Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Chemistry” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.71  ·  Rating details ·  11,979 ratings  ·  1,810 reviews
Three years into her graduate studies at a demanding Boston university, the unnamed narrator of this nimbly wry, concise debut finds her one-time love for chemistry is more hypothesis than reality. She's tormented by her failed research--and reminded of her delays by her peers, her advisor, and most of all by her Chinese parents, who have always expected nothing short of e ...more
Kindle Edition, 224 pages
Published May 23rd 2017 by Knopf
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Chemistry, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Barbara I don't remember anything really offensive, but it's a great book that taught me more about biases that affect Americans from Asia. I grew more…moreI don't remember anything really offensive, but it's a great book that taught me more about biases that affect Americans from Asia. I grew more compassionate from it. (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.71  · 
Rating details
 ·  11,979 ratings  ·  1,810 reviews

Sort order
Apr 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Taut novel, tight prose. Fascinating approach to telling a story. Lots of ambition here. Found myself so frustrated and willing the narrator to make the choices I wanted her to make. So many lovely moments and turns of phrase. Interesting ending. Liked this book very much.
Larry H
May 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm between 3.5 and 4 stars, so I'll round up.

Here's a bit of a cautionary tale for those of you who might put too much pressure on your children to succeed academically, or those of you who push yourself too hard.

"The optimist sees the glass half full. The pessimist sees the glass half empty. The chemist sees the glass completely full, half in liquid state and half gaseous, both of which are probably poisonous."

Chemistry is spare and slightly quirky, yet it is surprisingly profound and moving
4.5 stars

One of the best novels I have read in 2017, Chemistry won me over with its earnest depiction of a Chinese American woman struggling to navigate her 20s. Our unnamed protagonist has always lived by the mantra "you must love chemistry unconditionally." She runs into trouble when, partway into her prestigious Chemistry PhD program, she encounters failure through a series of unfortunate events. To make matters worse, her kind and intelligent and successful boyfriend Eric has proposed to her
Joce (squibblesreads)
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The way I feel about this book is why representation in books matters. Some themes include being raised in a collectivist culture (China specifically, and growing up in a country that places intensely high value on academic achievement - look up "gao kao", a series of tests after students finish high school that determine the good majority of their future, and the pressure that parents place on their children), and moving to a country that has more individual
"A Chinese proverb predicts that for every man with great skill, there is a woman with great beauty.
In ancient China, there are four great beauties:
The first so beautiful that when fish see her reflection they forget how to swim and sink.
The second so beautiful that birds forget how to fly and fall.
The third so beautiful that the moon refuses to shine.
The fourth so beautiful that flowers refuse to bloom.
I find it interesting how often beauty is shown to make the objects around it feel worse. Th
Jul 03, 2018 rated it liked it
I didn’t love Chemistry but it kept me curious enough to want to finish reading it. I remember reading many mixed reviews on this book when it was first released and it’s easy for me to see why.

The narrator is an unnamed woman living in Boston, completing her Ph.D. in Chemistry. She lives with her boyfriend, Eric, who is also in school. She questions herself in multiple aspects of life, both personal and professional. While I can appreciate that people change their minds every day about big dec
Jessica Woodbury
May 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
I admit I am weary of novels about directionless twenty-somethings, they are often boring and derivative. But CHEMISTRY has a controlled sharpness. It is jagged. It never lets you fall into a rhythm and I love it for that. It takes the entire book to really understand the narrator, how she is hurt and how she tries to love, and even in her narration she will draw you in and then push you away.

I studied Chemistry in college. Every bit of science (and there is a lot) rang true. Maybe the narrator
Michael Ferro
Sep 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In much of the same vein as Sigrid Nunez's, THE FRIEND, Weike Wang's CHEMISTRY is a short novel chocked full of incredible insight, philosophical witticisms, and dynamic personal narrative. For all of the major thinking that this novel will make you do, it will also make you laugh out loud as you consider its bigger questions. Wang's prose is sharp, honed, and pleasingly economical—there's no fluff here—just the essentials.

Though the plot itself doesn't break the mold—a bildungsroman focused on
Taryn Pierson
Is it bad to relate super hard to a narrator that other reviewers describe as “unlikable”? Asking for a friend.

(But seriously, is it?)

