Heart-Shaped Bruise is one of those novels that, although received a lot of press and internet buzz when it was first published (in early 2012), I knew next to nothing about. I knew that my fellow book bloggers raved about it. I knew many of them named it as one of their favourite books of 2012, which is high praise coming from people who often read 100 or 200 books per year. And I knew that reviewers called it ‘compulsive’, ‘gripping’ and ‘compelling’. I finally decided to pick it up, after receiving it as a Christmas gift from Headline last year, because I felt like reading something quite dark. I wasn’t in the mood for a happy contemporary novel. Heart-Shaped Bruise was the perfect choice.
Emily Koll is pure evil. At least, that is what the tabloids say. She is awaiting trial at the Archway Young Offenders Institution, confined to the psychiatric ward. Are you only how other people perceive you? It’s time for Emily to explain her side of the story – and she’s not holding back.
Heart-Shaped Bruise has a cover that I want to show people and a story that definitely lived up to my expectations – different, dark, deceptively simple. We know that Emily has committed a crime, but not exactly what. We know how other people see her, but not who she really is. Revenge is, well, odd. If you look it up in the dictionary, it says: ‘revenge is personal and justice is societal’. It’s an act often completely smothered by emotion in place of rationality. We feel it intensely and erratically. It’s exciting, dangerous, and incredibly fascinating to read about (or watch!). But how far would you go?
Emily’s a fabulous character. I was completely sucked in even until the very end, once we find out what she has done. I loathed Juliet as much as Emily did, even though, logically, I know it should be the other way round. What Juliet did was acceptable, logical, what any one of us would have done, and what Emily did was not. Tanya Byrne flips it completely and her talented prose makes the reader understand – and that’s a very powerful tool. It’s funny, how such a dysfunctional character can be so relatable, but it’s because reading enables us to get inside the fictional minds of fictional characters, and Tanya Byrne does it brilliantly.
Heart-Shaped Bruise is now one of my favourite novels of the year so far.