Sunday, April 13, 2014

Paper Hearts by S.R. Savell (Review)

Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date:April 15, 2014
Pages:288 (paperback)
Published By:  Medallion Press
Website:S.R. Savell 

Paper Hearts on Goodreads
My review copy:
Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Where to get:

A pushy counselor, school bullies, a neglectful mother, and a dead father have ruined seventeen-year-old high school senior Michelle Pearce’s perspective on life. A social reject living in self-imposed exile, Michelle has little use for anything or anyone—until Nathaniel comes along. A high school dropout who works three jobs to care for his dying grandmother, he’s all but convinced Michelle that there is some good left in humanity.

And then humanity proves him wrong. The unforgivable happens, destroying Michelle’s new found faith in life and threatening to unravel a love in the making.


A weak laugh breaks the last bit of tension between us. I put the iPod away, and he goes to dump the mop water.

It soothes some of the bitterness inside - his laugh.

And so I smile.
What kind of mother gives in that easily? Yeah, I'm a stubborn pain in the ass, but you'd think I was worth a little backbone. I know I'm hard on her. Too hard sometimes. But when the game of give and take becomes all give, no one wins. Not even the taker.
The buildings vault into the sky, stacked alongside one another like towering metallic cinder blocks. People buzz around us, a shaken beehive of motion. A sire screeches somewhere far off. A dog barks right behind. Taxis honk, kids cry, vendors shout, cellphones ring, the sidewalk groans. Exhaust makes its away between the cracks of my clenched teeth.
Once in a lifetime, when the moon and stars align and hell itself gets a chill, you'll meet an honest-go-God good - someone who's not Ghandi status but close enough to swipe at his tunic.

I've met two of them.

I'm finding it very hard to start this review. Not because I don't know what to say, but because I have so much to say I don't know where to start. Michelle hasn't exactly had an easy time growing up. Her father was an alcoholic, parents divorced, and her family had been toeing the line of poverty until her grandparents died and left them some money and their house. She is bullied at school, where she does not have any friends and pushes those away who try to help.

I found it hard to connect with Michelle at first. She is hard around the edges and extremely cynical. However, it's all very believable and as the story progresses, she grows on you. As I learn more about her and her past, I understand the walls she's built against the world and why she is one of the hardest characters I've ever come across. I'm not going to lie and say I completely warmed to her because some her actions - like her attitude with her mother - made me raise an eyebrow, but she becomes more tolerable.

Michelle is inexplicably, in her eyes, drawn to Nathaniel. He is a genuinely kind person who doesn't have a mean bone in his body. Much like Michelle, he has had a tough go of it, but grew into a completely different person. He is, and I mean this with every fiber of my being, a giant teddy bear - and being well over six feet, I do mean giant. It is the relationship with Nathaniel that begins to bring down some of the walls that Michelle has built. I do like that Nathaniel doesn't completely change Michelle. Although she becomes less of a hard person, she doesn't lose the essence of who she is. It's not a 180, but more like a 90.

Nathaniel's grandmother is definitely one of my favorite characters from the novel. She is the first person Michelle finds that she can freely talk to and makes an effort to constantly visit her, even without Nathaniel.

I absolutely love how S.R. approached the point in the story where "the unforgivable happens." I cannot say anything without giving you a HUGE spoiler, but I have yet to come across this approach and I found it to be fascinating. Albeit slightly confusing at first, but also powerful.

There is no "magical solution" to the problems our characters encounter and the story ends realistically, not with sunshine and puppy dogs (Wolfie excluded). While there are some inconsistencies, small but noticeable if you're paying attention, Paper Hearts is a debut novel that will run your emotions through the gauntlet.

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