In a hilarious turn of events, this month’s challenge was to read a book with the word “heart” in the title… to celebrate Organ Donor Day! I was initially hoping to pick up a copy of either Pig Heart Boy or Heart Break Girl (both by Malorie Blackman – though Heart Break Girl seems to be some kind f weird ghost book; I can’t find it anywhere! 😦 ), but much to my surprise, there was no sign of either of them. Title challenges aren’t too difficult, though, so it didn’t take me too long to find something else suitable, which ended up being…
CRUEL HEART BROKEN
Laurie, Charlie and Maya used to be best friends; they did everything together, and kept no secrets from each other. That’s changed recently though – Laurie has a big secret that she’s too ashamed to confess to, and it doesn’t help that Charlie’s inexplicably started dating her sister Katy. But Charlie’s newfound interest in Katy is only a small part of something much bigger that’s going on with him… and may somehow be tied to a sudden death in the local community.
My favourite thing about this book was probably the relationships. I loved how much Laurie and Charlie clearly still cared about each other, despite their distance, and the cause of the strained relationship between Laurie and Katy made perfect sense when it was eventually revealed. And it’s pretty rare in YA fiction to find a main character with really great parents, but Laurie’s mum and dad were fantastic (especially when contrasted with Charlie’s very discomfiting relationship with his own mother, Nicole); in particular, there’s this amazing scene towards the end of the book where Laurie’s mum walks in on a conversation between her and Nicole – and I’m sure that anyone who’s read the book will have shared in my feeling of triumph at that moment. 😀
Also, Maya was a wonder: My brain wandered in the direction of Fiesta and Soulmates while I was reading this (the former because it was also a LSH pick, & the latter because the two are permanently linked in my brain by how much I hated them), and my main takeaway every time that happened was just how nice it was to be reading a contemporary novel featuring a best friend who actually behaves like a best friend! Maya obviously knows that Laurie is going through something awful and can’t bring herself to talk about it… and she responds by just being there for Laurie, and not pushing the issue. ❤
In terms of the plot, it was slow-building, but I liked it a lot more than I expected to (my expectations, for the record, were middling). The story dealt with several difficult topics in a way that was both interesting and respectful, and – particularly in the case of Laurie’s dilemma – managed to portray the characters’ inner conflicts excellently… and these conflicts, and the way they effected the characters’ relationships, were the main driving force of the book. The blurb on the back of the book suggested a lot more mystery than it actually delivered on (Laurie’s dark secret was revealed fairly early on, and Charlie’s could at least be partially figured out not much later, without too much sleuthing involved), but this actually worked in its favour, as far as I’m concerned, as it left a lot more room for the aforementioned (and excellent) character development.
Overall, I’d describe Cruel Heart Broken as hard-hitting, but hopeful, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I’d probably recommend it to fans of Jandy Nelson’s writing, as well as anyone who liked We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King, or even Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson.
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