Heart-shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne
Release date: September 2012 (paperback)
Reason for reading: Love the premise, seen really good reviews
They say I'm evil. The police. The newspapers. The girls from school who shake their heads 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.
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 really didn't know what to expect from this book when I started to read it. I'd seen the really good reviews and the award nominations but I wasn't sure how I would feel about it. I also felt kinda bad because I read Heart-shaped Bruise after reading Shadow and Bone which I LOVED and I felt like HSB wouldn't be able to match up.
But it did. It was so wonderful. You know when you start a book and you just know that you're going to love it? That is exactly how I felt reading Heart-shaped Bruise. Emily Koll was so captivating. Her voice just leapt out of the page. I loved how the fact she was writing in a notebook, never sure if someone would actually read it, made it feel so much more personal. Like you were the only person to read her story. Emily was so full of life, of vitality, even though she judged herself so harshly. I felt like, because she was so hard on herself, I didn't have to be. I didn't have to hate her, or be shocked by her or resent her, because she did all that herself. It was so easy to empathise with her, to like her, which isn't really something I expected. I actually really liked Emily, loved her even, despite what she'd done. I totally got why she felt she had to ruin Juliet's life, like, she had to hate someone and she couldn't hate her dad because she loved him, so she hated Juliet. She needed someone else to experience that moment of realisation that a person you trusted and loved wasn't who you thought they were. It was kinda tragic because all the way through her retelling of her story you can see how it COULD'VE gone; how her life could've been if she didn't have such a need for revenge.
I've read a couple of books where the main character has done something horrible and they skirt around it, hinting at it without actually telling you what happened, and I can find the whole thing quite frustrating and not particularly enjoyable. I find myself reading the book simply to find out what happened rather than because I actually want to. This didn't happen with Heart-shaped Bruise. I enjoyed every minute of reading it, every snippet of information Emily gave me, every snarky comment and beautifully-constructed sentence. I didn't feel like she was keeping secrets from me because she wanted me to read the whole of her story, but because she didn't want to think about them long enough to write them down until she really had to, but that the secrets were always there, at the back of her mind, permeating every thought.
Heart-shaped Bruise is so fantastically written which is something I love in a book. The prose was beautiful and evocative and Emily felt so vibrant and real. There was a level of dark humour to the story that I didn't anticipate being there, but it really worked with and added to the story. I was initially disappointed by the ending, but once I thought about it I knew that ending it any other way would do the story, and Emily, and injustice.
TL;DR: Heart-shaped Bruise is a darkly funny, intimate tale of a bit of an anti-hero dealing with the consequences of her actions.