We Contain Multitudes – Sarah Henstra

We Contain Multitudes by Sarah Henstra

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Penguin Random House Canada
Published: May 2019
Publisher: Penguin Teen
Recommended Age: 13+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, LGBTQIA+, Romance, Family, Friendship, Death, Abuse, Bullying


That was an intense reading experience. A rollercoaster ride, really. A thorn to the heart and a sunrise of a thousand different colours. Let me tell you right from the start that if Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe did not work for you, you will probably hate this. If you dislike epistolary novels, you will probably hate this. If you prefer your LGBTQIA+ reads to be light and entertaining, kind of like Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, you will hate this. Actually, it will hate you because this book deserves a reader who is ready for baggage and heartbreak and a hundred different conflicting emotions.

It is very lyrical. Sometimes epistolary novels do not work for me because they feel dry. The writing. The characters. Especially when protagonists write letters to themselves or someone who never replies to them, like Daddy-Long-Legs (still trying to finish this one but I’m really not motivated to). This worked for me because there was a really meaningful interaction between Jo and Kurl. They write to one another, caring about how the other person feels about the other person’s letter and anticipating a reply. They write to one another with such passion and thoughtfulness. Not in the beginning, since it takes a bit of time for Jo and Kurl to trust each other, but watching their relationship develop warmed my heart. Then broke it, of course.

This is one of those books that are unquestionably bittersweet. You love them but you also hate them because of what they’ve done to you. Yet you know that you are better having read them as you have learned from them and they have potentially helped you become a better person. I am ready to remember this story for the rest of my life, despite all the hurt in it. I shouldn’t scare anyone… It’s beautiful too. I read it in two sittings and that, for me, does not happen with a book that drains me completely emotionally. In conclusion, you will survive it too and see the beauty in it.


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