Tuesday, 9 April 2013

What I've Been Reading:'Heart-Shaped Bruise' by Tanya Byrne

Firstly - Oh. My. God! 

I read this novel in what was literally one sitting - several hours curled up on the sofa unable to release the book from my death-grip. When my partner came home from work, I carried on reading, practically ignoring her until I'd turned the last page.

Emily is... well actually there are two Emily's. There is the Emily that the tabloids have declared Evil and there's the Emily who pours out her heart in a diary night after night as she attempts to come to terms with what she has done.

Emily is a resident of the Psychiatric wing of Archway Young Offender's Institute. She is awaiting trial but everybody knows who she is and for Emily there's no doubt that she is guilty. The daughter of infamous London Gangster, Harry Koll, everybody is scared of Emily. And with reason. She was the one who ruined a girl. She is the one who did something 'Evil' and unforgiving purely to destroy 16 year old Juliet, the girl who stabbed her father.

Through a notebook found in one of the rooms after the Institute was closed, we get the chance to see into the crumbling mind of Emily as she pieces together her story, the fragmented reality of how she ended up behind bars.

The tabloids have labelled Emily Evil, the product of a Mobster family. But until the night Juliet stabbed Emily's father in self-defense after he'd murdered her own father, Emily had no idea that her dad was more than a mechanic. The tabloids however, would never print the story of how her whole world tumbled down around her ears that night, how her innocent eyes were opened to her father's murderous ways. The tabloids and the public only want to see what Emily did to hurt Juliet.

Tanya Byrne opens up the world of a Young Offenders Institute and candidly shows us the inside of a mind struggling to grasp the pain she has caused and the pain she is feeling.

We're not supposed to like Emily so much as come to understand her. But as I was reading I grew fond of this tortured teenager and wanted her to find some kind of personal resolution. I wanted her to find hope.

It probably helped that I saw a lot of myself in Emily. I don't mean that I'm capable of the things Emily did. It's just that so much of what she thinks and feels resonated with me. I wish I'd had this book as a teen. It's up there with 'Perks of Being a Wallflower' in terms of gripping, heart-wrenching, compulsive reading. I adored it.

5/5

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