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INSTRUCTIONS FOR A SECONDHAND HEART by Tamsyn Murray

INSTRUCTIONS FOR A SECONDHAND HEART

by Tamsyn Murray

Age Range: 14 - 18

Pub Date: Dec. 5th, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-316-47178-7
Publisher: Poppy/Little, Brown

One teen gets a heart transplant; another teen loses her brother and doesn’t know who received his organs.

Last summer, 15-year-old Jonny’s heart stopped for three and a half minutes; now he lives in the hospital waiting for a donor heart. Meanwhile, 15-year-old Neve races up hazardous beach rocks against her golden-haired, golden-boy twin, Leo. But Leo falls, and Neve’s world upends. The “catastrophic damage to Leo’s brain stem” functionally means death, so Leo’s family donates his organs. Neve and Jonny alternate first-person narration. Murray offers emotional realism in Neve’s gritty and complicated pain (even after Leo’s death, Neve feels “a poor second-best"); on Jonny’s side, his repeated lies to Neve are emotionally realistic while simultaneously smacking of authorial contrivance to maintain tension. Jonny’s conclusive identification of his donor as Leo using amateur internet research and his smooth sailing post-transplant (he has zero problems until he stops taking his immunosuppressive meds) require readers’ faith. A closing message that life is worthless without risk clashes—almost heartlessly—with the cause of Leo’s death, as risk avoidance isn’t any character’s issue here. Neve lives in north London, Jonny a few train stops away; they’re both white.

Despite skipped beats, this satisfies as fablelike, destined romance: the metaphorical stuff of hearts. (Fiction. 14-18)