At 7:45 a.m. on the day before Thanksgiving break, a bomb goes off at Edison High. Nine people die instantly. Fifteen are critically injured. Twenty-two suffer less severe injuries. And one is blinded. Those who survive, struggle to cope with the loss and destruction. All must find new meaning for their lives as a result of something they may never understand. Lurlene McDaniel’s signature expertise and finesse in dealing with issues of violence, death, and physical as well as emotional trauma in the lives of teens is immediate and heartrending.
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"At 7:45 a.m. on the day before Thanksgiving break, a bomb goes off at Edison High. Nine people die instantly. Fifteen are critically injured. Twenty-two suffer less severe injuries. And one is blinded." Life as these students know it is forever changed and they must now figure out how to go on living.
We get a glimpse of their lives before the bombing and we see the usual high school social landscape with Student Council President Morgan, her jock boyfriend Trent, and the rest of their popular friends. Then there are the outsiders like inked up Roth, the guy with the troubled past who can't seem to stay on the straight and narrow and his long time friend "with benefits", Liza who has enough piercings to send a metal detector up in smoke.
Morgan and Trent are the "It" couple of the school but of course, it wouldn't be high school without drama in the love department. Trent loves Morgan, Morgan loves Trent, Roth secretly loves Morgan, Morgan likes the attention Roth gives her and Liza is madly in love with Roth. (Got it all straight?)
From all appearances, Roth and Morgan couldn't be more different and as hard as Morgan tries to unite the student body, even she can't bridge the gap between the naturally occurring cliques. Roth wants to get closer to Morgan but so far is content to watch her from the sidelines. Liza is insanely jealous of the attention Roth pays Morgan and tries desperately to get him to love her back. When he shares a secret with her, Liza makes the mistake of repeating it to some friends, and the information gets back to Morgan. Her decision not only damages Roth's reputation but their friendship as well. (Not the best way to get a guy to love you back.)
This story makes a good point of how "judging a book by it's cover" is often a mistake. Roth and Trent, while physically different in appearance, are both good guys. Trent is the All-American jock who enjoys taking every chance he can to make out with his girlfriend but does show restraint with Morgan. He truly loves her and wants to spend forever with her, after they finish college first. He is willing to do anything for her - literally.
Roth seems to fit the bad boy image but once you look past the ink, you see a boy whose sweet, kind and who wants the love of a beautiful girl just like the next guy. He's lived through a horrific childhood and has acted out over the years as a result. He tries to change but gets pigeon holed a lot because of past mistakes. His sacrifices are surprising to some but not to those who really know him.
Morgan is smart, pretty and a fighter. She's determined to succeed at whatever she puts her mind too whether it's a school function, her relationship with Trent or her future. She has everything planned out and doesn't want anything or anyone to mess those plans up. Roth is the only thing that rattles her. Something about the way he looks at her and makes her insides twist, could throw a wrench in her plans with Trent, if she lets it.
On what seems like an ordinary school day, life changes in an instant when that bomb goes off. In a flash, Morgan's future with Trent is no longer crystal clear and Roth's past will once again come back to haunt him. The only thing that is certain is how Morgan and Roth's lives will be intertwined in a way neither of them ever imagined.
*Normally, I'm a fan of the "Epilogue" but this one felt incomplete somehow like it focused on the wrong characters. This is just my opinion but it would've seemed more appropriate or interesting to have it be the five or ten year anniversary showing where they were now.
I have read countless Lurlene McDaniel books and have loved nearly all of them, Red Heart Tattoo has me teetering on the edge of like and dislike. A high school bombing is a tough subject to write a novel on, however I think it could have been done a bit better. The novel was short, too short to properly develop the characters. The characters were pretty cliché. A popular girl with a jock boyfriend and a bad boy who’s in love with the popular girl, I’ve read many books with the same concept, but this ‘love triangle’ was torn apart by tragedy. This is what set this common love theme apart from all other novels, they had to figure out a way to get over the devastating event that has taken place.
The writing didn’t seem very mature, these are high school students, and high school students can have a mature voice. When teenagers text they don’t talk like “WHERE R U?” “TLK 2 U SOON”, we can write actual words in a text message. The language in this book seemed like it was written for younger children but with older characters.
I would give this novel a 3.5/5. If it had been longer and more potential for character and plot development, I think I would have enjoyed it a bit better.
At first it is a bit confusing because there are several rotating point of views, but I quickly got a handle on the personality and voices, and found myself caring, despising, cringing, and rooting for the different characters. It may seem that it's hard to encapsule a voice and several lives in so few pages, but I think she did a superb job.
Morgan is probably my favorite character, and the one that I connected with the most. It surprised me a bit because I have never been that popular, but she had a personality that I couldn't help but like.
Roth was also a very developed character, and more like someone that I would have been found hanging out with in school. I liked the different layers that were peeled back and how I got to know and care for his character.
The pace never lets up and Red Heart Tattoo kept me flipping until I reached the satisfying conclusion.