Review: Tanya Byrne – Heart Shaped Bruise

I’ve noticed recently the growing popularity of crime books aimed at young adults but read by a wide variety of ages. I don’t set out to read YA fiction, mainly as I prefer books written for an adult audience but very occasionally I read a book that clearly crosses the genre and explores issues that have a universal appeal.

Heart Shaped Bruise by debut author Tanya Byrne  is written in the form of a notebook that is found on top of a wardrobe when Archway Young Offenders Institution is closed. It tells the story of Emily Knoll, who is infamous inside the institution and beyond its walls for the heinous crime she committed. Much of the book records the interactions that take place in sessions with Doctor Gilyard, her psychiatrist. We learn that Emily assumed a false identity to befriend a girl whose actions caused Emily’s father to end up in prison and that she is now awaiting trial. The book moves at a swift pace towards the book’s climax and leaves the reader with some interesting questions.

Heart Shaped Bruise was an enjoyable read full of compelling characters. The narrative of Emily, and her alter ego Rose, dominates the book and although we perhaps don’t get that much insight into why she is as she is, we are drawn into her desire for vengeance against Juliet. The relationship between Juliet and her boyfriend Sid is perhaps where we see why the book has been targeted to a young adult audience. Exams, parties, pressures of nurturing friendships and relationships are explored alongside the jealousies that can build up in a stressful environment. The narrative moves well between the past and present, highlighting Emily’s freedoms before her crime and the restrictions of her present incarceration.

The ending was satisfactorily oblique and my only gripe would be with a couple of blurbs comments which suggested a ‘twist’ in the ending which, to my mind at least, wasn’t there. Judging by the Q & A section with the author at the end of the book it seems that Byrne’s next novel is firmly aimed at a young adult audience so it may well be the only book that I read by this writer. But it was an enjoyable, easy read on a subject that will appeal to all ages.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher.