Review: Instructions for a Secondhand Heart by Tamsyn Murray

Title: Instructions for a Secondhand Heart
Author: Tamsyn Murray
Publisher: Poppy
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Hardcover, 313 Pages
Published December 2017

Summary: Jonny knows better than anyone that life is full of cruel ironies. He's spent every day in a hospital hooked up to machines to keep his heart ticking. Then when a donor match is found for Jonny's heart, that turns out to be the cruellest irony of all. Because for Jonny's life to finally start, someone else's had to end. That someone turns out to be Neve's twin brother, Leo. When Leo was alive, all Neve wanted was for him (and all his glorious, overshadowing perfection) to leave. Now that Leo's actually gone forever, Neve has no idea how to move forward. Then Jonny walks into her life looking for answers, her brother's heart beating in his chest, and everything starts to change. Together, Neve and Jonny will have to face the future, no matter how frightening it is, while also learning to heal their hearts, no matter how much it hurts.

I found out about this book while I was cataloging some stuff at work, and it immediately caught my attention, which surprised me a little bit -- because, as someone who is so horribly petrified of death, I seem to have a fascination with reading books that revolve around it! But I'm glad I made the decision to buy this book, because it absolutely tore me to pieces with all of the sadness and hope that its pages contained. This one certainly took me on an emotional rollercoaster, that's for sure!

Okay, so let's first start with what the book is about. As the summary explains, Neve's twin brother, Leo, suffers a terrible accident and passes away. However, his organs are donated -- and his heart ends up being given to a sick teen named Jonny, who has been struggling with his own heart issues for quite some time. But when Johnny gets his heart, he isn't simply satisfied with knowing that he has a new chance at life -- he wants to know who gave him the heart -- who exactly he has to be grateful to.

After some searching, Jonny ends up finding about Leo -- and then, in turn, he meets Neve. While their friendship starts out pretty rocky, Jonny and Neve eventually reach a place where things become comfortable...but they don't stay that way for long, and what ensues is a whole lot of learning, a whole lot of heartbreak, friendship, romance, and even some loss.

What I really loved about this book was the emotional rollercoaster it took me on. It dealt with so many different topics, but it still managed to feel cohesive. You have Jonny struggling with his illness, and then his new heart. Neve and her family struggling with the loss of her twin brother. And even Jonny and Neve's struggles when they find themselves meeting under what Neve believes to be the creepiest of circumstances. There's certainly a lot going on in this story, but I didn't find it distracting at all -- everything going on has a purpose, whether it's to make you laugh, cry, gasp, or just think about things.

And trust me, there are a LOT of things to think about here. Organ donation, love, loss, heartbreak, moving on after tragedy, etc. This book packs an emotional punch that I wasn't quite prepared for, but I was still glad to experience nonetheless. If you're planning on reading this book, make sure you have some tissues on hand, though! You'll definitely be using them.

My favorite character in this book was definitely Emily. She was witty, she was sarcastic, and she was everything I look for in my favorite sassy characters. Plus, she was an incredible friend to Jonny even when he didn't think she was acting like one, and it just made my heart warm toward her even more. And all of the comics of her that appeared throughout the book made me smile, too!

As for what I wasn't a big fan of in the book, I was a bit confused on how Jonny ended up finding about Leo. There's mention that he did some searching and found him, but I feel like it felt a bit rushed to me -- I know Jonny obviously had to find out about Leo in order to know he was the one who gave him the heart, but that part of the book seems like it should've been a big part of the story and it felt kind of rushed. So that was the only thing I was a bit confused about. That and the insta-relationship that seemed to form between Jonny and Neve (even if it was a bit rocky for a few seconds) felt But those were the only things I wasn't super keen about with this book.

(Spoilers in this paragraph, so please skip to the next paragraph if you don't want this book ruined for you!) I also wasn't expecting the ending of this book -- but in a good way! Except I cried my eyes out when I found out about Em. I guess some part of me was expecting it, with all of the weirdness that had been going on, but then it still caught me off guard and made me bawl. But the ending of the book was certainly the right amount of poetic, heartbreaking, and still hopeful -- I think Tamsyn Murray ended it in just the right spot. (Although I would've liked to maybe see how Neve's parents reacted to Jonny's news.)

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Instructions for a Secondhand Heart. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me gasp, and -- most importantly -- it made me realize the seriousness of death and how I have to cling to every possible moment. As someone who is so afraid of a subject like this, I'm surprised by how much I was moved by it and immediately drawn into the story -- and how much I realized I need to live in the moment and stop being afraid of whatever moment may be my last.

So that's something I'll hopefully be working on, soon. As for what you should be working on? Adding this book to your TBR!

Did you read Instructions for a Secondhand Heart? If so, what did you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments down below!

1 comment

  1. I had no idea what this was about before now, but it sounds good. Great review!


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