Sunday, 22 April 2012

Heart-Shaped Bruise - Tanya Byrne

GENRE: Adult Crossover
PAGES: 336
FORMAT: Hardback
BUY ITWaterstones


They say I'm evil. The police. The newspapers. The girls from school who sigh on the six o'clock news and say they always knew there was something not quite right about me. And everyone believes it. Including you. But you don't know. You don't know who I used to be. Who I could have been. Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever shake off my mistakes or if I'll just carry them around with me forever like a bunch of red balloons Awaiting trial at Archway Young Offenders Institution, Emily Koll is going to tell her side of the story for the first time. Heart-Shaped Bruise is a compulsive and moving novel about infamy, identity and how far a person might go to seek revenge.

I had heard so much buzz about this book all over Twitter, it had been given 5 stars by so many people that I began to grow curious: what is this book? And why did it have such a strange (and I hate to say it but pretty terrible) name? I had to find out. I requested a copy and the wonderful publisher very kindly obliged. Many people commented that it looks like a crime novel and if I hadn't read the synopsis then the cover would have led me to believe it is too. Even though the main event that the writing centres around is  a stabbing, it is SO much more than this.

Its main gist, without giving anything major away, is this: Emily Koll, the narrator of the diary-style narrative, is in the psychiatric ward of a Young Offenders Institute for stabbing Juliet, who had initially stabbed Emily's father in an act of self defence after he had broken into Juliet's home and killer her father. (It sounds complicated but when you start reading it will all make sense). Emily discovers that her Dad had actually been some kind of East-End Gangster and now feels that in stabbing him Juliet had taken everything in her life away from her and wants revenge. I'll stop here because what she does next is important in driving the narrative.

This is a very moving read. The synopsis says this novel is about "infamy, identity and... revenge" and I certainly agree; it discusses the power of identity and its construction. It asks us how far our family and genetics make us who we are, versus how much we create ourselves. It is also a testament for anyone who has ever felt both the overwhelming power and powerlessness of grief. I don't, however, agree that is actually about revenge. It's about loneliness, coping, growth and change. It's about finding your feet after you've been knocked down and held there by fear. And importantly, it's about the need for other people in surviving our grief.

The dialogue is very easy to read in terms of being simple and clean, and this lends so much to its difficult subject. Emily's diary entries incorporate her life in the Institute, her session with her psychiatrist and flashbacks to her life just before she is incarcerated. It is heartbreakingly sad in places, both her desperate attempt to forget the pain of everything that she has done and has happened to her and the idea that she could be in that institute forever, because of what she did over a broken heart.

The thing I liked the most about this book is actually Emily. She's intelligent, tough, and funny. She really is. She's actually pretty humble in places and it's because of her that you get such an emotional attachment to her. That you don't want to watch her relive her mistake, that makes you want her to get better.

FOR FANS OF: Entangled - Cat Clarke


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