Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Heart-Shaped Bruise

Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne
Paperback, 336 pages

Published 10th May 2012 by Headline

books-i-own, contemporary, crime-thriller-mystery, mental-health, read, read-in-2013, realistic-fiction, young-adult
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:

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. 

Heart-Shaped Bruise is a compulsive and moving novel about infamy, identity and how far a person might go to seek revenge.

Although Heart-Shaped Bruise has been released for a relatively long while, it has taken quite some time to actually get around to reading it! As soon as I read the blurb of this book, it was something that I knew that I'd have to get around to as the premise sounds as though this book was written for me! I love reading anything to do with mental health and for some unknown reason, I also find prison and criminology very interesting. What could be better than reading the story  of a girl in a psychiatric ward of a prison? I couldn't wait to delve into this book!

This book is in the form of a notebook of the now infamous Emily Koll, a girl who is awaiting trial after committing a crime that some consider evil. When Emily's father was stabbed by a girl of her own age, Juliet, her life was turned upside down as she realised her father wasn't the man she thought he was. Emily decided to seek revenge for herself and her father and so, disguising herself as - or rather changing into - a girl named Rose, she infiltrates into Juliet's life, attempting to appear as her best friend whilst simultaneously destroying her. Along the way, we also meet Sid, a guy who becomes somewhat of an equal to both Juliet and Emily, someone who they both end up loving and who is a particularly important character to Emily. It's very difficult for me to try and explain what happens plot wise without giving any spoilers, so I won't say much more. When you pick the book up yourself, you'll almost immediately have questions flying around in your head and will be eager to find out all of the answers for yourself!

This book explores so much of Emily's mind and Byrne has done a stupendous job of crafting a realistic, troubled yet also somewhat relatable character in the form of Emily. Emily is in a psychiatric unit, having frequent therapy sessions with Doctor Gilyard. The idea of Emily having Borderline Personality Disorder is briefly insinuated quite early on in the novel, and this immediately caught my attention as someone who has been diagnosed with that same disorder. I don't know if I was particularly sensitive to seeing Emily's 'symptoms', but wow - the author has done an incredible job. As Emily says herself, the symptoms of BPD can been seen in almost anyone at some point, but Byrne shows us how these symptoms develop, and how the person's personality is disordered. Instead of listing things, Byrne smoothly tells us of times in Emily's life where she has displayed traits, and we see how normal her thought processes seem for her. I think that the thing about this book that impressed the most were Emily's psychiatric sessions with Doctor G - if you told me that their sessions were actually real, I would totally believe you, their chemistry together was so believable and it felt as though I was inside Emily's head at some points, at others I was willing her to open up to her doctor. The emotion that was conjured in sometimes only a few sentences between them was amazing.

Despite Emily's cruel, quite twisted crime, she helps us understand why she did what she did and honestly, I can't help but feel for her, even if what she did was very wrong. Reading through the book, Emily's acts seem very logical to her and it's easy to get caught up in her passion. I'd hope that anyone who reads this book would see why Emily did what she did and also see the real version of herself that she was trying to express. Emily's relationship with Sid is something that really interested me and I think it really made an impact on how I saw her, at least until a certain point. On the whole, I don't completely know how I feel about Emily,  but I don't think that she knows that either. However, what we both do know is that nothing is wholly good/pure or wholly bad/evil.

Heart-Shaped Bruise is a fantastically written novel, with one of the best formed characters that I've read about. Tanya Byrne is a tremendously talented author and I really hope that she has more characters like Koll to keep us on the edge of our seats. Recommended to young adults and adults alike.


  1. I really enjoyed this book review and will be buying this book to try it out. I also have my own book blog www.atbookends.blogspot.com I hope you find some time to check it out. I will be reading more of your posts.

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