Release date: May 10th 2012.
Hardcover, 336 pages.
Rating: 3½ out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.
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.
Girl, Interrupted with a body count, Tanya Byrne’s Heart-Shaped Bruise is a beautifully written, spine-tingling tale of love, loss, loyalty and revenge that will keep you turning its pages until the very end.
Gangsters’ daughter Emily Koll is an inmate of Archway Young Offenders Institution where she is awaiting trial for a terrible crime. We don’t know what her crime is, but we do know that Emily is feared by the other inmates, and that her crime made the front pages of the tabloid newspapers. Emily’s life wasn’t always headed this way. Not so long ago, she led a life of privilege and had a father who doted on her, indulging her every whim. That life was taken from her in blink of an eye, and then Emily was alone, with all her hopes and dreams lying in tatters.
Emily resolved to get revenge on the girl who testified against her father, the girl who sent him to prison and ruined her life in the process. We get to know Emily through her diaries, and we learn just how far she went to destroy the girl who she believes ruined her life.
Heart-Shaped Bruise is a darkly compelling read, and while I was drawn to Byrne’s engaging style, one thing kept me from really connecting with this book, and that was the character of Emily. Emily Koll is a girl few, if any, will warm to, or even understand. She needs help, that’s plain to see, and yet I couldn’t bring myself to sympathise with Emily’s plight, not once. I just didn’t see any redeeming qualities in her character whatsoever. This was due in part to the presentation of the character of Juliet, the girl Emily sets out to destroy. Juliet has lost everything, but she keeps on living her life. She is the strongest character in this book, while Emily is cold, calculating and vindictive. Emily doesn’t have any self-realisation. She doesn’t take responsibility for her actions. She doesn’t blame her father for ruining her life. She blames Juliet for it, for all of it.
Emily a girl who is poisonous to everybody around her, apart from her father, who is the one person she could actually blame for her predicament if she were to continue to shun responsibility for her actions. That’s understandable, it’s something that happens when you deal with the people closest to you – sometimes you will seek to blame anybody but them no matter what they do – still though, while Emily has been through a lot I couldn’t bring myself to fully understand her actions. She thinks she’s strong, when she’s really not at all, but neither is she a lost little girl who just needs to be loved
While we are not told of the terrible crime Emily has committed for a large part of the text, it is pretty evident, or at least it was to me, pretty early on in my reading. That doesn’t mean that Emily’s actions are any less hard-hitting or brutal, because Emily’s quest for revenge really knows no bounds.
In the end, Emily was a character I wanted to step away from. I wondered how much of what Emily narrated was the truth, and how much of it was just Emily’s truth, because she is a character that excels in bravado. Heart-Shaped Bruise is a strong debut, gritty in nature, and not for the faint of heart. With major crossover appeal, this one will find an audience in adult and mature YA audiences alike.