October 16, 2015

Book Review: Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby

Things We Know by HeartThings We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby
Rating: /5

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Things We Know by Heart tells a story that follows the life of people after an organ donation. A seventeen years old teenager, Trent, died on a car accident and per his own request; his organs were donated to the others who needed it. The moment he took his last breath, lungs, kidney, liver, cornea, and heart were sent directly to those who might have been waiting for the organs they needed all their life. Quinn Sullivan, Trent’s girlfriend, had a rough time accepting the fact Trent was really gone. She holed herself up for days and refused to be accompanied with anything but grief. At least, Trent had left parts of them to stay alive in the world and that’s the only treasure Quinn still could cling onto: to reach out to each of them and see for herself how Trent still could share happiness with others even if he’d already gone. But one person missed the tear-inducing encounter tied under Trent’s good deed. The person who received Trent’s heart refused to be met by the donor’s family for a reason. Even though Quinn had met the four others recipient, it was the recipient of the heart that Quinn wanted to meet the most. That heart had been the one that Trent used to love Quinn, to encourage him calling her name on that first meet, to where Trent kept his promise to be with Quinn all his life. It was the heart that Quinn matched its beat with hers, the day she thought everything would be all rainbows for them in the future. Quinn wanted to see who the person who received the most treasured part of Trent was. Even if it would be from afar, even if there’s no chance for her to feel it again, Quinn needed to know who it was for one last closure before she moved on.
‘For so long, I was the one with his heart. I just need to see where it is now.’
Thomas Colton. It was the name Quinn found as Trent’s heart recipient when she browsed it and stumbled across his sister’s blog one day. Quinn had sacredly following the blog updates as his sister wrote all of about Colton’s recovery days for the world to see. Now, four hundred days after Trent’s accident, Quinn decided to break confidentiality right of organ recipient by seeing Colton. She thought of all reasons to mentally justify her action and came up with none. But she only wanted to see, no more than that. Holding onto that simple promise to herself, Quinn drove over to Colton’s family surf shop only to be slapped by another shocking revelation. Quinn might succeed in stopping herself from crossing any more boundaries, but she surely didn’t expect for the nature to take control and give her a cosmological coincidence to meet Colton, didn’t expect to find something shift in the air as their eyes met, didn’t expect for a string to tug her heart from that more-pathetic-than-normal encounter.
‘…like maybe even though we don’t know each other that well, our hearts do.’

What I Feel
God, I feel like my heart is broken to pieces all over again writing that synopsis above. Though I (weirdly) didn’t shed a single tear while reading, this book successfully grinded my heart into confetti. I did have tears gathering in the edge of my eyes but that’s it all. All I felt, though, these little gasps, some mini heart-attacks, and lots of lemme-close-the-book-and-my-eyes-for-a-sec moments. Guess that time I wasn’t just in the mood to cry at all because now that I think again, this is a truly heartrending story to not cry over. What a rebel mood!

Stellar Points (Lots of it!)
Anyway, I have a lot of things that I really really loved from this book. The simple plot―though it was kind of dragged at some points―, really lovable characters, heartbreaking facts and trivia of heart and heart transplantation, sweet sweet romance, and all those bewitching words the author used to tell this story. Everything worked together in sync to send these mellow viruses all over my body while reading the book.
The characters are utterly flawless. Not that I meant they all have personality of angels, it’s more because they’re so natural it almost feels like seeing actual persons. All characters perfectly portrayed the feeling of real persons when being put in such circumstances. How they were broken, left, hurt, and slammed on the face by harsh reality. Quinn’s parents were not directly involved in the main issue but there were scenes where we could see a glimpse of their wise characters that Quinn could learn from.
(Just where the hell have I been all my life that I only notice her books now??)
I really love how detailed Jessi’s narration of every scene, every emotion, and every place the characters were in. The story took majority of its setting on water while involving variety of water-sports as like kayaking and surfing. The sets where Quinn and Colton went kayaking on were my best favorites. The picturesque description of the river, the cave, how the algae caused bioluminescence with the water, lying on the boat watching the fireworks lit up the sky in fourth July, God, these are materials worth-filming! Actually, when I was only a few chapters through, I did keep thinking that, ‘this book should be made into a movie’. Can you believe that I actually have a vivid picture of that scene in my mind? That if this book somehow going to make it to the big screen and if the universe wants me to fill the director position (???), I already know how the scene would go on? And the emotion, every single feeling, was smoothly conveyed to the readers to feel along with the characters. Amazing that during the entire 304 pages, this book successfully shifted my attention from my own life to these characters’ life.

‘You-Got-Me-On-My-Knees’ Romance
The romance between the main characters was the attraction point. With so many secrets hidden behind the layer, Quinn and Colton chose to put everything aside except the growing feelings in each their hearts. Quinn, as she tried to brush the guilt both to Trent and Colton. Colton, as he tried to leave behind the past that had shaped him into who he is now. I’m aware of how fast the progress of their relationship here, like how quick Colton decided that he interested in Quinn and how Quinn almost never said no to Colton’s invitation to hang out. But nothing about it bothered me because besides the ‘heart’ thingy between them, I liked to think that there was another reason for them to act so. For Quinn, obviously, it was because she wanted to spend some more time with a part of Trent (even though the feeling would eventually grow into something more). For Colton, he might feel what we called as ‘love at the first sight’. Cheesy, I know, but I could really picture Colton’s character as someone just like that. Colton is a good, soft-hearted boy with a charming and rather shy personality. But once he set his targets on, he would take anything to reach for it. Meanwhile Quinn is the kind of girl that loves too much, grieves too much, yet quite a risk-taker when she wants to. I loved the adventurous side within her that perfectly matched Colton’s strong-willed. Together they made a sweet couple whose relationship would stay as strong as their determined self.
'As hard as we both tried, and as much as we both wanted it to be otherwise, we are made of our pasts, and our pains, our joys and our losses.'
Quinn was the girl who surrounded by memories of the past and Colton was the boy who only wanted to focus on the future. As their hearts collided, they anchored each other to stay in the now, in the present where future is meant to be faced not blindingly mapped out; where the past is meant as a reminder to always be grateful, not something that you should dread or cling onto too much. A misfortunate fate brought them together so they could learn one important lesson of living that they might had been missing out before: to let go of the past, to not worry too much of the uncertainty of the future, to just live in the moment.

My Issue(s)
The ending was predictable but for once in my life I didn’t even care about it. My only issue with this book is probably the lack of parents’ involvement in the story, especially Colton’s. While I really love how caring and protective his sister could be, with a condition as complex as his, it would be much better to involve the role parents to give a more familial touch to the story.

Final Thoughts
Things We Know by Heart doesn’t just provide sweet love story of young people but it slips another important element to enrich it as well, which is acceptance of loss and letting go of the pasts as part of continuing to live … and to love. With a rare yet brilliant topic and engaging writing style, this book is going to be your next perfect read of poignant romance.
I just hope that my review does do justice to the beauty of the story.

Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.


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