Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne

My Twitter feed was recently going crazy for this novel, especially as Tanya Byrne has been nominated and shortlisted for a number of literary awards, so I just had to see what the fuss was about.

The story is the writings of young offender Emily Koll recording her troubling thoughts, feelings and memories into a notebook, which is later found at Archway Young Offenders Institution where she was held before it was closed down. She talks about her life there and also the events leading up to her incarceration.

Emily’s father was a notorious criminal (unbeknownst to her) and is sent to prison after he kills a police officer. Emily’s world falls apart when she discovers her father’s true nature, and with the help of her Uncle she plans to exact revenge on the policeman’s daughter, who was responsible for her father’s capture. She infiltrates the girl’s life and poses as her friend under the guise of Rose. But soon the lines between Rose and Emily become blurred and it’s only a matter of time before Emily finishes what she started.

Emily’s narration is believable and honest as she writes exactly what’s in her head, even though she keeps the most important part of her story hidden until the end. We are privy to what she grudgingly discloses to the psychiatric doctor she regularly speaks to at the facility and also the secrets she shares only in the diary. I enjoyed the style of writing, very easy to read and the recollection of memories not in chronological order helps keep the pages turning so you can find out what happened to Emily Koll. There is a fairly small cast of characters so it makes it easy for you to keep up with the plotline. I particularly liked the other girls from the institution; the interaction between teenage females with differing degrees of mental health issues under one roof makes for interesting reading.

I must admit, this wasn’t as dark as I thought it was going to be but it was still a very clever depiction of love, betrayal and revenge, and an overall compulsive read. I’ve heard Tanya Byrne is working on her second novel and that will most definitely be at the top of my reading list.

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