I received this book for free from Roaring Brook Press in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay Smith
Published by Roaring Brook Press on October 25th, 2016
Genres: Paranormal, Time-Travel, YA
Source: Roaring Brook Press
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A time-travel story that alternates between modern day and 19th century Japan as one girl confronts the darkness lurking in her soul.
No one knows what to do with Reiko. She is full of hatred. All she can think about is how to best hurt herself and the people closest to her. After a failed suicide attempt, Reiko’s parents send her from their Seattle home to spend the summer with family in Japan to learn to control her emotions. But while visiting Kuramagi, a historic village preserved to reflect the nineteenth-century Edo period, Reiko finds herself slipping back in time into the life of Miyu, a young woman even more bent on revenge than Reiko herself. Reiko loves being Miyu, until she discovers the secret of Kuramagi village, and must face down Miyu’s demons as well as her own.
I don’t write in books and have become too lazy to keep an actual notepad by my side while I am reading but recently I decided that I wanted to do a better job of keeping track of my feels so when I write a review two weeks after I’ve read the book, I have something to jog up my memory. Sticky Notes were the answer. And while I did not tab the shit out of this book (or really any book because I am more of a reader than a note taker), I did tab a scene in this book and write OMG!!!
You were probably wondering where I was going with the whole insight into my reading process thing weren’t you? I AM SORRY. I felt like backstory was important just so you could kind of begin to understand the kind of book A Darkly Beating Heart is. One that inspires OMG!!! stickies.
Reiko is an unlikable MC. I did not like her for most of the book because she is not a nice person. She does not do nice things and has hurt people in the past just because she believed it was justified. To be fair, she has been wronged a whole lot in her short life but her approach to making things ‘even’ is NOT the best. The thing is, Reiko IS a well-written character. Even when it seems impossible to support or justify her cruelty, it is easy to understand her and see that underneath all the awfulness, she is just a girl who has been hurt by people who she should have been able to count on.
This however is not the story of how Reiko realizes that she needs to deal with her feelings in a healthy way, at least not at first. Reiko’s parents ship her off to Japan to stay with her relatives for the summer and hope that the change might help her feel less hatred in her heart. That doesn’t quite work because when Reiko and a bunch of people are visiting the village of Kuramagi, Reiko gets transported into the life of Myu, a girl living in 1862 who has even more anger issues than Reiko does. Instead of being a tad terrified by Myu, Reiko is comforted by the anger and finds herself seeking out this alternative life more and more until well… that would be a spoiler.
A Darkly Beating Heart does have a PNR element to it and the transition into ‘believing’ is actually beautiful. Reiko is completely thrown off when she is transported in time but she connects the dots little by little and in a realistic manner so it was easy to believe her and even easier to get behind the whole time travel aspect (because the way it works in this book is a little odd). For those of you who like a little bit more sci-fic in your time travel and less paranormal, you might have that aspect of the book a tad unsatisfying because it isn’t really explained. It kind of just happens and to immerse yourself in the book you have to let go of the fact that there is no real reason for why she is being transported in time (there is a pnr explanation but not anything more grounded in science.)
There is a slight romance factor to the book that is important in some ways. Reiko has a crush on a girl who works at their bed & breakfast and when Reiko is Miyu she is in love with this dude (I am so good with names. I remember everythingggg.) BASICALLY Reiko has a love interest but no real romance which makes sense because Reiko really isn’t ready to be in a relationship since she really cannot relate to other people.
The best part about this book is the plot. I say this as a plot person though and there are LOTS of things to appreciate about this book. I love that A Darkly Beating Heart doesn’t necessarily fit into one genre category. Its got time travel, a little bit of a mystery, a coming of age, HORROR! The various elements work well together without losing their essence (I totally feel like I am judging food right now) and are combined perfectly. I LOVE the nail-biting, fast-paced nature of this book and I love the horror aspect that makes me want to curl into a ball but most of all, I love the journey of Reiko as a character (does this make me a character person? WHAT? I am a confused banana).
I do feel like this review is turning into a rambling mess so I am going to stop BUT you should definitely check this book out when it is out in the world and hopefully you’ll love it as much as I did.
4.5 Hot Espressos