Review: This Heart of Mine by C.C. Hunter

Title: This Heart of Mine
Author: C.C. Hunter
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Rating: 3/5 Stars
Hardcover, 384 Pages
Published February 2018

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Leah MacKenzie is heartless. An artificial heart in a backpack is keeping her alive. However, this route only offers her a few years. And with her rare blood type, a transplant isn’t likely. Living like you are dying isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But when a heart becomes available, she’s given a second chance at life. Except Leah discovers who the donor was — a boy from her school — and they’re saying he killed himself. Plagued with dreams since the transplant, she realizes she may hold the clues to what really happened. Matt refuses to believe his twin killed himself. When Leah seeks him out, he learns they are both having similar dreams and he’s certain it means something. While unraveling the secrets of his brother’s final moments, Leah and Matt find each other, and a love they are terrified to lose. But life and even new hearts don’t come with guarantees. Who knew living took more courage than dying?

I received a finished copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, and I was really excited to start it when I first heard about it. This story seemed like the total package -- heart-racing thrills, gripping loss, and blossoming love. It sounded like the kind of thing I would absolutely love. So that's why I was so stoked when I received a copy!

As the summary explains, Leah is suffering from heart failure, and she finds herself receiving a rare heart transplant that she never thought she would truly get. But after she gets the heart, she finds out that it belongs to Eric Kenner, whose twin brother Matt she had been crushing on for the longest time. And to make things even more intense, Matt is convinced that Eric didn't kill himself like everyone said he did -- he was murdered. But since nobody (including the police or his own mother) believes him, he is determined to make things right. And Leah, who owes Eric immensely for her second chance at life, soon finds herself sucked into the world of proving his murder, too. And on top of that, throughout this all, Leah and Matt start to develop feelings for each other, which makes their entire situation even more complicated.

Something that threw me off before I even started this book was how similar it was to a book I had just finished a few days before, Instructions for a Secondhand Heart by Tamsyn Murray. (In case it's worth nothing, Instructions was published first.) In both stories, one of the main characters has a really bad heart condition, and while waiting for transplants, they have to live with artificial hearts in backpacks. And then a tragic and untimely death occurs to another character -- and in each of these stories, the character that dies has a twin. And the person receiving the transplant meets said twin. And the twin and the person receiving the transplant fall in love.

Yeah. It just seemed a bit too similar for my taste, especially since I was practically reading both of these books back-to-back. So when I started reading This Heart of Mine, I was worried that I would feel like I was reading the same story twice and therefore wouldn't enjoy it the second time around because I'd be tired or bored.

However, despite the similarities, I still enjoyed this book. While the first book focused more on accepting the new life after such a loss, This Heart of Mine also has the thread of trying to solve her donor's potential murder when nobody else is willing to help them, which added an entirely new dimension to the story. It switched between Leah and Matt's perspectives, but what I found interesting was how Leah's perspective was in first person and Matt's was in third. I'd never seen a switch like that before, which I thought was really intriguing! It really made it clear which character I was supposed to be focusing on at what time, and I still was able to settle into both of their minds comfortably. 

My favorite character in this story was definitely Matt. He was adorable and loving, and really kind to everyone. However, perhaps most importantly, Matt was so loyal to Eric that he was not willing to rest until he found out the entire story of what happened the night Eric died. He didn't give up even when there were several moments in the book where I (mistakenly) thought he should have. He was loyal and stopped at nothing to make right by his brother, and he was also so sweet, kind, and adorable to Leah. I definitely found myself swooning over him a couple of times.

(Spoilers ahead, so please skip to the next paragraph if you don't want the book ruined for you!) Something that bothered me about this book, though, was how quick and rushed the ending felt, especially since it seemed like the book was building up to that big moment. The entire book was about proving Eric was murdered and didn't commit suicide, but then when Leah finally finds the proof of the bullet in the tree, the story stops there and skips ahead a week, and it even makes note of how the reader is currently in the present "after everything went down." But then that everything is brushed over so super quickly that I had no idea what even happened! I was also left with a lot of unanswered questions, especially in regards to the case. How did everyone on the scene react when the evidence was found? Matt's mother? The detective? Cassie? Everyone at school? Where did the tattooed motorcycle guy fit into the story? Where the heck did Officer Yates go?!?! Did this make national news or anything?!?! How did Dr. Hughes react when she realized that Leah's dreams were real the entire time? I know a good story often leaves the reader with a few mild questions, but these questions were all really hard-pressing and it felt like this book was leading up to this big moment of justice for Eric, and then it's brushed over like it wasn't a main focus of the story at all. If it wasn't the main focus of the story, that's fine -- but don't make it seem like the focus all the way until the end, though! That part left me really frustrated.

Speaking of being frustrated, at times I just wasn't sure if this book was about a girl learning to find love and be normal after a serious transplant, or if it was more about Leah and Matt trying to avenge a death that they felt was wrongly classified. The book flip-flopped between the two plots often but I felt like I wasn't able to really settle on what the main focus of the story was about, here. Especially when certain seemingly-important things got brushed over really quickly, in both plot aspects. It left me feeling a bit confused and unsure -- however, both plots were great stories! I just wasn't really sure which one the story was truly supposed to be about.

One last thing that I wasn't crazy about with this book is that some words or phrases just felt really overused or out of place -- basically, they didn't sound like things that most teenagers would say. And it happened enough times that it started to take me out of the story and make me question things a little bit. For example, I thought I was going to lose it if I had to read the word "breasts" one more time -- it was said sooo many times throughout this book and it just felt really awkward/out of place for a teenage girl in this day and age to be saying that! It was just random words that were said like that in speech that made me sort of blink and be like Wait, what? People actually say that

But I digress. I might just be weird like that, although I ran it by Emily and Amber and they seemed to agree that it seemed a little awkward for a seventeen-year old girl to say she had to "go use the restroom" instead of "having to pee" or saying that "someone nearly brushed against her breasts" rather than saying "he almost touched my chest." But who knows! That's just my opinion in regards to something that jarred me from the narrative a little bit. I'm certainly not the expert on language.

Overall, I did enjoy This Heart of Mine by C.C. Hunter. Other than the parts I pointed out above, this story was filled with love, hope, loss, and even some mystery, terror, and thrills. There's a lot going on here -- so many things to unpack -- and I was glad that I stuck with the story all the way to the end. While there were some parts that I wasn't a huge fan of, overall I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to anyone looking for a little blend of romance and mystery!

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