How to Excavate a Heart

How to Excavate a Heart
Age Range
Release Date
November 01, 2022
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Stonewall Honor author Jake Maia Arlow delivers a sapphic Jewish twist on the classic Christmas rom-com in a read perfect for fans of Kelly Quindlen and Casey McQuiston.
It all starts when Shani runs into May. Like, literally. With her mom’s Subaru.

Attempted vehicular manslaughter was not part of Shani’s plan. She was supposed to be focusing on her monthlong paleoichthyology internship. She was going to spend all her time thinking about dead fish and not at all about how she was unceremoniously dumped days before winter break.

It could be going better.

But when a dog-walking gig puts her back in May’s path, the fossils she’s meant to be diligently studying are pushed to the side—along with the breakup.

Then they’re snowed in together on Christmas Eve. As things start to feel more serious, though, Shani’s hurt over her ex-girlfriend’s rejection comes rushing back. Is she ready to try a committed relationship again, or is she okay with this just being a passing winter fling?

Editor review

1 review
Sweet Sapphic Hallmark-Style Romance
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
The writing flows beautifully, making this book a quick read that feels much shorter than it really is. It’s easy to like all of the characters, who make a diverse and entertaining cast. They’re well-rounded and have unique personalities, and they interact in realistic ways with each other. Shani and May have an enemies to lovers dynamic, and watching their interactions change from antagonistic to an actual relationship never felt forced. I especially loved the scenes featuring Raphael, the cutest corgi who steals the show whenever he appears. There’s fantastic Jewish and sapphic representation, and other groups are also represented in the story.

There is a little bit of profanity throughout the book, but it isn’t excessive. The material in the book still felt age appropriate, and while the characters make out a lot, there isn’t anything overtly sexual that occurs throughout the story. Shani isn’t exactly likable in the very beginning, but readers quickly get to see a different side of her that is much more likable.

Overall, this was a wonderful story. It’s easy to get invested in the characters and the story, as well as the romance itself. Arlow’s characters show a lot of growth over the course of the story, and it was enjoyable to see them change and mature. I especially liked the fact that both Shani and May are science nerds in different areas, because it’s so important to see females represented in science. Finally, the story doesn’t shy away from more difficult topics, like coming out, difficult family relationships, and sexual assault, which is mentioned but not shown on-page. This story is one that is not only fun to read, but also easy to identify with.
Good Points
-diverse cast of characters
-sapphic enemies to lovers dynamic
-fantastic character development
-sweet Hallmark-style romance
-cutest corgi sidekick
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