by Weike Wang
MAY 2018

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Pub Date: 31 May 2018
Extent: 224pp
Format: Paperback
Rights: UK & Comm. (exc. Canada): Text Publishing

  • Longlisted, Aspen Words Literary Prize, United States, 2018
  • PEN/Hemingway Award, United States, 2018
  • John C. Zacharis First Book Award, United States, 2017

‘Outstanding…Unfolding in brief chapters studded with observations about her childhood and scientific facts, Chemistry may be the funniest novel ever written about living with depression.’ —People

Our unnamed narrator is three years into her post-grad studies in chemistry and nearly as long into her relationship with her devoted boyfriend, who has just proposed. But while his path forward seems straight, hers is ‘like a gas particle moving around in space’: her research is stagnating, and she’s questioning whether she’s lost her passion for her work altogether. The demands of her Chinese parents—who have always expected nothing short of excellence—don’t help. Eventually, the pressure mounts so high that she must leave everything she thought she knew about her future, and herself, behind. And for the first time she’s confronted with a question she won’t find the answer to in a textbook: What do I really want?

Over the next two years, this winningly flawed, disarmingly insightful heroine learns the formulas and equations for a different kind of chemistry—one in which the reactions can’t be quantified, measured and analysed; one that can be studied only in the mysterious language of the heart.


‘A spiky, sparkling slip of a novel…with a singular take of love, lab science, and existential crises.’ —Entertainment Weekly

‘Starts as a charming confection and then proceeds to add on layers of emotional depth and complexity with every page. It is to Wang’s great credit that she manages to infuse such seriousness with so much light. I loved this novel.’ —Ann Patchett

‘A beautiful, funny, eye-opening book.’ —Elle [UK]

‘A genuine piece of literature: wise, humorous, and moving.’ —Ha Jin

‘Science is an excellent lens for Weike Wang’s look at a young woman’s wonderfully skewed experience of love, ambition, loyalty, and, of course, chemistry.’ —Amy Hempel

‘A clipped, funny, painfully honest narrative voice lights up Wang’s debut about a Chinese-American graduate student who finds the scientific method inadequate for understanding her parents, her boyfriend, or herself…Wang [has a] gift for perspective.’ —Publishers Weekly

‘The most assured novel about indecisiveness you’ll ever read…Despite its humour, Chemistry is an emotionally devastating novel about being young today and working to the point of incapacity without what you should really be doing and when you can stop.’ —Washington Post

‘A novel about an intelligent woman trying to find her place in the world. It has only the smallest pinches of action but generous measures of humour and emotion…Chemistry will appeal to anyone asking themselves, how do I create the sort of family I want without rejecting the family I have.’ —New York Times Book Review

‘Equal parts intense and funny…The narrator’s voice—distinctive and appealing—makes this novel at once moving and amusing, never predictable. A wry, unique, touching tale of the limits of parental and partnership pressure.’ —Kirkus Reviews

'It’s easy to get sucked into Weike Wang’s writing: it’s spartan and succinct, and so undeniably full of sucked-dry, smart humor, that you don’t realize just how clear, just how painful, everything she’s telling you is––and then it’s like she’s pushing on a cavity until you cry out.’ —Asian American Writers Workshop

‘A brilliant coming-of-age story.’ —Culture Trip


Irish Times, ‘The American ideal is that the child owes the parent nothing’, (Jun, 18)
Female First, ‘My Top Female Scientists’ (May 18)


Asian American Writer’s Workshop 


New Yorker 
Radio NZ, Nine to Noon 
Readings blog (top pick for the month!)
Sam Still Reading blog
Worm Hole blog