Artist Beatrix Adams knows exactly how she's spending the summer before her senior year. Determined to follow in Leonardo da Vinci’s footsteps, she's ready to tackle the one thing that will give her an advantage in a museum-sponsored scholarship contest: drawing actual cadavers. But when she tries to sneak her way into the hospital’s Willed Body program and misses the last metro train home, she meets a boy who turns her summer plans upside down.
Jack is charming, wildly attractive . . . and possibly one of San Francisco’s most notorious graffiti artists. On midnight buses and city rooftops, Beatrix begins to see who Jack really is—and tries to uncover what he’s hiding that leaves him so wounded. But will these secrets come back to haunt him? Or will the skeletons in Beatrix’s own family’s closet tear them apart?
Four stars: A sweet YA romance that focuses on family, art, mental illness and more.
Bex waits anxiously at the bus stop. She is forced to take the Night Owl bus home since she waited so long for the professor who never showed for their appointment. The Night Owl has a sleazy reputation, and Bex is worried. As she waits, she notices another teen lurking in the shadows. He is dressed in black and has a wonderful smile. They start up a conversation, and then he jumps on the bus and continues talking to Bex. Bex and Jack make an immediate connection, but as Bex leaves, his backpack tips over, spilling out a dangerous secret. Should Bex get to know Jack better or is he nothing but trouble?
What I Liked:
- Young Adult contemporary novels have always been hit or miss for me. Luckily, The Anatomical Shape of the Heart ended up being a win. This is a novel that has a strong focus on family, and then there is the art, and a lovely romance. In the end, it is a book that ended up being a nice, sweet read.
- Bex and Jack the main characters, and both are terrific. Bex is entering her senior year, she is a bit of a loner, quiet, shy and she is determined to get a scholarship so she can go to college and pursue a career in medical anatomical drawings. Bex comes from a broken family, her father left them three years ago. Bex, her mother and older brother are tight knit, and they work hard to make ends meet. Jack, on the other hand, comes from wealth and prestige, but you would never know it meeting him. He practices Buddhism, badly as he says, and he is a talented artist, though his outlet these days for his art expression is risqué. I liked how both Jack and Bex aren't mainstream, and I enjoyed getting to know them.
- This book has a strong focus on family. Neither Bex or Jack comes from a simple, traditional family. Bex is estranged from her father, living with her mother and her older brother who is gay. Bex mother is extremely supportive and she has a strong interest in both her children's lives. Bex does finally communicate with her father, and I appreciated the way that all played out. Jack's family situation is a bit different, I am not going to go into too many details as I don't want to ruin things, I will say his at home life is difficult and he is under constant scrutiny. He is bearing the burden of having a close family member with a psychological disorder. Even though his family life isn't easy, his parents are supportive and they come through when he needs them. I especially appreciated the way his parents handled his confession at the end. Too often, YA books have absentee parents, but not this time. I so loved that the family played a vital role.
- Art plays a big part in the book as well. I loved learning about Bex's artistic talent. She excels at sketching anatomical illustrations like in anatomy and physiology. I had never put much thought into those drawings in my textbooks, so it was interesting to learn more about them. Jack's art is different, and I won't give you the details so you can discover it for yourself, but I was left wanting to actually see those lovely letters, the descriptions were wonderful.
- Another point of interest in the book is schizophrenia. You don't often encounter this type of illness in literature. I liked how the author introduced to the topic and how it worked into the story.
- I also appreciated that this book touched on homelessness.
- I loved the San Fransisco setting.
- The romance..... it is sweet, swoon worthy and it takes its time to build. Yes, there is an instant vibe of attraction between Jack and Bex, but no worries, there is no insta love. Instead the two take their time getting to know each other as friends before anything happens, and when they do come together, it is sweet and satisfying. I liked the positive focus on sex, and the interesting twist with the virginity. I especially appreciated that there wasn't any ridiculous drama. It is a simple, straight forward romance, a breath of fresh air in YA.
- Finally, the ending draws everything to a nice close. No loose ends, no cliffhangers. A nice, neat satisfying close.
And The Not So Much:
- I loved that there was such a strong focus on family, but I was a tiny disappointed in the way that the situation regarding Bex's dad was handled. I wished there had been a more detail on the mom's actions, and I wanted her to sit down and discuss it with Bex.
- I liked that Heath, Bex's brother was gay, I wanted him to play a bigger role, and I would like to have seen more of his boyfriend, Noah. Not a big issue, just a preference.
- Even though I liked that the book ended positively, I felt like it was a tiny bit fast in comparison to the rest of the story especially when it came to the situation with Jack's sister. I would love to know how things worked out for her.
The Anatomical Shape of the Heart is a book that renewed my faith in YA contemporary books. This is a nice, pleasant book that has a strong focus on family. I enjoyed the romance, and I loved the unique art. This is a book you can pick up when you need something sweet and light. Big props to Ms. Bennett for delivering a YA without ridiculous drama, love triangles and angst.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.