee
What's the What: Jason and his friends Charlie and Cornpup live in what most of us would consider a horrifying nightmare. With their houses situated next to giant industrial complexes, their world is rife with chemical sludge choking their creek, cavernous abandoned factories and immense mountains of waste. And while they rail against the BIG BAD CHEMICAL COMPANY that Jason feels is responsible for his father's death, he and his friends share a fierce connection with the toxic environment that h ...more
Jaime Sullivan
The writing will blow you away. I was sent a galley for review, dismissed it as a post-apocalyptic story, and I almost didn’t read it…but then I took a peek at the first page, and I ended up reading it straight through in one night. It’s a lyrically written, contemporary novel, full of gorgeous prose describing the most toxic of surroundings, and I was just hooked.

The subject matter is timely AND approached in a fresh way. Vacco turns the world on its head and writes about a polluted town in a
Stephanie Dye
Jason doesn’t need anyone to understand why he and his friends still swim in the contaminated creek. His mom is the only person who’d care anyhow, and she’s too busy eating everything in sight. But if someone were to ever ask him, he’d say the industrial yards trigger an adrenaline rush that helps him forget how he’s been clashing with Charlie lately, how Cornpup’s health is getting worse, and how his own anger has been churning and grinding like a horrible machine.

The accident that killed his f
Mary Mezey

The first thing that hit me was the voice. It’s a first-person narrative in the voice of a gritty, rust-belt kid who lives in a town that is just choking with pollution. His world is so different from mine, but I connected with him immediately because his anger and memories and the things he loves most about his Chemical Mountain (the landfill) felt so raw and real.

From there, I was taken aback by the originality of this book. I’ve never read anything like it. Vacco uses literary language to pa
Cait Grace
BEHOLD, this book! The emotion, the freshness of the writing, the depth…THIS is what makes a book. Yeah, yeah, I’m going to gush. But I can’t help it. I’m just so so excited to find a coming-of-age book like this!

(Okay, okay, you probably need details right? Or at least a few sentences that make sense? I’ll do my best. ADFJKLS;AFJ That was pretty good, huh?)

First I HAVE to talk about the writing style! (Eep!) I lovelovelove narrations that have real, epic voice. Not like all bubbly-teen-y-moder
Title: My Chemical Mountain
Author: Corina Vacco

Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Length: 192 pages

Original Publishing Date: June 11th, 2013
Series: Standalone

Where I got it: ARC from ARCycling

Main characters: 3.5/5

I want to take a moment for a mini side-note before I start in on Jason and comment on what I will call the "Middle of the Road MC". Have you ever noticed that a lot of main characters tend to fall in between the two extremes of their best friend
MY CHEMICAL MOUNTAIN is a thoroughly good book and the type of story that even reluctant readers will dive into. Jason, Charlie and Cornpup are three friends entering their freshman year in high school. The boys live in a small town decimated by industry in New York state. Not only are the pollution and illegal dumping from the factories taking their toll on the landscape and health of their town, but they're also taking their toll on the residents, physically and emotionally. The three friends ...more
Charles Markee
Corina captures the voice of adolescent boys like no author I've read. Written in the first person, from Jason’s point-of-view, we live the crazy ideas, crazy acts and crazy thoughts of the three protagonists as they careen through their teens. The boys do what boys do, i.e. indulge in gross stuff, living life like they’re immortal. Why else would they swim in a creek that smells and is so polluted, it’s different colors at different times of the day.

Jason seethes in a kind of constant low-level
My Chemical Mountain is a unique and interesting book--imagine a teen version of Erin Brockovich. The three best friends in this book are an odd, yet perfect match. Flashing back to when they were younger and talking about their current life as teenagers, it's great to see how their friendship has grown and continues to evolve. They all have an issue with their town being a toxic dump, but for different reasons, and in turn each has their own idea of how to get revenge against those who created ...more
Denise Mchenry
A gross, gritty book. Does a good job of both showing the depths that the chem/pharma companies of the world might dip to, and a fantastical vision of life in the shadow of a superfund. A work of fiction, to be sure, but the three boys feel real in their reactions, even as their world comes off as fantasy. While it sounds like overly lofty praise, I can't help but be reminded of Twain. Huck and Tom were tall-tale versions of children, and so are Charlie, Jason, and Cornpup. The world of Twain ex ...more
My Chemical Mountain is a haunting story of a toxic town. Three best friends, on the verge of 9th grade, view this land as their playground. What I loved most about this book was the friendship between the three boys. Vacco does a beautiful job writing boys, each one uniquely drawn with layers and layers to their personalities. Secondly, is the environment. Vacco's wasteland is drawn at once horrible and at the same time, completely normal for the boys. It's a strong character and is both antago ...more
Hoover Public Library Kids and Teens
I was looking for a short read--less than 200 pages--and this one didn't disappoint! The cover has an eerie photo of three guys facing a giant landfill, kinda depressing when you think about it. But Jason and his friends Charlie and Cornpup know how to have fun. Jason keeps a sketchbook of uranium monsters, Charlie will do anything crazy on a dare, and Cornpup is a geek inventor who charges people to see the weird bumps on his back. Aside from all the fun, Jason is on a mission of revenge agains ...more
Jul 22, 2013 Christine rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: MG & YA
MY CHEMICAL MOUNTAIN, a Delacorte Press Prize winner for a debut YA, by Corina Vacco is a good companion book for middle-grade Newbery winner M.C. HIGGINS by Virginia Hamilton. The primary three male characters in MY CHEMICAL MOUNTAIN are 13 or 14; the time frame is prior to their freshman year. Everything in the book is age-appropriate for middle-grade readers (ages 8-12), yet is compelling and deep enough for YA readers (ages 13-18).

Both novels also address environmental issues, such as toxic
Suzanne Rooyen
What a grim, gritty, dark world this story is set in and it isn't even a post-apocalyptic or dystopian future. For some industrial towns, this is what life (albeit somewhat exaggerated) is like. Very scary!

I loved this story. The all boy main cast, the emphasis on friendship instead of romance, the coming-of-age psychology - brilliant! This has a more MG than YA feel to it and I think it would appeal more to younger readers, especially boys around the 10-13 age. Even so, I loved the pollution mo
Elle Thornton
Open to the first page of My Chemical Mountain and it's immediately apparent why author Corina Vacco won the Delacorte Prize for a first young adult novel: characters, dialogue and descriptions are brilliant–– sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking and always deeply real and deeply felt. Above all this book is so clearly a standout because of Vacco's incredible prose: her analogies are just amazing, the writing a passionate trip into another world. She uses the language of contamination, evil, ...more
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Corina Vacco gravitates toward strange, beautiful things—robots and gypsies, ghost towns in the middle of nowhere, curiosities shops in dark alleys, and mysterious, fog-shrouded islands. Writing is what keeps her heart beating.

She trespassed on toxic land and wrote the first draft of her debut novel, MY CHEMICAL MOUNTAIN, while parked in her car at the foot of a radioactive landfill—this book wen
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