Review: Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby

April 20, 2015

Title: Things We Know By Heart
Author: Jessi Kirby
Publication date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Rating: 
Source: Publisher (Edelweiss)
Amazon Goodreads TBD
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.
Things We Know by Heart is the first book in a long time that I read at a stretch, without losing interest in between. I've either been taking forever to read books, or dropping them to pick up later and starting another book, or simply avoiding books in general lately. So this book has been such a relief! I still love books! In three words, I'd describe this book as 'emotional, introspective, and beautiful'.

The story opens on the four hundredth day from the day Quinn's boyfriend Trent was killed in an accident outside his house. It's been a little over a year, but Quinn still holds on to his memory. Her first thought upon waking everyday is how many days its been. And she never needs to count; she always knows. She did something to mark the first anniversary of his death, and now, somehow, four hundred seems like another important number.

In the last few months, Trent's parents and Quinn have been reaching out to the recipients of some of Trent's organs. Quinn wrote to each of them separately, and all of them responded, except for the one who got his heart. Although both donors and recipients are anonymous, and only with the recipient's consent are they allowed to approach them, Quinn can't simply sit still and wait for a reply that doesn't look like it's coming anytime. So she goes looking for him.
For so long, I was the one with his heart. I just need to see where it is now.

Emotional:

By the very nature of its premise, we come to expect that Things We Know by Heart is emotional, and it is. There were several places where my heart wept for the characters, and I even became slightly moist eyed at times. Quinn's almost constant grief is heart wrenching, especially at the moments when coincidental occurrences appear to be heavy with hidden meanings. There are little flashbacks of moments they both had that just make you feel so much for Quinn. It's so obvious (to the reader, at least, if not to Quinn herself) that she's just searching for a way to move on, and although most parts of her still is and wants to stay with Trent, there's something that is, maybe, tugging it towards Colton.

Colton is one of genuinely nicest guys in YA, really. Given the trials he's gone through early in life, he's mature for his age. It's apparent to him that there's something that's affected Quinn deeply, and there are things she's hiding, but he is patient about it, and waits he out, rather than demand an explanation. I also loved the way he lived everyday to its fullest, and didn't hold back because of his past experiences.
Write it in your heart that everyday is the best day in the year. No man learned anything rightly until he knows that every day is Doomsday.

The family relationships in this story will blow you away with their realness. There is such great representation of parents and siblings. Ryan, Quinn's big sister, is such a strong person who takes no nonsense from her sister and pushes her to pick herself up, while at the same time being there to lend a shoulder to cry on at weak moments. In that aspect, she reminded me a lot of my own sister, which just endeared her to me more.

Introspective:

A big aspect of this story deals with something that I wasn't very comfortable with. What Quinn did came very close to stalking, and the fact that she continued to do it even while she was given several opportunities to come clean wasn't something that I could condone. But while this was happening, there was also a part of me that was okay with all this. I think for me, knowing where Quinn was coming from, and being able to empathize, let me accept what she was doing, even though it wasn't right. Quinn herself recognizes the wrong she's committing, and is ridden with guilt, so at the beginning she sets limits for herself (which she subsequently goes on to break), to prevent it from going too far. The way Quinn talks about her feelings, trying to sort them out, both within the narration, as well as with Ryan really helps the reader get her point of view.

The relationship between Colton and Quinn, while sweet, was something that didn't quite convince me of it's genuineness. Because how does one go straight from grief to love, without any work on oneself first? Also, there was always this question at the back of my mind that said maybe she's projecting her feelings for Trent onto Colton because of the fact that they share the same heart? This is a confusion that Quinn herself goes through, and while she resolves it at the end and acknowledges that Colton is his own person and she loves him, I wasn't quite satisfied. I also wasn't very convinced with the ending, because how would anyone get over such a huge deception so easily? And there was also this instance with Colton when I felt that maybe Kirby felt the same too, but didn't want to delay the 'happy ending'?

I am truly appreciative of how the author has written about what Colton is going through (psychologically) after the transplantation. Because you'd think that now that he's got a new heart, everything'll be hunky dory, right? Wrong. There is a lot of conflict, and guilt, besides the medical complications, and I think Kirby did a great job capturing the essence of that.

Beautiful:

Jessi Kirby has beautiful, beautiful writing. I'm a sucker for good prose, and hers is oh so wonderful. There were passages that I wanted to reread just to feel again, while at the same time wanting to go ahead and read faster to experience more of her writing.

This book just has such an amazing way of integrating so many different things into it. They might not be in your face, but they leave an impact as if they were. For instance, take the nurses at the hospital. In one short visit, we see how its not just a job for them, but they genuinely care about Colton, and are like protective mother bears about his welfare (it reminded me of my extended stays at the hospital during my childhood).

Another thing... the epigraphs give an insightful look into heart transplantation, what the donor's family goes through, how the recipient feels, and the possibility that maybe a heart is more that simply an organ. It raises other possibilities and makes you think and I loved it!

BOTTOMLINE: A story with wonderful, real characters, and just as, if not more beautiful writing that will tug at your heartstrings with the grief it holds, while at the other times leaving you smiling at the cuteness overload. It's predictable and has it's faults, but I think the pluses outweigh the minuses.

There Were Books Involved: I adored the ocean-side setting... The setting was just so vivid, and so gorgeous, and I am nothing if not a sucker for well-written, realistic ocean-side settings.

Writer of Wrongs: I don't know, this book felt like it was missing something. Maybe it was the fact that the plot was missing some kind of through-line besides Quinn and Colton hanging out and having emotions.

Hello, Chelly: That is the beauty of Jessi Kirby's writing. It is always transportive. You feel what her characters feel and what they see as if you're actually there.

HOLDING QUOTE:
We found our own synchronity together, his heart thumping out a slow, steady beat and mine filling in the spaces between.

"Good," he says, like it's another one of his little victories. "Because this is the part where you fall in love."

It's terrifying to realise how much of your world is wrapped around loving another person.