A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay Smith
To be published: Oct 25, 2016
A dark time-traveling tale that alternates between modern day and nineteenth-century Edo era Japan, this story is all about Reiko, a rancorous teenaged girl whose last relationship went spectacularly sour. Because of the ripple effects of this relationship, she ends up going to Japan to stay with relatives for the summer. She is so full of hate that she has no time for anything, not even learning the Japanese language. Reiko ends up working for her uncle’s graphic design firm and travels to Kuramagi, a preserved Edo village, for work and it seems like the perfect place to plot her revenge. Only she doesn’t count on going back in time to inhabit the body of a young girl named Miyu, whose family is plotting to overthrow the shogunate. She can feel the hatred in this girl and quickly discovers that she enjoys going back in time more than real life. Will she be able to find some peace or will her need for revenge overtake her life? To find out, read this well-written novel. Recommended for ages 15+, 3-1/2 stars.
I did really like the time-traveling part of the book, and going back to a Edo Japan was fascinating, as was the plot to get rid of the shogunate. I liked Jiro’s character, until he turned on her and showed his true nature. I loved Kenji’s character, and was glad at the end she ended up collaborating with him on a comic and he got to get some happiness as well. I am very glad that I’ve read a lot of manga and other things on Japan or I would’ve gotten really lost when they just started throwing out Japanese terminology, especially with the clothing. It would’ve been nice to have footnotes or something in the back of the book to help explain things. I also wished it would’ve been a bit more clear about who we were dealing with, as the story tended to jump around a lot between Reiko and Miyu.
Wow, this book was dark! I was expecting it to be a little bit but not as much as it was. In retrospect though, it made sense with amount of crap she had to go through. She has her first mature relationship with a girl who encourages her artwork, then promptly stomps all over her heart. Then there’s the whole messed up relationship with her brother (who has got quite a few skeletons in his closet), and in turn, her unforgiving relationship with her parents. I also didn’t like the idea that a girl who may or may not be gay automatically must cut herself in order to feel okay. You can be conflicted about your sexuality (that’s honest and normal) and have other outlets to deal with the stress. I just want to give the girl a hug and tell her everything will eventually be okay but it just takes time. I could identify with a bit of the hatred and need for revenge, but not to the extent that she takes it. I wanted to smack her annoying girls she had to work with, and Reiko’s family treating her like a damaged thing that can’t take care of itself. With the incredible amount of hate, the unsurmountable need for revenge, and Reiko’s unstable mental state, the ending seemed a bit too tied-up-with-a-bow perfect. It could have been more realistic.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this ARC from MacMillan Children’s Publishing Group on Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.