Weike Wang’s debut novel is a patchwork of the narrator’s internal monologue, memories from her painful childhood, and vignettes of her relationship with a fellow graduate student. Oh, and scientific factoids. Despite how disjointed and piecemeal that sounds, it all comes together into a flowing, almost hypnotic read. The narrator (never named) has a perfectly nic
Jennifer Blankfein
Aug 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Follow for all my reviews and recommendations.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved this book titled Chemistry! Author Weike Wang’s unnamed narrator, a Chinese-American Ph.d. student, lives with her redheaded boyfriend behind her traditional parents’ backs. Despite the high expectations for their daughter to become a chemist, she is unable to be successful in her research, losing interest in her male dominated field and having difficulty making deci
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing

I loved this so much. I was reading the whole time thinking of why maybe others wouldn't-- the stream of conscious narration, the open-endedness and the inability to relate to the ideas of family pressure, achievement and culture impressed on immigrants and first-generation Americans. Wang has these turns of phrase that just made me smile, even while I was hurting for her main character. It was beautiful and flowed so well. A powerful little book and one that I will carry in my feelings for a lo
May 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, not-for-me
This was so boring. There isn't much of a story, but what there is of one follows a young woman who is studying for a PhD in Chemistry. She soon drops out, and the rest of the book follows the aftermath. The story was written in such a simplistic way, devoid of any real emotion, and I get that this was probably to put across how the protagonist felt in her current situation... but it was so monotonous. At least it was short and I didn't waste too much time on it, but I really wouldn't recommend ...more
Carol (Bookaria)
Jul 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, fiction
I enjoyed reading this story. The main character and narrator is unnamed, she is a doctoral student in Chemistry who lives with her boyfriend Eric. She is Chinese-American and arrived to the U.S. with her parents when she was 6 years old. That is the main plot, but what the author does wonderfully is take us in a journey through the thoughts of the main character and listen to her inner dialog about the struggles with her relationships, parents, studies, and life in general.

The book is well writ
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2017, favorites

"It was once believed that heart cells could not regenerate, that once they died they could not be replaced. Now it is known that the heart can renew itself. But the process is very slow. In an average person, the rate is 1 percent each year."

I loved this book! It was a slow burn that steadily caught up with me, and punched me in the gut. Wang was so skillful at using facts about the sciences and language to drive home her ideas. It was genius, and I came away knowing a lot more about the "scie
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
These sentences. They are choppy. The reader. She does not like them. The plot. It is thin.
Jun 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5-4 stars. The narrator of this short novel has pushed herself for years academically, and now she's in a PhD chemistry program, and nothing's working out. Her experiment is a long series of failures, her boyfriend's asked her to marry and she can't seem to bring herself to say yes or no. And she holds such anger and pain in herself from the exceedingly high expectations put on her by her parents, who emigrated to the US from China years ago. The narrator's mother was deeply angry and frustrat ...more
Cindy Burnett
May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Chemistry is a difficult book to describe, but I was very glad I read it. Weike’s unnamed protagonist embarks on a soul-searching journey to find herself. Unmoored by her lack of success in the scientific realm and her indecision about whether to accept her boyfriend’s marriage proposal, she begins therapy and pursues a job as a science (specifically chemistry) tutor.

The format of Chemistry really appealed to me. The story jumps around a fair amount in sync with the protagonist’s scattered mind
Jun 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Chemistry was without a doubt my worst subject in high school. I have such a lingering resentment toward it that I almost dismissed Chemistry the novel for its title alone, but I was able to put my hatred of the subject aside long enough to really enjoy this - though I'm not sure 'enjoy' is the right word. This is an incredibly intense book, and I felt like I wasn't able to truly come up for air until I'd finished it.

Chemistry is The Bell Jar meets The Vegetarian but also something a bit lighter
David Yoon
Aug 01, 2017 rated it liked it
It was initially tough finding my way amidst the choppy verse. It’s disjointed and scattered - which makes sense as the narrator finds herself torn. Living up the the expectations that come with being a second generation Asian, navigating the perils of her Ph.D and trying to figure out what to do with the marriage proposal from her entirely devoted and loving boyfriend.

Like Jill Alexander Essbaum’s Hausfrau, where the rules of grammar spill into the how that narrator navigates her relationships
Lark Benobi
Dec 16, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2017
This novel has all the charm of a very long bus ride through a monotonous part of town when all you have to read are the advertisements for teeth whitening products posted above the luggage racks. If it had been written by a 12 year old I would have been amazed however.
Nov 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017-odyssey, library
Life choices. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

1. How academia screwed you over.
~Well, you want to relive your postgraduate years? Or even better, the wasted years before you said, "Screw it!" and bailed. Revel in the masochistic torture.

