Heart on a String by Susan Soares
Publisher: Astrea Press
Genre: Contemporary, YA
Length: Full (186 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rated: 4.5 stars
Review by Poppy
Marissa tells lies.
To herself, about the fact that her brother abandoned her.
To her grandmother, when she says “everything’s fine.”
To the world when she pretends her mother is at home or working late. When she doesn’t tell them her mother is dead.
She doesn’t even question the wisdom of living in a world built on lies anymore—until she meets Brandon. Unlike Marissa, Brandon faces his grief head-on. As their relationship sweetens, Marissa realizes the value of letting someone in and not letting her grief destroy her. But when her past filled with denial catches up with her, Marissa is forced to tell Brandon her darkest secrets, or risk losing him.
The only thing harder than lying about her life? Facing it.
Aptly named, Heart on a String is one of the most touching books I’ve read in some time. From the start, when Marissa literally finds a heart on a string–a heart shaped balloon stuck in a tree–and “saves” it, I was hooked.
I lost a parent to cancer many years ago. True, I was an adult (a very young one, but still an adult), but it was no less heartrending. Marissa not only loses her mother, though, but also her brother who abandons her. And though her grandmother does her best, nothing can fill that gap in her life.
The strength of this novel was the author’s ability to create real, unique characters that I cared about from the moment I met them. From Marissa, to her grandmother, to her friend, Zoe and, of course Brandon, each person was well crafted, real and exceptional. Even the secondary characters were solidly three-dimensional. They behaved as I would expect them to, though sometimes I wanted to slap Marissa silly for her behavior and I didn’t always like her. Even then, though, it was well within the realm of possibility. I have a teenaged daughter, and know how incredibly emotional and dramatic they can be.
Brandon was a dream come true. A truly good guy who’s learning to deal with his grief–the loss of a brother–in a much healthier manner than Marissa does the loss of her mom. I don’t want to share spoilers, but I really loved what he did at the very end. I nearly cried happy tears.
Deciding on an age recommendation wasn’t easy, but if your younger teens can handle deeply emotional stories involving the loss of a parent, then there really isn’t any else in this story to worry about.
All-in-all an impressive book. Not without a few things that annoyed (mainly some of Marissa’s behavior), but any irritation was well overshadowed by the emotions the author elicited from me. I cried, I laughed, I empathized and I hoped … the book impacted me and touched my heart. I recommend it.