A Darkly Beating Heart has been on my priority buy list for a very long time, so when I saw that the price was reduced on Amazon I just had to order myself a copy… I read the book in two days & although I didn’t give it 5 stars, I definitely wasn’t disappointed with it.
This book contains discussions of suicide, self-harm, domestic violence, depression, anti-depressants, homophobic character attitudes, scenes of a sexual nature & violence.
A Darkly Beating Heart is a book about a girl called Reiko who is sent to stay with her cousin in Japan after trying to kill herself… Reiko is full of hurt & anger, but not as much as Miyu – a girl from the 19th century – & when Reiko visits the village that Miyu once lived in, she finds herself being pulled back through history & into the other girl’s body. As Reiko starts to prefer living Miyu’s life to living her own, she discovers a secret & realises that it’s time she faced her demons, as well as Miyu’s.
I’m really not sure how to start my review for A Darkly Beating Heart, because it’s a book that I’ve wanted to read for a very, very long time so in my head I had really built it up, & in all fairness I probably put a lot of pressure on myself to enjoy it… & the book wasn’t disappointing – I did enjoy it, but it wasn’t quite as addictive as I hoped it would be so I was left a little deflated when I finished it (the ending was also kind of quick as well, which sucked). Sigh.
A key reason why I was interested in reading this book was the time travel aspect; it’s actually only the second book that I’ve read (outside of the Doctor Who novels) that involves time travel so I’m fairly new to this side of YA… but, from what I know of time travel in general, usually the character/s find themselves winging it i.e. having absolutely no idea what’s going on or how they should be acting, but in A Darkly Beating Heart this isn’t totally the case… when Reiko finds herself in Miyu’s body she finds that she does know some of what she’s doing; with access to some of Miyu’s memories Reiko is able to piece together bits of what’s going on around her, which means that she’s able to be Miyu without Miyu’s family realising that she’s acting a little differently.
As well as being excited by time travel in general, I liked that this particular time travel experience would take me back into historical Japan & Lindsay did not disappoint! I loved the details that were included & I felt that it was obvious that Lindsay had done her research. I loved feeling like I was immersed in the Edo period of Japan & I could definitely see the correlations between the 19th century Japan that features in The Shogun’s Queen by Lesley Downer (a highly researched book about the Japanese royal family in 1853; my review for which is here) & Lindsay Smith’s 19th century Japan.
So, time travel is a key theme in this book, but so is mental health & I was really hoping that Lindsay had presented this well – & thankfully she did. As someone who is on anti-depressants & someone who has dealt with suicidal thoughts I was able to really understand how Reiko was feeling at times & I really do think that Lindsay did a good job of capturing how messy & stressful depressive thoughts can be. Lindsay also chose to include the ableist thoughts that depressed people can think about themselves, & although including these thoughts could be triggering for some readers, I think including those intrusive thoughts helped to make Reiko’s depression more realistic. I definitely identified with Reiko a lot when she was having really low moments, & I certainly understood the anger that she felt at times as well.
The final thing I feel I should talk about in my review is the violence in this story – there is a lot of it; especially when you consider that this is a YA book… Now, the violence didn’t necessarily bother me – although there were times when I found myself cringing, & the violence was key to the story because of how it focused on the angrier side of depression but I know that there will be some readers who may put down the book because of the violence. There are also some scenes of a sexual nature that were a little more descriptive than what one would usually expect of a YA novel – again, this isn’t something that bothered me (in fact, I’m all for detailed sex scenes in YA) but I know that it’s definitely something that will put off some readers.
As I’ve said, there are some things contained in this story that could be immensely triggering for some readers (e.g. violence, suicidal thoughts, ableist thoughts towards oneself, etc.) but I still think that A Darkly Beating Heart tells an important story & that it has an interesting take on why we shouldn’t allow our anger to overtake us & change us. I also think that the book is an enticing read, & although I wasn’t 100% addicted to it, I still didn’t want to put it down. If angry teenagers & Japanese history is your kind of thing then you can order yourself a copy of the book using the links below: if you use the Amazon.co.uk or Book Depository links to make a purchase I will receive a small fee at no cost to you so please consider doing so.
Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com | Book Depository | Wordery
Unfortunately, this title is not currently available on Audible.