rhtRed Heart Tattoo by Lurlene McDaniel
Release Date: July 24, 2012
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Source: NetGalley
Rating: blank_starblank_star
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

At 7:45 a.m. on the day before Thanksgiving break, a bomb goes off at Edison High. Nine people die instantly. Fifteen are critically injured. Twenty-two suffer less severe injuries. And one is blinded. Those who survive, struggle to cope with the loss and destruction. All must find new meaning for their lives as a result of something they may never understand.

This cover is so weird. I thought this was a romance when I first saw it. I almost think it’s inappropriate for the subject matter, but whatever, I can shrug that off. The writing was incredibly simplistic and not very detailed, which annoyed me part of the time, but lent some realism to the narrative as well. This isn’t about a lush medieval environment, this is the aftermath of a bombing. There are, however, some incredibly cheesy lines that made me cringe, too. I don’t think the teenagers really speak like teenagers in this one. They talked very formally sometimes, with weird slang at others, and sometimes I felt like I was reading middle-grade. I don’t mean to be rude, but McDaniel is no Lauren Myracle. I also hate the “I don’t want to lose my virginity [insert place here].” Why not? The backseat of a car is really no less dignified than a bed considering the act itself, and the place mentioned in the beginning would be super romantic to lose your virginity! Can we all agree that virginity isn’t really even that big of a deal?

Man, I didn’t mean to start the review off that way! I did like this one. The topic is heavy, but the narration is good. There are a lot of cliches, like the girl whose mom never forgot her own cheerleader days and forces her dreams on her daughter, but there was a nice variety of cliched characters. I have a hard time relating to people who think high school is the prime of your life, because I’ve had a hundred times the fun in my 20s as I did in high school. There were also things Morgan said to Kelli that made me rage, like something about how “boys don’t like moody girls.” Ugh. I realize Morgan will probably grow, but that made me so mad. Everything seemed like a cliche until after the explosion. Then I really started relating to and empathizing with the characters. I hated the pregnancy storyline, but really, it was hard to hate on any of these hurting kids.

The last third of the book really did it for me, in that it showed so well how these kids triumphed (or didn’t) after the tragedy, and it really got to me. I found myself tearing up more than once, more than five times even, because this hits close to home. The Aurora theater shooting was only last weekend. The topic is fresh, and it’s not like school shootings have stopped since Columbine. This one is kind of tough to get through because of the subject matter, but I really recommend it, despite my early reservations (for a case very similar to this one, see my review of LIE by Caroline Bock). It starts as a tale of tragedy and turns into a story of hope, and I think we all need things like that right now.