Title: Instructions for a Secondhand Heart
Author: Tamsyn Murray
Publication Date: December 5, 2017
Summary (from Goodreads): A moving novel about grief, guilt, and the unpredictability of love, for fans of Everything, Everything and All the Bright Places.
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.
(Features select illustrations from “Jonny’s” sketchbook.)
I’m not sure what to think about Instructions for a Secondhand Heart. I enjoyed the concept, but not the characterization. I also found certain aspects of the book to be kind of creepy, and I didn’t enjoy the romance. This book had so much potential, but I ended up pretty disappointed.
This book has such an original concept! It tells the story of a boy who receives a heart transplant and befriends the sister of his donor. Neve is dealing with the grief of her brother’s death, and Jonny is dealing with the guilt of getting a second chance at life while his friend is still battling cancer. I enjoyed how the narration alternates between Jonny and Neve, allowing the reader to understand Jonny’s reasons for wanting to know more about his donor and Neve’s regrets from the day her twin brother died. The story is pretty complex and is definitely a whirlwind of emotions.
I’m not quite sure how I feel about Jonny’s character. I sympathized with him, and the challenges he faces are so real, but I found his actions to be kind of creepy. I understand his curiosity, but tracking Neve down and lying about the reason why is a bit unsettling. He shows up at a fundraiser she attends and sends her messages on Facebook, all while hiding his true relation to her and his motive. Even when he and Neve become friends, Jonny always seems to lead her on, and the constant back-and-forth got kind of annoying. I also didn’t enjoy Neve’s character very much. She is a bit whiny and gets overly jealous without knowing the full story. I would have enjoyed the book a lot more if the characters had been easier to connect with.
My main reason for not loving this book is the subtle creepiness, but I also didn’t enjoy the romance. It seemed a bit unnecessary, and I would have preferred if Jonny and Neve had stayed as friends instead. Their forced relationship takes away from the impact of the story in my opinion, and the love triangle is kind of pointless. Instructions for a Secondhand Heart would have been much better without all the extraneous drama.
Instructions for a Secondhand Heart is an intriguing story about grief and a second chance at life. I have mixed feelings about the main characters, and I just couldn’t really connect with them. Jonny’s borderline creepy actions and the forced romance take away from the story, and I definitely feel like the book could have been better.
I received an e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.