Chaos Theory by Nic Stone

Soooo, I’m just a tad bit ashamed to admit that until a few weeks ago, I’d never read a thing by Nic Stone.

I’m fully aware that her debut novel, Dear Martin, is “powerful, wrenching, vivid”–all the synonyms for A-mazing. I know Clean Getaway, her first foray into middle-grade literature, is “a really good book”–per my son.

I even follow her on Instagram and am slightly obsessed with her quintessential cool and eclectic, yet down-to-earth style. I knew all of this and yet it wasn’t until two weeks ago that I finally gave words her a try.

If you’ve read any of her work, then you already know how this ends—a heart converted to the gospel according to Nic, and a cart full of all her books.

If Chaos Theory is on your TBR list, bump it up to #1, right now!

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The Breakdown

Scars exist to remind us of what we’ve survived . . .

Since Shelbi enrolled at Windward Academy as a senior and won’t be there very long, she hasn’t bothered making friends. What her classmates don’t know about her can’t be used to hurt her—you know, like it did at her last school.

Andy Criddle is not okay. At all.
He’s had far too much to drink.
Again. Which is bad.
And things are about to get worse.

When Shelbi sees Andy at his lowest, she can relate. So she doesn’t resist reaching out. And there’s no doubt their connection has them both seeing stars . . . but the closer they get, the more the past threatens to pull their universes apart.

The Feels

Y’all, this book is absolutely perfect! Despite its serious subject matter, it left me smiling the whole way through.

The story begins with a familiar boy meets girl storyline: an intoxicated high school senior and politician’s son, Walter “Andy” Criddle, drunk texts a person he believes is his ex-girlfriend, but turns out to be this quiet, uber-smart classmate, Shelbi Augstine.

Their banter is witty, and playful, and just the right amount of interesting to leave you enthralled. This accidental moment leads to a very purposeful relationship between the two as Shelbi—who has her own discomforting circumstances—becomes Andy’s emotional support person.

If you’re going to give this book a try, get the audio version. Listening to Nic Stone and actor Dion Graham, was like hearing two friends tell the story of how they met.

Their voices fit the characters perfectly, resulting in an authentic, emotional experience that made me wish Shelbi and Andy were real.

But it wasn’t just their voices. It was the story.

As Shelbi does her best to keep her Bipolar 2 disorder under control, and Andy comes to terms with the fact that his drinking might be more of an issue than he thought, we get to see a thoughtful portrayal of how people dealing with such issues can survive and thrive.

Stone’s use of her own experiences with psychiatric disorders lends authenticity to their journey and masterfully dismantles the usual stigmas of mental illness.

I loved every character in this book, even the ones who got on my nerves. Shelbi’s parents were a perfect blend of supportive and protective; giving her the room and grace needed for her to be confident in the life choices she made.

Andy’s mom was a mess, but I completely understood the way grief had transformed her into the person she’d become.

Stone also did a fantastic job building relationships between the characters.

Though Andy underwent much more development than Shelbi, it was beautiful to see the two of them encourage and help each other face their fears and own up to the ways in which they unhealthily protected themselves from their feelings.

I have to note here that the process of actually becoming Shelbi’s friend initially felt like a bit much (there’s a contract involved), but I loved her self-awareness, her openness about her mental struggles, and the respect she demanded from those who wanted a place in her life.

There are some heavy moments in the book that I don’t want to give away, but Stone did such an amazing job of conveying the darkness felt by both Shelbi and Walter in their times of distress.

Final Thoughts

Perhaps the most beautiful thing about this book is the respect the characters gave one another. It’s so easy to impart our own judgments of others’ experiences and dismiss their feelings in favor of our own comfort.

The boundaries Shelbi set for herself were key in maintaining a healthy and positive mental state, but more important was Andy’s acceptance of them.

And here, we learn an important and much-needed lesson from Chaos Theory—how to love and take care of people in a way that’s respectful and supportive of their needs.

You’ll love this book if…

  • YA is your jam
  • You love cute, witty banter and dialogue
  • You need a subtle push to set some boundaries
  • You like your romance with a dash of science and yoga

This is a 10/10 recommendation! Read it already? Tell me what you thought of it in the comments below.



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