Title: Things We Know By Heart
When Quinn Sullivan meets the recipient of her boyfriend’s donated heart, the two form an unexpected connection.
After Quinn loses her boyfriend, Trent, in an accident their junior year, she reaches out to the recipients of his donated organs in hopes of picking up the pieces of her now-unrecognizable life. She hears back from some of them, but the person who received Trent’s heart has remained silent. The essence of a person, she has always believed, is in the heart. If she finds Trent’s, then maybe she can have peace once and for all.
Risking everything in order to finally lay her memories to rest, Quinn goes outside the system to track down nineteen-year-old Colton Thomas—a guy whose life has been forever changed by this priceless gift. But what starts as an accidental run-in quickly develops into more, sparking an undeniable attraction. She doesn’t want to give in to it—especially since he has no idea how they’re connected—but their time together has made Quinn feel alive again. No matter how hard she’s falling for Colton, each beat of his heart reminds her of all she’s lost…and all that remains at stake.
I was extremely lucky to receive a digital ARC of this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book or the content of this review.
My very first ARC ever! I’ve avoided ARCs since I’ve begun book blogging, but I decided to dip my toe into the world of ARCs, and this was my first taste, and what a great one it was! I’ve enjoyed all of Jessi Kirby’s previous books, so this was just one more bit of evidence that she is a great author that I’m pretty much guaranteed to always check out.
From the very beginning, I was engaged in this story, but that almost surprised me. I was a bit worried that this was a pretty standard contemporary book – you know, something awful happens before the story begins, the protagonist is trying to deal with it, and the story opens up on her (normally a female protagonist, anyway) doing a pretty bad job of dealing with it all. I feel like I’ve been reading a lot of books with the deaths of loved ones recently, so I was worried that this book would simply get lost among them all, but something about it set it apart. On the surface, it was pretty standard, but it never felt generic, even from the beginning.
The plot is probably the most generic part – Quinn is trying to get over the death of her boyfriend while also trying to start up something new with Colton, the boy she’s hiding so much from. The story focuses on her journey to healing, with all its painful twists and falls, and there are few other side plots to keep your attention. This worked out for me – I wanted to focus on Quinn and her relationships with everyone, including Colton.
The story is definitely focused on Quinn and Colton, but I found many of the secondary characters just as interesting and would have loved to see more of them. Quinn has an older sister who seems like the stereotypical wild, older sister that you often find in YA, but like the story itself, she seemed like more than that and didn’t seem like a stereotype to me. Her grandmother is the sassy type, one who likes to drop hints about her sex life with her deceased husband, which is obviously something that her granddaughter doesn’t really want to hear about; she’s strong and quite blunt, which is what Quinn needs in her life. I would have loved to see more of them, but the story was simply more about Quinn. Quinn was pretty much a blank slate – she loved her boyfriend and to run, but I didn’t feel like there was a whole lot to differentiate her from other YA protagonists. Like the rest of the book, it was the writing and just something about the story that elevated it beyond the generic, and I think this happened for Quinn as well – there are plenty of reasons for Quinn to feel like a bit of a blank slate, but she always seemed like more than that to me.
Race and sexuality-wise, this book is definitely lacking in diversity, but the fact that it looks at someone with a heart transplant gives it shades of diversity. Each chapter begins with a quote about the heart or organ transplants, and the ones about transplants, as well as scenes in the story itself, taught me more about organ transplants than I ever knew before, so at least the book had that going for it in terms of diversity.
The Adult Situation
Quinn recently graduated from high school before the book started, so she’s in that awkward position where she’s kind of an adult, but she still lives with her parents and she’s definitely not ready to care for herself, especially when she’s still in a stupor over losing her boyfriend. So, her parents definitely have a large presence in her life, but they also give her her space much of the time, especially since it’s summer and she doesn’t have school but they still have work and other obligations. Her parents are two more characters I would have loved to have gotten more of, but once again, it wasn’t their story or Quinn’s relationship with them.
The romance is definitely a huge focus in this book. Quinn loves Colton as an individual, but there are also plenty of layers, like the fact that he has her boyfriend’s heart and they seem to feel a connection as a result (and before you suggest that’s cheesy or unrealistic, one of the chapter openings about the heart suggests that this is a real phenomenon that organ transplants can feel, which makes me think that I wouldn’t mind researching more on the topic). I thought their romance was cute, but I was also dreading the moment when Quinn finally told him the truth, so that was like a minor storm cloud hovering over the whole thing.
The end dealt with the fallout of Quinn finally telling the truth to Colton, but it was also the end of Quinn’s healing (well, the end of the healing during the timeframe of the story – people never really stop healing from and being affected by huge tragedies). Things seemed a tad rushed, but I think that was simply a side effect from being a relatively short book, only a little more than 300 pages.
I’m not sure which takes its place as my favorite Kirby book – this or her previous book, Golden – but I definitely loved it. I think ultimately it was the writing that really elevated it from a standard “sad YA contemporary” to something more – there were a lot of lines that stood out to me, not because they were saying something profound, but simply because they sounded beautiful. It could be talking about something simple, like the beach (by the way, this is definitely a summer book to read in the summer – I kind of regretted reading it in the spring when the weather is still so flip-floppy and I am miles, miles, miles away from the coast), but it would stand out to me because of its beautiful writing. So, in short, this book was great and Kirby is officially a favorite author of mine.