Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne

Heart-Shaped Bruise336 pages
Published May 10th 2012

I love thrillers, in case you haven’t noticed, and I’m also a fan of Sophie Hannah and YA novels. Due to this, I simply had to get my hands on Heart-Shaped Bruise. I mean, did you read the synopsis? It’s pretty awesome.

Now done, I’m not sure if you can call this a thriller, because it doesn’t really have a plot. I mean, it does…kind of, but it’s never fully embraced.

Heart-Shaped Bruise has two stories that it presents to the reader, the before and the after. Before is when Emily Koll is on the outside world and the after takes places in a mental institution for juvenile offenders. Why she is there? I have no idea. Really. I don’t. I kept trying to understand why they would bring her there, but I got nothing

The book goes back and forth as Emily tells us why she is so badass and feared by everyone, while she also tries to get us to see her side of the story. The truth, as she puts it. All of this is the ‘Before’ aspect of the novel. While the ‘After’ is all about her slice of life fun times at the mental facility.

The before aspect of the novel had a lot of potential. Picture this; Emily is living life blissfully unaware that her dad is a notorious gangster. The day she finds out about his real profession is the day that Emily also finds out that her dad was arrested for killing a cop and that he was stabbed by the cop’s daughter, Juliet. Needless to say, this is a lot to take in for dear ol’ Emily, so she does the only logical thing, get revenge on Juliet and destroy her life. Now, this actually makes perfect sense. Her anger at how her life has fallen apart is obviously going to be transferred to an outside party and not to her father, who has been keeping his real life a secret.

In order to get her sweet, sweet revenge, Emily needs to get close to Juliet. So after finding out where witness protection has placed her, Emily changes her name, enrolls in the same college, the same classes and soon weaves herself into Juliet’s life. It doesn’t take too long, but sadly this is when everything starts to fall apart in her revenge scheme. Just like with Premeditated, Emily’s plan doesn’t go as far as befriending her prey. Sure, Emily keeps referring to what she does as horrible and the newspapers call her evil for what she did, but after so much hype the truth is kind of meh-worthy. It’s still pretty bad, but not as bad as they made it seem.

The after portions of Emily’s life were the low part of the novel. While the before aspect dragged on, they still kept you interested because you wanted to know what the big pay off was. Here, we see Emily judge girls and have almost daily sessions with her therapist, a therapist who only answers with questions. Perhaps this mental facility for juvenile delinquents is short staffed, so they hired someone who didn’t know much about therapy to provide therapy to those inside this place.

Hmmm, I suppose this might work in favour of the defense. If the girls are agitated by the sessions and become crazier, then they wouldn’t go to jail but stay there. But I’m still curious as to how Emily fits into this place. The only thing Emily has a problem with is her smoking habits and daddy issues, nothing more. Well, I suppose guilt, but that hardly warrants a stint in this facility.

Looking back through my review, it does seem like stuff happened in this novel, but it still feels like nothing did when I think back to my time reading it. Plus, there is a horrible love triangle that involves Juliet and Emily, which adds to why Emily hates her. At some point in the novel, it seemed like this was the only reason.

I will say one thing though; I did like how Emily was conflicted in what she was doing. The more time she spent with Juliet, the more she grew to like her. Also, the resentment Emily feels changed, not because of what Juliet did to her father, but because Juliet was able to embrace her new life without her dad while Emily seemed to be stuck. Could Emily move on and try to be normal, or was it only a matter of her not wanting to move on? Her revenge was the only thing that kept her sane. I just wish it was brought up more and that she planned it better.

Tanya Byrnes is a good writer and even though I didn’t like this book, I did enjoy the writing and how flawed but real Emily felt. Sadly, these two things weren’t enough for me to love this book or even like it all that much.

Overall: This book wasn’t what I expected it to be. It wasn’t really a thriller, the therapist doesn’t make much sense as a character, and the love triangle is just annoying. After much hype about how evil Emily is and how what she did was so horrible that she’s now going to jail for it, it’s a bit of a letdown when you realize what actually happened. What Emily does and her motivations seem almost like an afterthought, instead of carefully planning each step. Sadly, this book just didn’t do it for me.

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One thought on “Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne

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