Little Rascals Bookshelf

Pen Billam, Independent Usborne Organiser


October Book Club Review - Instructions for a Second-Hand Heart

13th October 2017

This novel is a powerful exploration of what it means to be alive and of learning to live when your world has altered beyond recognition.

For Niamh, life is lived in the shadow of her perfect twin brother Leo. But when a tragic accident takes Leo's life, Niamh is overridden with guilt for being the twin that survived.

For Jonny, life is lived attached to a machine that keeps his failing heart beating. But when he receives a donor heart, live is suddenly full of options - but what use are options when you don't really know who you are?

Instructions for a Second-Hand Heart follows the lives of Niamh and Jonny as they link and intertwine in a world without Leo, and learn to navigate their new lives and all the challenges that come with them. The split narrative perspective is incredibly engaging, and you find yourself devouring the chapters, waiting for the next instalment of your favourite narrator. 

Tamsyn Murray's writing is incredibly engaging, and this novel is the definition of a page-turner. From the Facebook messages that begin the relationship between Niamh and Jonny, to the text messages that provide them with solace when they need it the most, their relationship is entirely believable.

Whilst the novel initially seems to be about death, and learning to survive in the fall-out, it is perhaps far more about living. For Jonny, life has only ever been about being sick, but his new heart provides him with the lifestyle he never thought he would have. For Niamh, life has only ever been about Leo, and never living up to his golden status, and without him, she doesn't really know who she is. Together, Jonny and Niamh teach each other how to live, and help each other to discover who they really are. In the most unlikely of situations, they teach us that it's ok to be alive and to be yourself.

Instructions for a Second-Hand Heart has a powerful plot, relatable characters, and two page-turning narrators. Perfect for fans of John Green, this novel is sure to be one that everyone will want to talk about.

Here's what our Organisers thought of it:

'A great insight into dealing with death, friendships and heart transplants' - Nicky Powell

'It's not afraid to deal with really big issues that affect different people in so many different ways. It takes you on a wonderful rollercoaster of emotion.' - Anna Koe

'Could not put it down.' Fiona Sivewright

'Loved it. An excellent read.' Mel Reynolds

'Loved it. Really emotional.' Fiona Amstutz

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