Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Contempo-May Review: Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne

In One Line: Emily Koll did something bad - wanna know what it was?
Genre: Gut-wrenching psychological thriller-drama
The Gist:
What you are reading is the story of Emily Koll, written from the psychiatric unit of Archway Young Offender’s Institution. And Emily Koll is all sorts of cray-cray. As she writes in her notebook we learn about the tragic turn of events that led Emily to her current position: a girl called Juliet stabbed Emily’s Dad, Emily’s life was torn apart, and then Emily decided to get revenge. Get prepared to be thoroughly chilled.  
The Cover:
I didn’t like it at first, because, dude, it’s totally grey. But now that I’ve read the book, it makes sense, and I’m finding myself lingering over it, amazed at how beautifully it captures all the feelings and themes. But it’s still grey. I mean, it works for me now that I’ve read the book, but will it work for the people who haven’t read it yet? In other words, the ones that are actually buying it? I’m not convinced. Also, this bird called Sophie Hannah? I literally have no idea who she is. Should I have heard of her?
Why You’ll Love This Book
  • Emily. We’re taking major anti-hero here. Proper dark and scary and psychologically damaged and absolutely wonderful. It’s so difficult to make an anti-hero work, because essentially, if someone is horrible, why the hell would you want to know what happens to them? The beauty of Emily is that she is deeply intriguing, and behind all the darkness you spend most of the novel hoping for just a tiny glimpse of softness. 
  • It’s a cut above. If, like me, you’ve been reading a lot of Same-Old dystopian thrillers, or Same-Old high school romances, or Same-Old forbidden vampires/werewolves/insert supernatural boyfriend here, then this book will be a refreshing joy. It’s new, it’s crazy and it’s superbly written. Books like this don’t come around very often. 

Why You May Not Love This Book:
  • At times I scared myself by how captivating I found the story, because I was wondering if I was a little messed up. It’s the same feeling I get when I watch Crimewatch for kicks, or read a juicy kiss-n-tell in The News of the World (RIP), or find myself reading Wikipedia articles on Lizzie Borden. I mean, we all do that right? Sure. Course we do. Or have I just outed myself as a Mega-Weirdo? Heart Shaped Bruise has made me think about all this crazy shizzle. 
  • Is this book YA? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. My personal definition of YA literature is a book that returns you to that feeling of teenagehood. Whether you actually are 16 and Relate or are 36 and Remember, YA captures that hot mess of hormones and hope. Sometimes this book goes beyond that and presents us with themes that are adult and complex, and then sometimes we get stunning flashes of YA gold - see in particular the scene with Emily and Hot Sid sitting in a tree, definitely not K-I-S-S-I-N-G but eating orange smarties instead. Obviously pondering this will not do anything to diminish your joy at reading this book, but as a YA blogger I thought it was worth considering. 

The Hypersomnia Test:
I’m awake! Look at me! I’m awake! Because whilst reading this book my life revolved around one thing: wondering what the hell Emily ended up doing to Juliet to mean she ended up in freaked up psychiatric facility. 
Final Verdict:
Guys, Tanya Byrne is the real deal. To the extent that, as someone who’d like to write her own books one day, makes me feel all sad and jealous. In the good way. This book will stay with you for a long, long time. 
Further Reading:
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
To buy Heart Shaped Bruise click HERE!!!


  1. can not wait to get a copy to read. excellent review

  2. This one sounds amaaaazing. I mean, I was definitely gonna get it before I read your review, but now I really, really want it. Your reviews are so funny

    The Cait Files

  3. Oh man I really loved this one! Really, seriously good! :)

  4. Sophie Hannah writes popular adult fiction crime!

  5. As above, with more detail: Sophie Hannah writes twisty, psychological, NON-run-of-the-mill adult thrillers. She's a big seller in that market. It's interesting they'd put her on the front - I guess they wanted to sell it into adult space as well as YA. And that cover is very adult thriller looking.

    Love your reviews. And I've been looking forward to this one for a while, so may just go ahead and get it like RIGHT NOWS.