Sunday, 8 September 2013

Heart Shaped Bruise - Tanya Byrne; Review.

Book Details:
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Headline (27 Sep 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0755396065
ISBN-13: 978-0755396061


“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.

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The hazards of reading a good book. Phase 1 – before you start the book; good mental state, happy, able to eat. Phase 2 – after you finish the book; want to die, want to kill someone, want to rip your heart out and not feel the pain, spend hours in endless agony.

(Note, this review may be a little dramatic, given I just finished this book and I’m emotionally unstable) (all the more reason to read this book).

So. Okay. 4 hours ago, I started a book, which I just finished and in a fit of agony, I’m bashing the keyboard writing out this review.

Heart Shaped Bruise can only be called one thing – haunting. And I fell in love with it, as it slowly tugged me under with the characters, the story, the prose, only to have the rug tugged from under my feet at the end. I should feel a sense of betrayal somewhere, but I’m currently too busy nursing my broken heart. Anyway, here’s a review.

Our story starts with a chilling journal, found left in a room in the Young Offenders Mental Institution; through which we follow the story of Emily Koll. The tabloids have branded her as evil, something apparently unavoidable as she’s the daughter of a famous gangster. Yet as the world and media paints Emily as what people want to see, the author of this book takes us through the real life of Emily, as she spends her days inside, her psychological meetings, her internal rant and feelings.

We know Emily did something evil. Her Dad shot a policeman, his daughter, Juliet, saw and stabbed Emily’s Dad. That’s where it all started, and as Juliet’s life slowly starts to rebuild as she moves in with foster parents, who is ex-CID, we see Emily’s life falls apart. Yet what we don’t know, is how she went from normal 16 year old girl, who’s Mum left, and whose Dad was rich and did everything and anything to make her happy – to Emily being branded evil and left to tell her story behind bars.

But we hear Emily’s voice, the real voice from within. The author does such an amazing, heartfelt job of getting across the real emotions, the darkness and anguish from within. It’s not a complete story of redemption, but rather it’s gritty. We don’t have a main narrator here who tells us about remorse, and repentance, but rather Emily knows what she’s done, she has no regrets, and yet all the side effects and emotions that she didn’t expect – those make it all real.

Something that touched me with the author’s writing style, was how you could feel the despair, and the anguish and even share the same emotions Emily shares. Though we may not have tread the same path as Emily, yet somehow, these emotions can still feature in our everyday life – and this touches us. It’s brutally honest.

As for the characters – they are everything and more than I expected. We see how Emily, after the arrest of her father for murder of the police officer, moves to London, intent on revenge through Juliet for if she hasn’t stabbed her father, Emily’s life wouldn’t have fallen apart. Through the snippets of Emily’s journal and the sessions with her psychologist, we flit to the past and present, and the story of love, loss and despair is built. Emily is one of the best characters that I’ve read; greatly constructed, honest, witty, vulnerable – and though we keeps telling us that she knows what we think of her, that she’s evil – the opinion that forms of her as you read her struggle, makes you feel attached to her. Bring in Juliet, Sid, Mike and Eve, you’ll find that there’s a vast array of characters that draw you in.

The writing in itself is brass and bold – it’s gritty and dark, but you can’t put it down. You have to know what happens and this lures you through to the end, and brilliantly and brutally breaks your heart. I can usually tell where a story is going, but this time, I couldn’t foresee what was in store and I think that false sense of security, the calm before the storm, made me love this book even more.

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