Lurlene McDaniel’s signature expertise and finesse in dealing with issues of violence, death, and physical as well as emotional trauma in the lives of teens is immediate and heartrending.
One word for this book: haunting. It’s been days since I finished and I can’t stop thinking about parts of it. For me, it was reminiscent of Columbine, which was an absolute tragedy. Anytime innocent people die as a result of the foolishness of another human being, it sickens me. So in a lot of ways, Red Heart Tattoo tore me apart.
The book follows the lives of several individuals—from the popular crowd to the outsiders, and even to the perpetrators of the bombing, who call themselves “Executioner” and “Apocalypse.” The first half of the book focuses on their lives before, when all seemed right in the world. Then, at 7:45 a.m. one November morning, the bomb explodes, killing nine people instantly, injuring dozens more, and causing one of the main characters to go blind.
The second half of the book focuses on how the students, faculty, family, and friends—basically, the entire town—rebuild their lives in the aftermath. Friends are lost. Friends are made. Love blossoms in the most unexpected places. They all have to learn they can’t change the past, no matter how much they want to.
I have to say, there is a point in the book—an aha! moment, if you will—where the main character remembers what happened that caused her to become blind. The reader learns that her blindness is a result of something her brain doesn’t want to comprehend, something so horrible it’s completely blocked her eyesight. And when she realizes what occurred, what happened in that one particular moment, I almost cried. I’m not lying, you guys, I seriously felt like my heart was shredded into tiny bits and pieces, and shoved down my throat to swallow. This aha! moment was one of the most realistic incidents that I’ve ever read in YA fiction. And I guess it’s because I allowed myself to become attached to these characters, and I seriously felt like I was right there with them, experiencing these tragic circumstances. :,( The sad yet true part is that this can happen, and has happened. I think that was the defining moment for me, though. I thought, OH, MY GOD. This actually happened to kids at Columbine, and all these other schools with random shooters/bombers and people who lost their lives for absolutely no reason.
Overall, I only rated this book three and a half stars because it had a lot of missing words, which made me go back and re-read sentences several times. Also, the ending was WTFery at its finest. I didn’t really understand it. However, if you enjoy realistic fiction with romance and a high amount of heartbreak, then you should pick this up.
**ARC courtesy of publisher via NetGalley