Instructions for a Secondhand Heart by Tamsyn Murray

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I don’t know about you, but I need a break from the world. Sometimes the news or my life or even my reads get so heavy that I need to step away from everything and just enjoy myself. Self care is a real thing and something I try to always keep in mind. That’s why I chose to read this book. It felt like the right time for me to step away from all the heavier reads coming across my desk. I’m so glad that I did.

Here’s some more on the book:

Jonny knows better than anyone that life is full of cruel ironies. He’s spent every day in a hospital hooked up to machines to keep his heart ticking. Then when a donor match is found for Jonny’s heart, that turns out to be the cruelest irony of all. Because for Jonny’s life to finally start, someone else’s had to end.

That someone turns out to be Neve’s twin brother, Leo. When Leo was alive, all Neve wanted was for him (and all his glorious, overshadowing perfection) to leave. Now that Leo’s actually gone forever, Neve has no idea how to move forward. Then Jonny walks into her life looking for answers, her brother’s heart beating in his chest, and everything starts to change.

Together, Neve and Jonny will have to face the future, no matter how frightening it is, while also learning to heal their hearts, no matter how much it hurts.

As you may have guessed, this was definitely a sweet story. It’s filled with heartwarming love between two teenagers who are separated by one giant lie. And you may think that a book like this would just be a candy for my sweet tooth, it’s always good to step away from being serious and just relax.

I went into this thinking that it would be the story of a young person who was scorned in the past by someone and then fell in love again. However, I didn’t actually think the heart mentioned in the story’s title was a literal heart. When Jonny receives his brand new heart, you already know that it belonged to Neve’s twin brother, Leo, who had died in a weird accident on the beach. However, what you don’t know is the lives both Neve and Jonny lived before they met each other and after they met each other.

This story was definitely your typical outcasts falling in love with each other although the circumstances of how they meet are not your typical outcast story. Jonny basically stalks every victim that fit the profile of his new heart. All he knew was that it belonged to a 15-year-old boy and he died recently. Not a lot to go off of, but apparently enough for him to research online and possibly find some possible donors. I didn’t find this part of the story to be as strong. It felt like the search was a few short clicks and not a labored event for him. He didn’t visit any other possible families and he came out to this fundraiser Neve’s mother was running. It was too easy especially with the amount of info he was provided.

Tamsyn Murray is definitely a great writer too. She’s not the type of person to fuss over big words and the voices of both Neve and Jonny were pretty clear. The jury’s still out for me on whether I like books with interchanging POVs, but for Jonny and Neve it helped to move the story much faster.

I loved that the story also included some illustrations Jonny drew. He includes panels from superheroes he created. He outlines his favorite day. He even draws Neve and when Neve was seeing them for the first time, we were also seeing them for the first time. That was a nice little device to really draw the reader into the book.

When Neve and Jonny finally meet, Jonny does that one thing that happens in a story like this; he lies. He lies about his condition. He lies about how he knows Neve’s brother and he lies about being the heart recipient. Of course a story like this requires a big lie before the big reveal. It’s not the reason why you’re reading this story, but you end up waiting for it throughout the story. When does the truth come out? How will this affect their lives? Will their newfound friendship survive it?

I think the one big glaringly obvious issue with the story is the way they treated mental health, grief, and loss. For Neve, she handled it poorly. She didn’t go to her therapy sessions and she didn’t really cope with her brother’s death. However, she also hoarded pills and planned to kill herself because the lack of affection and attention she craved from her parents. This whole part of the novel is written in her point of view and no one takes the time to sit her down and speak directly about how she’s doing. She just struggles alone, which feels a little irresponsible of the author. And sadly, it all comes to a head at the end of the story.

For Jonny, I mean, I figured there would be much more talking to a counselor. He just received a new heart and things were just moving along like it didn’t matter. Wouldn’t there be an adjustment period? Shouldn’t he be talking to someone to process his emotions about receiving a heart? I just feel like these mentally exhausting moments from both of these characters were underdeveloped and the focus was more on the loving relationship building between them. It was nice, but I just wanted something a little bit deeper than this surface story. Perhaps I’m asking too much from a piece of candy.

I received this book from The Novl in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the method I received this book and I was not paid to write this book review.

Simone and Her Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the above book.

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