I am in two minds about whether or not I enjoyed this book. On the one hand, I found it interesting reading and I got through it in just a few days, and never considered not carrying on til the end, as I wanted to see how things worked out. On the other hand, some of the characters are a bit annoying and not entirely realistic, which put a dampener on things for me.
The book follows the diary entries of a nineteen/twenty year old girl, Vida, who has just had a heart transplant after a lifetime of sickness, and the donor's husband, Richard, who is obviously grieving after having lost his wife. When Vida and Richard meet, Vida declares she has fallen in love with him, leading Richard to wonder whether part of his wife has transferred to Vida.
There are some nice moments in the book and certainly towards the end I found myself quite emotionally involved and doing a lot of crying! However Vida is, especially in the beginning, very annoying and the way she treats her mother made me quite angry. She develops a lot as a character during the book but I did wonder whether the transformation was possible; can someone go from being that insensitive to that perceptive? Richard is not brilliantly written either. At times you really feel his grief and can identify with him but at others he is a bit of an odd character and it is difficult to understand where he is coming from.
I also found the book to be quite disjointed time-wise. Sometimes I would think events were occurring a few days after the previous event, and it is later noted that months have gone by in between. This can be quite confusing.
I did find there were good parts to this book but I wouldn't go out of my way to recommend it and I don't think I'd read it again. It would make a good TV movie though!
This book has an RRP of £6.99 but can be bought on Amazon.co.uk for £4.04. However I'd suggest getting it from the library instead, or buying it second hand (lol, sorry!).
(updated from my review on Amazon.co.uk)
Second Hand Heart is a love story, but it's not your average love story. Then again, is it really a love story? This one is about a nineteen year old called Vida who has spent her short life preparing to die, then finally comes a new heart. But with somebody else's death, along comes a new chance for Vida.
Then there's Richard. He's just lost his beloved wife in a car accident and hasn't even begun to come to terms with his grief. Yet, he feels compelled to meet the girl who has been given his wife's heart.
When Vida & Richard meet at the hospital, Vida immediately falls for Richard. However, he dismisses her feelings and thinks she's a foolish child.
Can a second hand heart bring two people together?
The book is written in journal format and each journal entry is a chapter. The first few chapters of the book are Vida's journal, then we get a few journal entries from Richard, before going back to Vida and it carries on like that. There's also a few emails, mainly between Richard and his mother-in-law, thrown into the mix. It may sound like it could get confusing, but it isn't and the story flows seamlessly between the two journals.
Second Hand Heart isn't just a love story, it addresses the subject of organ donation and transplantation as well as the theory of cellular memory (where the donor recipient takes on memories, habits, interests and tastes of the donor, that may have somehow been stored in the cells of the transplanted organ). While I don't usually go for a love story type of book, I'm all for organ donation (as I've let my family know) and I've heard of cellular memory, so I thought this might be interesting.
Much like Richard did, I found the character of Vida to come across as a bit childish for her age. However, after a while of thinking that, I came to remember that Vida had a different upbringing to most children. She was weak and spent most of her childhood at home with her mother, rather than out making friends etc. While I understood that, I did find her character to be a bit on the stalker-ish side too, in the way that she pursues Richard. Still, I found her to be a unique character (how many young girls have an elderly best friend?)
Despite having never lost a loved-one as close as Richard has, I can understand his need to hang on to the life-force of his wife. His mixed emotions and on-going grief are understandable for somebody in his situation.
I've never read any of Catherine Ryan Hyde's books before, though I recognised the name. Catherine is a best-selling author (and deservedly so) and I think most people will have heard of Pay It Forward. I've not read the book, but I have seen the movie (though apparently the two are very different). Having read Second Hand Heart, I'm certainly interested in reading more of her work.
I enjoyed Second Hand Heart and the journey taken through the Story. I found that you think it's going to go one way and then it goes in another direction. This is definitely a worthwhile read and one I did in 3 sittings.
Second Hand Heart is released in the UK in paperback on 16th September.
Please note: I received this book free from Transworld Publishers as part of the Transworld Summer Reading Challenge. However, this in no way influenced my opinion of the book.
This review is also posted on my website and on GoodReads.com