Things We Know by Heart
Genre: Contemporary, YA
Publication date: April 21, 2015
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.
-A copy was provided by HarperTeen for review-
You know a book is really special when you’ve only just begun and you’re already overwhelming with emotions. Imagine, I’ve only read a few pages of this novel and my eyes were starting to water already. My little brother was even giving me a bewildered look as he saw me wipe my tears away with the back of my hand.
Le brother: What’s up with you?
Me: This book… this book is… it’s just so sad…!
Le brother: You’re crying over a book?
Me: I’m not crying over a book. I’m crying over the characters in this book!
Le brother: … you’re crying over a book.
Me: Fuck you, you heartless bastard. You wouldn’t understand.
Pffft, brothers. Who needs them?
I’ve first read Jessi Kirby in Golden, a heart-warming and relatable story of a girl who was looking towards her future with uncertainty, and it remains as one of the best Contemporary books I’ve read up to this day. Kirby has this unique writing ability that truly brings out the thoughts and feelings of her characters, to the point that they accurately mirror the kind of thoughts and frustrations of people undergoing the same issues. You read her book, and you feel like her characters are so real, because how could anyone write such heartfelt monologues if they weren’t written by someone who went through the same thing? I’m not saying that Kirby probably went through similar insecurities and feelings herself, but whether or not she did or didn’t, you can really see through her work that she is able to put herself in individuals with such problems and convert their emotions to words.
Things We Know by Heart is not an exception.
This book was utterly beautiful and honest. I’ve read a lot of books about characters mourning and in grief over the death of a loved one, but Things We Know by Heart is probably the only book that really reached out to me, that really showcased how mourning really is: that empty feeling inside you; the constant longing and yearning for that one person and the hurt that comes along with it knowing he’s never, ever coming back. How it’s easy to say “move on!” or “move forward!” or “he would want you to be happy!” and how it’s actually hard to do any of those things, because the concept of letting go is just so scary. You’ve been with someone you love and care about, and then all of a sudden he’s gone from your life, and days float by and nothing seems to really matter, and you take anything – anything – to lift a fraction of that heaviness away.
Which is what Quinn Sullivan did.
When her boyfriend died, he gave life to five other people when his organs were donated. She wrote a letter to each of them, and four wrote back, and the one recepient who didn’t had the organ that mattered to her – the heart. And so she sought him. She found him. And by finding him, she found herself – that part of her that died with Trent, waiting to be cured and resurrected.
I really can’t praise this book enough. It’s profound and deep, written in a genuine and heartfelt way that only a master storyteller is capable of telling. Even though we only know very little about Trent, mainly through the snippets of memories Quinn, the heroine, tells us, we already feel a veil of heaviness when it came to him. Like we also lost a friend, or a lover, or a family member. Every time the heroine remembers him and their memories together, I can’t help but get teary-eyed, something I couldn’t imagine happening because Trent died before we even get to know him. This is how effective the writing is – it grabs you instantly and makes you mourn with Quinn, feeling every helplessness and vulnerabilities she felt.
But this book is not all about grief. It’s also about healing and one’s journey to self-recovery. I love how it portrays the difficulties of getting back on your feet, and how it only takes one small step to jumpstart it. That step? Colton.
I used to hate the name “Colton”. There was this one season of Survivor where a person named “Colton” was the embodiment of an extremely annoying and migraine-inducing male primadonna. I hated him so much and every time I heard the name “Colton” I would rememeber him and all the things his lazy ass did. But the Colton Thomas here made me forget all those ridiculous things and fall in love with him. His persona was such a breath of fresh air. He was the one who received Trent’s heart, and although he feels grateful for being given a chance at life, he still has his own demons to face. He was a sweetheart who was patient, kind, and caring; because of his sickness, he viewed life as both fragile and beautiful, and he reminded Quinn that despite all the bad things happening around us, there is always something to look forward to, too, that would make life worth living.
Seriously, there are so many life lessons to be learned here. Golden was life-changing for me, because I had the same problems as the heroine at the time I read it. Things We Know by Heart was the same way in which it reminded me of what’s important.
That life is fragile, but it’s because it is that makes it beautiful, too. By recognizing the fact that life can end so suddenly and for no reason at all, we must always live life to the fullest. And sometimes, it’s the simple things that mean the most to us.
That letting go doesn’t mean forgetting what’s in the past. Letting go simply means accepting them to have been a part of who you are. It’s not betraying anyone, but being grateful for the mark they left in your life, and opening yourself to others again.
That having weaknesses doesn’t make you weak. Getting through them is hard, but it doesn’t do anyone any good to force yourself through it. Baby steps are okay, and there will always be others who’ll walk with you overcoming them. However long it takes.
If you have to buy ONE contemporary book in 2015, please, please, please let it be this. This is a beautiful and heartfelt story written in the rawest, most heartfelt way possible. I absolutely love it.