Review: Heart Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne

Heart-Shaped Bruise - Tanya Byrne

So I strolled into town last week to run some errands. And happened to find myself in the book store. This is kind of naughty. I should have been spending money on groceries, not literature. However, I went in there with the honourable intention of simply buying a gift but of course came away with a whole stack of books for myself. I made the mistake of having my boyfriend and dog in tow, neither of whom are very enthusiastic about reading. The problem was there was naturally a buy one get one half price deal on (there always seems to be) and I was one book down on reaching the full money saving potential, yet both dog and boyfriend were starting to grumble. "You're taking too long!" they complained. "Just pick one!" So I made the fatal error of choosing on cover alone, grabbed Heart Shaped Bruise and headed swiftly for the checkout before something else caught my eye.


I think the trouble with books like this is they could easily be 10 pages long as there is very little actual story line, and yet must be bulked out to 200 odd pages to create a credible novel. The basic gist of the story is Emily is incarcerated in the mental health wing of a young offenders institution for some, supposedly hideous crime. But why? That's it.

In a nutshell the thing was boring as hell. Now, mental health issues are a subject very close to my heart. I'm always interested to hear or read about others experiences of this situation but to be frank I couldn't give a fuck about what Emily's story was because she was a dull, whiny little bitch. There was nothing remotely likeable about this character. I think possibly what the author was going for was the idea that there were two sides to every story. The picture the newspapers had painted of Emily was of a girl evil, heartless and bloodthirsty. The story Emily wanted to tell was the truth behind these accusations.

The only truth I gleaned is that Emily is obsessive, manipulative and spoiled. She's also irrational. But then she has been deemed cray-cray so ......


The diary style was irritating at best. It made the thing seem very false. I can't stand when books written in diary format say things like "sorry if you have trouble reading this through the tear stains" for example, because of course there are no tear stains on my edited and printed copy and I just think, come on now! Why include lines like that? It's cheesy and phony. Emily's interactions with her fellow patients and her doctor were also embarrassingly phony. The doctor was simply bizarre. I'm guessing she was in fact some kind of android, devoid of even the most basic of human qualities. She was also annoying as hell!


One of the things that bothered me to my very core (and most will find this trivial ....) was the description of Emily's smoking. Now, I have no problem with smoking. I am a smoker myself and thoroughly enjoy a cigarette but never in my life have I bought a "box" of cigarettes. I have bought many packs, a few cartons but no-one, ever in the history of smoking has ever referred to the container as a box. It's wrong. All this incorrect use of terminology serves to do is make the story seem less believable and genuine. God, it grated on me! And it just went on and on! I think the author harped on about smoking so much in an effort to make Emily seem dangerous, edgy, and I guess cool. But it ended up having the opposite effect for me and painted Emily as try-hard and awkward. It was just, once again, embarrassing.


Another inexplicable, but some will deem minor detail, which really bugged me was when Emily was listing the other inmates mental health problems. Right, fine, that's interesting to know .... Until she got to one of the girls, who was anorexic. Now, Emily was insinuating that these health problems were the reason the girls were locked up, and yet this isn't a standard psychiatric facility. It's a psychiatric facility for young offenders. So what crime could have been committed as a result of anorexia?! What world imprisons girls for having an eating disorder?! I thought this was completely inappropriate and did nothing for making the setting feel realistic as the lines between wether this was a hospital or a prison became blurred. I really felt this was a pretty big blunder on the part of the author .....

There are just so many of these little trip ups and loose ends left untied. The thing just really irritated me. But then, on the other hand I did find it mildly interesting for it's subject matter. It's a very quick, easy read so at least days were not wasted wading through it. What really was the straw which broke the camels back though, was the ending which is just beyond lame. When we finally discover the supposedly horrendous crime which Evil Emily was committed it's in fact the biggest anticlimax, not only because of what actually happened but also the way it's written leaves no impact. I mean, if you sneezed or blinked or whatever while reading the "big reveal" you'd miss it entirely. It's completely diluted by Emily's moaning, wailing and attention seeking. Yawn.


I came up with a much better ending on my own. There's so many references to burning throughout the book that I figured what Emily had done was burn Juliet's house down, killing her foster parents and maybe Sid (perhaps during his attempt to save her?) and leaving Juliet alive but horribly disfigured. And maybe Emily was spotted by witnesses, watching the house burn to the ground, laughing or something. Yeah, that would have been a punchy ending and would have made the waiting worth while. Because, lets be honest here - we read on, at least partly because we had a burning desire and a morbid fascination to know what exactly had Emily done. Well, I for one felt disappointed when I found out.