Tanya Byrne

Heart-Shaped Bruise

"..with a lightness of touch addresses issues about teenagers and their need for ‘identity’."


With the closure of Archway Young Offenders Institution a notebook is found in one of the rooms. It is the diary of Emily Koll, a young woman who is awaiting trial for a crime she committed. There is no doubt of her guilt, but Emily wants to explain the reason why. How she got to such a situation and how something that appeared so straight forward became so complicated.

She was only going to get revenge on Juliet, the teenager who stabbed Emily's father while he was in the throes of killing Juliet's father. Now one is dead and the other is serving time. And Emily feels she wants to balance the scales, to pay Juliet back for sending her father to prison. When Emily finds where Juliet lives and her new identity Emily inveigles her way in to Juliet's life to take something away from her just as Juliet took something from Emily. But nothing is as simple as it seems as emotions get in the way and distort Emily's reason.

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I picked up this book expecting not to enjoy it as it doesn't seem to appeal to the male reader. This title has been 'sold' as a 'Young Adult' novel – and I think that has restricted this novel as it could so easily be enjoyed by adults. I know I did and I don't think that I could be classed as the target demographic! However, I was very quickly swept up by the punchy prose and intrigued as to where this 'diary' of Emily Koll would lead me. Once you understand that Emily is also 'Rose' and that Juliet has been transformed in to 'Nancy' under the Witness Protection Programme' this rapidly becomes a novel that is hard to stop and has the potential to call for your attention when other matters in life (work, etc) get in the way of serious reading. Byrne's debut is not a 'deep' novel but with a lightness of touch addresses issues about teenagers and their need for 'identity'. Emily (Rose) is bent on making Juliet (Nancy) pay for what she did to her father but the cuts go deeper than that. By the end of this sad tale you realise that Emily's main pain is from the uncertainty of her past, of knowing truth and lie. I am not giving the plot away but Byrne subtly peels back the layers and highlights teenage angst in a spellbinding tale that can appeal to both sexes. The solution isn't particularly mind-blowing, but the journey there is certainly one I would advise readers to take.

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