2014 EVENTS:
Holly Bourne, Non Pratt and James Dawson - 30th October
Becca Fitzpatrick - 15th November

Monday, 3 March 2014

REVIEW: Black Heart Blue - Louisa Reid

Monday, 3 March 2014

GENRE: YA Crossover
PAGES: 288
FORMAT: Paperback
BUY IT: Waterstones
RATING: 4 Stars

This review refers to an uncorrected advance copy.

"They tried to make me go to my sister's funeral today. In the end I'd had to give in ...I'd been walking in her shadow for sixteen years and I liked its cool darkness. It was a good place to hide". How would you feel if your twin sister died suddenly? Particularly if she was the beautiful one and you were horribly disfigured. And how would it feel to be alone now if you and your sister were the only ones to know the truth about what takes place behind closed doors at home? And what would you do if it was your parents who brought danger and terror into your life? Would you dare reveal how your sister died? And would you be brave enough to find an escape of your own? "Black Heart Blue" is a powerful novel about the domestic horrors that can unfold within a small community - and one girl's quest to stand up for the truth.

Rebecca and Hephzibah are non-identical twins practically imprisoned in the Vicarage. They are both mentally and physically abused by their parents and while they are home schooled have very little contact with the outside world. When they finally convince their parents to let them go to college they both get a taste of the outside world. The story follows the sisters' desperate attempts to find salvation from the horror of their lives. We join them as they are released in to the 'real' world and realise that they are worth so much more than how they have been treated. 

Black Heart Blue is a very moving and compelling read. It will take you to the extremes of child abuse, hinting at events without being too open, making this an eye-opening read for older teens. Hephzibah's voice is perfectly pitched like a teenagers diary, full of self-confidence and daring. She explores her social skills and adapts quickly, trying out make up and trying to attract boys. Her sister, Rebecca is almost her polar opposite. She keeps to the shadows and tries to make life as safe for herself and her sister as possible. I found that I had to keep reminding myself that they were twins, Hephzibah always felt older, even though Rebecca's voice is more defined.

The dynamic between the two sisters is both hard to read and immensely touching. There is no patronising 'we are twins so we can understand each other better than anyone' - they are much more like normal sisters. Reid is very honest in her portrayal of them, especially towards Rebecca's disfigurement, and sometimes it is brutal, but this works to enforce the teenage attitudes of desperately wanting to be normal or fit in.

'Hephzibah' means "my delight is in her" and she is the light in this book, whereas 'Rebecca' can mean "captivating" and "strong". I did find her captivating; though she keeps to herself and tries to hide herself away, emotionally she is older and stronger than Hephzibah knows. She is level-headed and more realistic than her sister. I think the meanings of their names are interesting: I would assume that as they are brought up with the Church as a huge fixture in their lives that their names would have been picked carefully to represent something, but neither of them reflect the hate that "The Father" so obviously has for them. 

I put off reading this book for awhile because I thought it sounded rather depressing, even though it came highly recommended. I'm so glad I did pick it up because I proved myself wrong completely. I loved it. It was so, so sad yes - but it is also brimming with hope. Even though there is evil out there in society, and even though a lot of people prefer to turn away from knowing abuse happens behind closed doors, there are also people that will stand up and fight for those who are vulnerable. I perhaps felt that Rebecca overcame her mental scars a little quickly and abruptly, but it gives the story much more of a resolution.

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