Heart Shaped Bruise – Tanya Byrne

“Last year, the psychiatric unit of Archway Young Offenders Institution was closed. A notebook was found in one of the rooms. It’s contents are as follows…”

Emily Koll is in Archway Young Offenders Psychiatric unit. She knows why she’s there but she doesn’t want to talk about it, no matter how much Doctor Gilyard does. What starts out as a task for Emily, set by Doctor G, evolves and becomes an explanation, a notebook left for the next person who finds themselves in the situation Emily is in, but not that exact situation, no, hopefully not. 

Wow. What a story. Heart Shaped Bruise, grabs you right from the start, it grabs you and holds you until you do have a bruise. But you’re dying to know what happens next so much that you don’t notice it, until its gone and you can fell it still ebbing away at you. This is a story that is going to stay with me for a long, long time and will definitely be getting read again. It is a story that makes me wish I wrote fiction. 
Emily is such a wonderfully strange narrator. You know from the get go that she’s in a psychiatric unit, but not why she’s there… you get little bits of information that filter through and you have to piece things together, but from the very start you know that her being there is something to do with Juliet. The story was obviously written from Emily’s point of view, but it was in no way linear. You go from conversations with Doctor G to memories of Emily at college, with Juliet, with Sid, as a child, at the boarding school she went to before the incident that lead to the whole thing, and back to things going on with other patients in the unit. This leads to the reader piecing bits together bit by bit and having to remember little things that happened before, its amazing this way of storytelling, I really enjoy it because you really get into the narrators head and although Emily’s head probably isn’t the best place to be it’s a very interesting one. 
I loved Emily. I thought she was tortured and a little insane maybe but I loved her because I could understand her. I knew that her reasoning for everything was justified in her own head. She was broken and wanted to break Juliet. I could tell that and I could understand it, I don’t believe it was the right thing to do obviously but I could see why she did it all. Sid was an incredible character. I could see him as if he was stood right in front of me. there was more depth to him than you actually get in the book I think and I would love for a story just about him, about why he was with Juliet and what he thought of Emily at different moments of their lives and what happened to him after. I want to know him and care for him. Juliet on the other hand was a bit bland and boring for me. I didn’t see why Sid was with her and I didn’t really like her that much as a character. I think this might have been slightly to do with the way the story was told though.. as Emily was only interested in her for one reason, and also because any character would be pale in comparison to Emily. 
The setting for Heart Shaped Bruise set a lot of the story in motion. I could see the unit and through a lot of the story I could picture Emily sat in the TV room, her bedroom and yes, the bath, writing in the notebook. I could picture the moments she wrote about clearly too, her pacing around Doctor G’s office or hanging around with Sid. I felt like I was accompanying her through the entire story and she was guiding me, and it felt nice, even though it probably shouldn’t have, given that she was crazy and all! 
Im finding it really hard to put into words how much I loved this story. It’s not a nice story, its far from it, but it’s an incredibly gripping one that will stay with you. I particularly loved the ending and how things worked out, though I guess you won’t know unless you go out there and get this incredible book! 
Heart Shaped Bruise was published on May 10th by Headline. My copy was purchased from Amazon.


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