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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Review: Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne

Powerful and lyrical writing questioning crime, mental illness, revenge and identity

It's taken me a while to get around to reading this book: more fool me.

Heart-Shaped Bruise purports to be the contents of a notebook found in an abandoned mental institution for young women. It's lyrical and grittily engaging, dramatic and thrilling without a shred of indulgent self pity. If you're interested in psychological thrillers or crime novels, I'd strongly recommend you grab a copy of this.

Written in the first person, with awareness of an imaginary audience (a future inmate, who would therefore understand), the novel confides, explores and discusses what has happened, how the narrator came to be where she is, without revealing her actual crime immediately. Since the crime made the headlines, Emily assumes that we, the audience, already have assumptions about her. This conceit works brilliantly as a mechanism for withholding information and creating suspense without it seeming artificial. I love that she tells us at the start that we can be like a stranger on the bus - that unknown person you tell all your secrets to, while hiding them from people who actually care.

As a recollection narrative, the plot jumps between the 'now' of Emily's incarceration and her therapy, and the past of events leading up to her crime. Everything about this novel ensures that you are gripped, desperate to know exactly what Emily did and how it all fits together.

The novel is complex and elegant, exploring themes of mental illness, the nature of notoriety and crime, identity and guilt. I'm recommending it for teens of 14+, and for adults. Definitely one to watch!

From the Book Description:

A compelling, brutal and heart-breaking story about identity, infamy and revenge, from debut author Tanya Byrne. Shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger 2012

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.

Published September 2012 by Headline
For more info, visit the publisher's site
My grateful thanks to the publisher for this review copy

1 comment:

  1. I really, really loved this book! It's my favourite book of the year :) I'm really glad you liked it too!


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