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. I really love the way this book was written, I felt like I was with Emily throughout each moment as she was reliving the crucial memories. It was one of those books you just can’t put down because although you are taken on a bit of an up and down in and out recap of memory verse present moment story it seems to flow if that makes sense. I wanted to know what had happened in the past with “Rose” and what was going to happen to Emily now.

    I did feel as though the last two chapters were rushed though. The whole book was so well written and gave so much detail then all of a sudden you are rushed through the ending as though Tanya Byrne only had a certain amount of pages left and had to cram all detail in.

    I would have loved to have known Juliets point of view as in see what she had written in the letter, I was curious with the way her character was portrayed if she had forgiven Emily and come to think she was a real friend in all of her fake and secret life or if she wanted Emily to know she hated her. I guess it is up for interpretation but me being as curious as I am I really wanted to know.

    Other than that I loved reading this book and look forward to reading Tanya Byrnes’ next book.

  2. Also everyone keeps referring to the author as Sophie Hannah but that is just a testimony on the front the author is actually Tanya Byrne.

  3. Heart Shaped Bruise is an amazing read! For a debut novel Tanya Byrne is truly brilliant. I could not put this book down! I had to read it in 2 stints otherwise nothing would get done.
    This is a book of a troubled young girl who seeks revenge, at first it reminded me of ‘Girl Interrupted’ but a few chapters in and it took a totally different route to what I expected. Emily is troubled but not without cause (and not a total sociopath). At times I found myself so involved with how Emily was feeling and her thought process I wanted to know how and why she got to where she was.
    Emily’s breaking point took me by surprise but it had to be something nasty for her to end up where she was.
    The ending I liked, no saviour just herself 🙂 again not what I expected but I liked it all the same.
    Thanks Beauty and Lace for another great read 🙂 xxxxxoooo

  4. Heart Shaped Bruise was a fantastic read even for me at 42 years old. I devoured it in days,grabbing every opportunity to read more. It is so well written and a big page turner, helped by it`s short concise chapters. I cannot believe this is Byrne`s first novel. She has amazing talent. I have passed it on to my daughter who is 18 and I actually think she will enjoy it, if possible, more than me , just from an age point of view.

    The plot was very clever and Bryne gives away just a little hint at a time of the crime that Emily has committed and the life she has led and the path she travels up to the crime.

    It is touching throughout and I felt sympathy toward Emily despite her crime. She seemed to suffer such inner pain, I think the feelings of sympathy toward her also stem from the fact the crime is not revealed until the end so you are never quite sure what she has done.

    Toward the end I did realise what the crime would be , which again is clever writing by Bryne because it makes the reader want to finish the book even more to see if they are right. When the crime is committed I think what Emily says is a great line in the book. I read it over and over and then out loud to my husband.

    Just great! This book will be a huge success. Well done Tanya Bryne.

  5. I enjoyed this book. It is a psychological thriller but an easy read. Emily the main character is bent on revenge. I knew “something’ was going to happen, there was going to be a twist in the storyline, so I had to keep reading to find out. The ending was a surprise but finished abruptly

  6. I found it a little hard to get into this book – didn’t really grab my attention to keep reading all in one sitting. But I did find it enjoyable as you try to piece together what exactly happened, as Emily tells it to you from her point of view.

    I felt the story was revealed quite slowly, but that was so you could begin to understand who Emily was and her feelings. I liked the short chapters, each gave you some new information – what it was like living with the other girls (gosh some parts of the conversations with them made me giggle!), her family and past, and how she went about her revenge plot.

    Quite a different sort of book not knowing all the details, but was a good read. You could feel her pain and anger, and also sympathise with what she was going through.

    Overall, it was enjoyable to sit there and try to be a detective and look for clues and conjure up in my mind what I thought the ending would be. Probably more suited to a teenager reading audience, but I still liked it 🙂

  7. I found it hard to get into Heart Shaped Bruise. The first quarter of the book was lacking something that should’ve drawn me in sooner. Once I got past that first quarter and the story started to play out a bit more, I was finally hooked and couldn’t put it down.

    The main character Emily, may have done something really bad but the feelings she felt that got her there were nothing unusual to most people, this made her a believable character to me. The book makes you think about your own feelings and how much control do you really have yourself.

    The writing style was a little different but flows easily for a quick read and I think would suit a young adult or teenage audience. For a first book, this was a good read.

  8. Heart shaped bruise was an excellent read,I read this book fairly quickly ,it is not the sort of book that I usually read ,It was sad,and at the same time funny in parts and I had sympathy for Emily.It kept My attention,and I liked how you didn’t find out Emily’s crime until right at the end oft the book ,In saying that I enjoyed it but I think it would be best suited to teenage or young adult reader .Great debut Novel for Tanya Byrne.

  9. Firstly thanks to Beauty & Lace for letting me review the Heart Shaped Bruise book.

    From the very first pages I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and just couldn’t put it down. It was just such an interesting and moving story that I just had to read a few more pages.

    This is a book of a troubled young girl who seeks revenge, and the main character Emily takes the reader on a journey of love and loss, anger, frustration and sadness. And I love the narrator’s voice and writing style, which makes it so easy to get into Emily’s head and thoughts and makes it easy to feel sympathy for Emily and see where she is coming from.

    My only negative comment about the book is that it seemed to end quite abruptly and left me feeling the story wasn’t quite finished.

    However, all in all, it is a likeable book, well written and such a good read, from an author that I had never heard of before – so I will now definitely check out other books by Tanya Byrne. I have also passed the book onto a friend to read, and she is equally thoroughly enjoying it.

    Thanks again Beauty & Lace.

  10. I have to say I loved this book, I really enjoyed the way the writer took us on a journey between current and past event. The way we are given hints to the past and what happens is great as you keep wanting to read on to find out what happens. I also really enjoyed the fact it is written like a diary or journal, and enables the reader to become involved in the lives of the characters.
    As mentioned it is the story of a girl Emily, whos father is jailed, unleashing a whole world she never knew about and how she tries to comprehend her new life and that of the life of her fathers victim.
    Her need for revenge and love and acceptance are written in her journal as she herself is waiting for sentancing for a crime she commits.
    I loved the suspence, but also wish we found out a little bit more at the end witht he “scraps of paper”
    More suited to young adults a great read and i will definatelt be looking for more of her books/
    One quick addit, love the way that mental health is included, a very tough topic to write about and keep real!

    Thankyou for choosing me to read this book.

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