I know you’ve been waiting three months for this apology, but I have to start by saying that this isn’t an apology. I’m not sorry. I’m not. (1, Heart Shaped-Bruise, Byrne)
I approached this book with a little bit of concern; for a start I talked to Tanya on twitter and she is a wonderful person and I was dreading reading her debut and not liking it and having to tell her that, but it did sound amazing. The press release also compared it to one my favourite all-time novels, The Perks of Being A Wallflower, which set my expectations exceptionally high. As you know, high expectations can easily lead to disappointment though.
I was not disappointed in the slightest however. In fact, in the end I had to try and hold in my inner-fangirl and a long post about why this book and author is amazing. Whether I succeeded or not, I’ll leave up to you!
Heart-Shaped Bruise (HSB) tells Emily Koll’s story; she begins the novel in a psychiatric ward of a young offenders’ institution awaiting trial for an as yet unknown crime. Having listened to Tanya Byrne at the fabulous Creative Voices events at Foyles last week, she explained that Emily in fact has Borderline personality disorder, but has not been told this yet and that is why she behaves how she does.
The reason, we are told, for whatever leads Emily to await trial is to do with when Emily’s dad kills Juliet’s parents and she stabs him, everything is thrown into turmoil for both characters. Emily is shocked to learn her dad is a gangster, a murderer, and Juliet is placed in witness protection. When we’re young, we believe our parents are like superheroes and like Emily, I can remember the first times I realised my parents were human or they disappointed me. Granted it wasn’t quite so extreme, or illegal, for me, but that sense of betrayal and loss of innocence is one of those horrific things that happens before your grow up generally. Therefore, I could see why she blamed Juliet, as a catalyst, for everything. Naturally, I don’t condone stalking someone in witness protection and befriending them though which is what Emily does.
Both characters take on new identities within the novel which I found really interesting. As a teenager, I constantly attempted to reinvent myself, but the many incarnations of Lucy were still Lucy. Having to utterly change myself, my name, my look, everything? I don’t know if I could have done it or how I would have felt.
There is wonderful skill in Byrne’s characterisation; Emily pulls you right in and even though you know she’s done something wrong, you feel a great deal of emotion, even sympathy towards her. When you feel sympathy and like the villain of the novel, you know the author is doing their job really well and to be honest, this is a genuinely gorgeous book which has left me desperate to see what Tanya Byrne will do next. If this is her debut, what about her second or third novel?
The prose is beautiful and very quotable in places, a quality which I adored. I absolutely devoured my copy and read it in a matter of hours as I couldn’t put t down. This is definitely able to crossover into the adult market, in fact the hardback is the adult cover and the paperback will be the YA, but I don’t think it matters. This is a novel teenagers will get swept away by, this is also a novel I think adults will be swept away by. The main point here is obviously the sweeping.
There is a sort of romance and very slight love triangle, but it is written in such a way it doesn’t really feel like a triangle. I would say that this is because
I can’t spoil the end for you, but I hated it. I understood it, but I hated the decisions made by certain characters, but I was not a happy bunny.
If you loved The Perks of Being A Wallflower, are a contemporary YA fan, I cannot recommend this book highly enough to you. It already is in my top books of the year, and in one of my all time favourites perhaps already too.
Heart Shaped Bruise is Tanya Byrne’s debut novel and out now. I received a free proof of this novel in exchange for the above honest review.