When Marlowe gets a heart transplant and a second chance at life, all she wants to do is to thank her donor’s family. Maybe then she can move on. Maybe then she’ll discover who she is if she’s no longer The Dying Girl. But with a little brother who dresses like every day is Halloween, a vegan warrior for a mother, and an all-out war with the hot butcher’s apprentice next door, Marlowe’s life is already pretty complicated. And her second chance is about to take an unexpected turn...
TIN HEART by Shivaun Plozza is a YA contemporary novel that follows Marlowe Jensen after she receives a heart transplant. She’s happy, but there is a little voice in the back of her head reminding her someone else had to die for her to live. If she could connect with the donor’s family and get to know them, then she wouldn’t feel like Frankenstein’s monster 2.0. The only problem is the family has asked not to be contacted. When Marlowe goes against their wishes, she must ask herself if her need to honor the donor has become selfish, and in the backlash, she learns that not all scars are visible.
My favorite part about this book is Marlowe’s voice. It’s so fresh and relatable, particularly in her life-is-stranger-than-fiction moments. Like Marlowe, there have been countless times when I have also wondered, “how did I get here?” I love how Plozza lets Marlowe ramble on, especially when she sets the scene and asks rhetorical questions. Marlowe is a sympathetic character, but isn’t written for sympathy, hero worship, or inspiration porn. She’s written like a human and meets every situation like one too.
The star-crossed lovers’ subplot is also a lot of fun. Two hot-blooded teenagers working next door to each other at their parents’ shops. One is a butcher. The other is a hippie vegan. What could possibly go wrong? This part of the story could have easily been too cheesy, but Plozza walks the line carefully, and because Marlowe and Leo’s relationship is not the main focus of the book, it works. Marlowe and Leo’s banter make me laugh and I love how dynamic Leo is.
With that being said, there are multiple stock characters in this book that detract from the story. For example, there’s the angry dad who wants his son to take over the family business and doesn’t want him to go to college, the school bully who is relentless and has no remorse, and the dumb teacher who is completely out of touch with what is happening in his classroom. I also had no idea where the book was taking place until I was about one third of the way through. I would have appreciated a stronger setting, especially since I’ve never been to Australia and it would have been nice to be able to visualize it better.
Overall though, TIN HEART is a wonderful book, full of humor, romance, friendship, and playing dress-up.