BOOK CLUB: Heart-Shaped Bruise

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Author: Tanya Byrne
ISBN: 978-0-7553-9304-6
RRP: $22.99

This is the debut novel for English author Tanya Byrne and it is an extremely well written story that will captivate you start to finish.

At times Heart-Shaped Bruise was almost difficult to follow but it never quite allowed you to get lost, and you were warned right from the beginning that it was a possibility. This book isn’t written start to finish on a neat little timeline, it is written through a notebook left behind in a young offenders institution.

Emily Koll has done something terrible and she is in the Psych Unit of the Archway Young Offenders Institution awaiting trial. We don’t know what Emily’s done, it’s not something that she talks about. She talks about what the papers say and what other people say about her but you don’t hear much about what she thinks.

I am still thinking through this brilliant book so I’m at a loss for words, which is why I will first focus on the fact that at the end of the book there are two interesting sections which are becoming much more common in books these days. A Q&A with author Tanya Byrne that helps you get into her head and understand the motivations and inspirations behind the book, always an interesting read and great to do directly after reading the book while it is all still fresh. And a list of questions for reading groups, a great starting point for discussions and prompts for different ways to look at the book too.

Emily is shattered, she has survived the demolition of life as she knows it but she’s not the same. She’s broken and it seems that she doesn’t think there is a way back.

heart shaped bruise

The notebook opens with a letter to Juliet that she was instructed to write by Dr Gilyard. It serves as a great opener, and a taste of the intrigue to come – actually it’s the basis of a lot of the intrigue to come.

All of the talk of Emily being evil leads you to expect a very different Emily than the one we meet. I don’t see evil in the broken young girl that we meet and spend the book getting to know. Through everything that is said there is also a lot left unsaid and it is what is left unsaid that compels you to turn pages one after the other long after you should be doing something else.

A lot of my need to keep reading was born of the desire to get to the bit where we find out what it is that she does to land her in this institution.

Heart-Shaped Bruise is a tale of revenge, betrayal, deception, identity, public persona and how it all combines to make us who we are – or does it?

If the whole world hears the story and makes conclusions about who you are does that make it true? Does all of that belief make it correct?

One small piece at a time we are allowed deeper into Emily’s head. She lets us in, I was going to say as she lets Dr Gilyard in but that isn’t really the case. We hear the things that are going through her head as she sits silently through her sessions with the Dr, or as she thinks through how much to say.

Emily is scared to hope and she’s scared to let anyone in because that’s never really gone well for her in the past. If she unlocks the padlocks protecting the most important parts of her story then maybe they will lose their potency, maybe she will discover that she doesn’t deserve them.

This 17 yr old girl is fundamentally scarred because of one single incident that not only changed the course of her future but totally destroyed her past as well. If nothing in her life is what it seemed does that also mean she isn’t who she thought she was? It certainly means she changed into someone she probably never would have been under different circumstances.

Emily’s writing is kind of disjointed but still flows in a way that makes perfect sense. We watch as she begins to look deeper into herself and examine how she ended up where she is. The story is much more involved than what you read in the papers. There are lots of references to ‘everything that I did’ and Emily projects herself as tough and uncaring but as the story unravels the mystery deepens and the picture of Emily changes quite dramatically.

Heart-Shaped Bruise is haunting and emotional but it is also nothing like what I expected. I love the way it was written, I love Emily’s voice and I love the way Tanya Byrne laid it all out on the page. It’s a book that has left quite an impression and I will be thinking about for quite some time.

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53 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: Heart-Shaped Bruise

  1. Was Emily schizophrenic? why does she repeatedly tell us not to believe everything she says?

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