2. How your family baggage drags you down.
~The good, the bad, and the ugly. Family, there's nothing like it.
A year into our dating, Eric says he wants to understand me and not just from a distance or through what he calls my ten-inch thick bulletproof g
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Take an unnamed narrator – the daughter of Chinese immigrants and a chemistry Ph.D. student – with a compellingly fresh and authentic voice. Add in a ton of ambivalence that reveals itself in her conflicted attitude toward her career and her love life. Toss is a bit of arcane chemistry trivia and some profound comments about creating a life with meaning.

What you end up with is sheer chemistry, and Weike Wang succeeds in crafting a book that’s genuinely soul-searching and compelling, a book that
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
I don't understand the rave reviews of this book. Yes it was quirky and original, but for me it was definitely lacking readability and interest.
This was fine - a short, quick read that follows a chemistry PhD as she struggles with her next steps in life. I liked the writing style and was drawn into the family drama, but ultimately the story was fairly bland and it didn't leave enough of an impression on me. I think this book could be great if you were in the right mood to really sink into the writing and inhabit the main character, who is by turns inspiring and frustrating. It will also depend on how you feel about the science metaphors ...more
Jun 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Oh how I loved this charming read. It starts out funny and quirky, and quickly reaches such emotional depth that I was lightly crying for the last 1/4 or so. Proof that one doesn't need flowery language or major tragedy to create a poignant, memorable story. There's been a lot of hype for this one--every ounce deserved.
So I'm kind of surprised about this book. Usually I find the PYTs like Weike Wang to be less alluring than my peers and taste-sharers, but it seems that the relationship was inverted this time around. Most of my GR friends were unimpressed by this, but I really liked it!

Wang describes the life of a disenchanted graduate student in dreary, boreal, Boston, a life I recall all too well. She does it via economical sentences, clever chemistry analogies, random trivia, and the humorous lens of depress
Shawn Mooney
A well-written novel, yes, but one weakened by the blandness of its stuck-in-her-head protagonist, a young Chinese-American scientist, spinning her wheels on every level, who can't fathom why her sweet boyfriend would want to marry her. The distancing, abstract passages about chemistry, etc. collaged between the bland bits of story dulled my reading experience, and by the end I couldn't fathom why, either.
Rida Imran
Jun 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2018
Ninety percent of all experiments fail. This is a fact. Every scientist has proven it. But you eventually start to wonder if this high rate of failure is also you. It can't be the chemicals' fault, you think. They have no souls.

I'm not sure how to review this book. It follows our unnamed protagonist as she waits for a breakthrough to complete her PhD in her research that just never comes. Her Chinese parents expect nothing less from her. Okay I'm not Chinese but I know so many parents like tha
Sydney Young
Jun 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Perfect book for summer-full of just the right contrasts. Sweet but sour. Both light and heavy at the same time. About nothing, about everything. About the Chinese, about Americans. Children and Parents, lovers and fighters. The yin and the yang, the push and the pull. Chemistry. Trying to figure it out and making a mess of it. Finding truth. Just perfect.
Priyanka Sofia
I picked this up on a whim. I meant to read it last year but somehow the idea of reading about someone struggling through and eventually leaving graduate school didn’t quite appeal to me.

What an emotional rollercoaster of a novel. I relived my grad school days, memories of my advisor who tried to push me into a science-y sub-field I had no interest in, the anxiety I felt every time I thought about anything related to linguistics for ages after my programme ended. I wish this novel had been aroun
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Underground Railroad
  • Sunburning
  • Meet Behind Mars
  • American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods
  • Sour Heart
  • Where'd You Go, Bernadette
  • Swallow the Fish
  • The Misfortune of Marion Palm
  • So Much Blue
  • Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self
  • Goodbye, Vitamin
  • Waylaid
  • Hot Dog Taste Test
  • The Collective
  • The Trout
  • Sorry to Disrupt the Peace
  • The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story
  • The Totally Awesome Hulk, Volume 2: Civil War II
WEIKE WANG is a graduate of Harvard University, where she earned her undergraduate degree in chemistry and her doctorate in public health. She received her MFA from Boston University. Her fiction has been published in or is forthcoming from Alaska Quarterly Review, Glimmer Train, The Journal, Ploughshares, Redivider, and SmokeLong Quarterly.
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“Eric has said that I carry close to my chest a ball of barbed wire that I sometimes throw at other people.” 17 likes
“An equation.

happiness = reality - expectations
If reality > expectations, then you are happy.
If reality < expectations, then you are not.”
More quotes…