Things We Know By Heart by Jessi Kirby
Published by HarperTeen on April 21st 2015
Page Count: 304
Genre(s): YA, contemporary, romance, coming-of-age, grief
Format: Hardcover, library copy (but will be purchasing a shiny hardcover copy of ASAP!)
Would I recommend? Yes, absolutely. This is by far the best book I’ve encountered this year and one of the most perfect books I’ve ever read. A unique concept, lovely characters, and a brilliant, long-lasting effect. I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone.
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 really, really tried to word a review that would do this book justice, but I just couldn’t. Not in my typical review format, anyway. One of my blogging resolutions for 2016 was to play around with some different review formats, so who knows, maybe I’ll try doing something like this again in the future! There’s no need to worry about spoilers in this review; as always, there is none. Hopefully reading this post will give you a little insight as to why I loved and needed this book so much.
I went into Things We Know By Heart with pretty high expectations. After you completely stole my heart with your lovely novel In Honor, how couldn’t I? When I was perusing Goodreads one day and stumbled across your latest novel (and this was before I even knew you existed, mind you), I instantly fell in love with the title, cover, synopsis, everything. I knew from that day that Things We Know By Heart would be a definite 5-star read, and I certainly wasn’t wrong.
Things We Know By Heart was a beautiful, utterly perfect novel. I honestly couldn’t have asked for anything more. I read some reviews and noticed that a few people said that the novel’s concept is a bit cliche or stereotyped, but really, how could it be? There may have been a few common tropes I recognized, but every novel has those. The concept in its entirety is so unique, so brilliant, that I don’t think any other author has ever written anything like it before. And if you do know of a book that deals with a similar topic, please point me in its direction!
I already knew from reading In Honor that your writing style is gorgeous, Jessi, but Things We Know By Heart gave a whole new definition to amazing writing. Your prose is so seamless and flows so well that I found myself reading every sentence twice in effort to savor every word. There was also lots of dialogue, which I adored. What struck me most about your writing, though, was the descriptions. I absolutely loved how you described the setting of the novel in such a powerful and poetic way that left me thinking, hey, I want to go there! A few days ago in English class, we were discussing how setting can make such a big impact on the overall effect and theme statement of a book, and I really saw this aspect come into play with your novel. A big part of your book took place at a beachy setting, which I really appreciated because I could relate to Quinn’s and Colton’s connection with nature on a very personal level.
When I read this novel, I was in a pretty tough place. It was near the end of the year and I was stressing out about all the assignments teachers were piling up, I hadn’t read any good books lately, I hadn’t gotten a chance to go on an ocean swim recently, swim practice was super stressful. Honestly, I was just really tired. I felt like I needed a long break, like life was this never-ending cycle of stressfulness and tough situations and I had to fight to make it through every day. This is why I was so, so thankful that I read Things We Know By Heart when I did. I needed to read that novel desperately just then, and you, Jessi, allowed me to do just this. So thank you. Thank you so much.
Although I thankfully hadn’t ever gone through an experience similar to the one Quinn had to go through, I still related to her and empathized with her so much. You have a way of carving out characters that manage to find their way into your heart within the first few chapters, and I’m so grateful for this. I’m so grateful that I had the pleasure of meeting Quinn, and of learning about – no, living – her incredible story. She is such a strong, unique, and very real character, and I genuinely felt while reading this book that I experienced some degree of every emotion she went through. I understood her, I empathized with her, I cried with her. At first glance you might think that it’s unrealistic and naive for a young character to be going through this much grief after the death of a boyfriend, but once you get to know her and understand the bond she and Trent shared, it makes so much sense. I feel like going looking for Trent’s heart recipient was exactly what I would have done if I was in her shoes. I understand why she wanted to look for Colton in effort to find a piece of one of the people she loved the most. She was incredibly strong, but she definitely had some flaws, too. Her mistakes and weaknesses were what really made me be able to love her and relate to her so much.
Alright, now I should talk about Colton. Earlier in my review I talked about some of the aspects of your book that made such a lasting impact on me, but in all honesty, Colton’s character was what really made the difference. I started this novel feeling small, tired, and relatively insignificant. I finished this novel feeling empowered, inspired, and ultimately fulfilled. This was the result of having the pleasure of meeting a lovely character by the name of Colton Thomas.
Colton’s character was just wonderful. He was one of the most real, fleshed-out characters I had ever met, and definitely one of my favorites. He’s sweet, quirky, idealistic, weird, observant, and independent. He cares so much for Quinn and his family, and he’s a real gentleman. He’s strong, flawed, and pragmatic. He has had to go through so many tough experiences, and these experiences have helped shape the lovely person he is. What struck me most about his character, however, was his passion for nature. He literally lived every day like it was his last because his experiences had taught him to, and he taught Quinn to do the same. He fed his passions boldly and fearlessly, and invited others to do the same. He had such a deep connection with nature – the ocean, in particular – that it immediately made me want to put on a bathing suit and dive in to the 56 degree surf.
In fact, that’s just what I did after finishing this novel. I put your book down, careful not to bend any of the pages, slipped into my favorite one-piece, drove down to the beach, and plunged into the frigid ocean. I floated out there for a while, feeling the waves lap against my body, feeling the seaweed thread in between my fingers, watching the way the sun set over the water, feeding my passion boldly and fearlessly just as Colton had. This book was one of the most powerful, inspirational, impactful books I’ve ever read.
So thank you, Jessi. Thank you for creating characters that I could empathize with and relate to. Thank you for your beautiful writing that made me want to get up at 6am every morning to read it. Thank you for making me smile, cry, laugh, swoon, think, and act. Thank you for creating such wonderful relationships between your characters and your readers (AKA, me). Thank you for inspiring me and moving me in a way that no book has ever inspired me and moved me before. I appreciate it so much. If you ever end up reading this letter, Jessi, I hope it gives you even the smallest insight to how much I loved and appreciated you book. Really, it meant the world to me.