Publication date: 10th May 2012 (hardback)
Of all of the books that I’ve been sent from We Love This Book for review, this is the one that I was most excited about. There had been rumblings on Twitter for a few months before I received it, about a new Y.A./crossover novel which was making people sit up and take notice, and it sounded really interesting. This is it!
Set in the psychiatric ward of young offenders institute, Tanya Byrne’s début, Heart-Shaped Bruise, is a gritty and fascinating look at the need for revenge and redemption, and whether retribution can ever really be worth the sacrifice.
Emily Koll is a 17 year old inmate. The narrative is told through her diary entries, which she then leaves in her room for the next inmate to find. Emily’s diary notes that her case has been in the press for months, with the tabloids jumping on a violent crime committed by a pretty teenager. As we’re not actually privy to these headlines, Emily’s crime remains a mystery until the last few pages. Byrne shows great restraint here, as it would have been easy to make the whole novel about Emily’s violent act. Instead, we get a finely wrought story about a teenager’s fight to come to terms with her history, and her equally fraught battles with her therapist.
Although Emily isn’t necessarily be a likeable character, she is certainly sympathetic, especially when trying to avoid Dr Gilyard’s probing questions about her past. She’s cynical, ballsy and manipulative, but also sensitive. She’s basically a normal teenager, albeit one with a hidden agenda. She’s also unexpectedly funny, with a black humour that made you chuckle and then immediately look around to see if anyone saw me inappropriately giggling.
Byrne’s writing is both lyrical and gritty, much like Emily herself, and the novel is compulsively readable. I read it in one go, gobbling down the pages, eager to get to the end and find out what had happened, but also scared in case it was an anti-climax. To my great relief, it wasn’t. I’d tried to avoid speculating what was going to happen, and what Emily’s crime actually was, but I wouldn’t have guessed. It is beautifully handled – although the revelation is shocking, it is not sensationalist, which makes it even more affecting.
I was nervous that Byrne would not be able to resist giving Emily a traditional happy ending but she did, and I was so thankful. To have Emily skip off into the sunset would have been both insulting to the reader and the story, as well as unrealistic. I don’t think that I’m ruining the book to say this, as I think that anyone who starts reading the novel will see that Byrne is too honest a writer to take the easy way out.
Heart-Shaped Bruise totally lived up to the hype, and is a fantastic read. Emily is a believable character and, despite her crime, I found myself rooting for her to be able to put it behind her. I’m still thinking about the book, and I finished it a month ago, which I think speaks volumes about the writing. I really can’t wait to see what Byrne comes up with next, so hopefully she won’t keep us waiting too long!
It is published on the 10th May 2012 as an adult title.
This book was provided for review by http://www.welovethisbook.com all views are my own and I was not paid for the review.