You Can’t Beat the Chemistry in this YA Novel

I received a copy of Can’t Beat the Chemistry from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


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.


Can’t Beat the Chemistry is an Australian young adult novel which follows MJ and Luke, two polar opposites. MJ is a super smart half-Asian girl whose parents have extremely high expectations for her future career as a cardiothoracic surgeon. She lives to study, and readers immediately see that she is more than lacking in the social skills department.

Things get interesting when her brother–who a la American Panda has been basically banished for choosing art over medicine–asks her to tutor his friend, Luke. Luke is a music major taking (and failing) chemistry as his minor. Both teens eventually realize that there’s a lot they can learn from each other.

can't beat the chemistry

The Good

The characters in this YA novel are layered. It’s not long before we see behind MJ’s studious nature. Every overachiever and parent-pleaser (especially people of color) will understand the desire to choose a path your parents approve. MJ’s character growth is enjoyable to witness as she sees the need to appreciate different paths and stand up for her choices.

I especially liked that neither character played the manic-pixie-dream character. Both MJ and Luke open each other’s worlds in surprising, refreshing ways. Unlike the typical YA book with the “uptight girl” and “bad boy” trope, Luke doesn’t turn MJ into a bohemian princess. They make each other better versions of themselves and support each other in their individual pursuits.


Can’t Beat the Chemistry is a breath of fresh air in Young Adult literature, featuring a cast of dynamic characters you can root for. Full of chemistry, drive, and heart, this YA novel is perfect for fans of American Panda and The Beauty of the Moment.

Full of chemistry, drive, and heart, this YA novel is perfect for fans of American Panda and The Beauty of the Moment. Click To Tweet

Can’t Beat the Chemistry is Out April 20!

Can't Beat the Chemistry

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Have you read any books by Aussie authors? I’d love your recommendations!

– Afoma

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