I hold your heart
Author: Karen Gregory
Publication Date: July 11th 2019
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Pages: 320 pages
The tense, tender must-read book of the summer – perfect for fans of Louise O’Neill and Sara Barnard
‘You make me feel like there’s something good in the world I can hold on to,’ Aaron says. He kisses me again, draws me so close it’s almost hard to breathe. ‘I love you, Gem. And I promise I’ll hold your heart forever.’
When Gemma meets Aaron, she feels truly seen for the first time. Their love story is the intense kind. The written-in-the-stars, excluding-all-others kind. The kind you write songs about.
But little by little their relationship takes over Gemma’s life. What happens when being seen becomes being watched, and care becomes control?
Told in both Gemma’s and Aaron’s words, this is a raw, moving exploration of gaslighting in teenage relationships that skewers our ideas of what love looks like
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own.
It is always a welcome surprise when you receive a book especially in the YA category that blows you away both for the storytelling and the absolute importance that story carries. Where on earth was this story when I was an impressionable 17-year-old girl? This is the story I needed but I’m so very grateful that young adults have this. If you’re a parent of a teenage girl BUY THIS BOOK NOW for them. I hold your heart is the first novel of Karen Gregory’s that I have read and boy it didn’t disappoint. This piece of work is an important work of fiction, stunningly flawed and bursting with hope and pain.
When I started this book (literally only 10 hours ago) I knew that it would grip me, but I also knew it would be hard going and extremely close to the bone for me personally. The author sang to my soul. I can’t emphasise just how much this book touched me. I had confidence early on that this author was going to nail this one home and boy did she ever.
Domestic Abuse, Gaslighting and the naivety of youth – all very harrowing themes but handled with care and respect. Now, I’ve read some books that have tried but failed in highlighting the importance of these issues and but never quite hit home just how important it is that the youth of today realise the signs and get out of that situation and accept all the help that is given to them- family, friends and the authorities. There was no sweeping this under the rug from the author- Domestic Abuse isn’t the big bad evil that is easy to spot. Domestic Abuse is the kind eyes, sweet words and the reeling you in with beautiful gestures. Domestic Abuse is all around us…your family or your friends are enduring this right now. That person beside you on the tube, on the bus is suffering. Know the signs, end the suffering.
Gemma is an aspiring singer with mind-blowing talent, she’s a sister, a daughter and a friend. She doesn’t have the perfect life – she feels like she plays second fiddle to her brother, the super talented football player with a bright future. Their lives revolve around football – spending weekends at football matches, washing her brothers’ dishes, washing her brothers kit and eating specialised meals that benefit her brother, did anyone care to ask about her? What did she want to do? Karen really started the seeds just within that family setting. How easily Gemma just went along with the situation, was she susceptible to the attentions of Aaron? More likely he preyed on it but still it made for interesting thoughts. This book was so close to my own experience of being 17 it was actually quite frightening. The events are near enough the same to matter and it just connected with me on such a deep and meaningful level. This novel was a door to my past, but I walked through it all the same.
I really felt for Gemma. On one hand she is a naive girl who is trying to find her place in the world but one who ultimately has the confidence knocked from her every being. Getting knocked down so far you do seriously start to question everything around you. A girl that carries on through pain and suffering but still believes in love and destiny.
This brings me front and centre with Aaron. He appears on the surface to overly sensitive but caring and extremely loving to Gemma. He starts off being a likeable male protagonist and you’re almost willing to look past his odd behaviours because on the surface he seems to really like Gemma but there is a fine line between love and obsession. However, from early on you get this feeling that you can’t shake that something is majorly wrong with this boy. He loves all the things Gemma does, turns up where she is (even though she hasn’t told him), and his experience with his ex Cherine just sets all kinds of alarm bells going off – the seriously ear-splitting type. You are sucked into the story and it is horrifying to witness just how systematically he operates – planting seeds of doubt about her family not needing or loving her quite like her brother. It didn’t take much for this to take hold and its heart-breaking to watch. Everyone could see how he was changing her – to an extent even she knew it, but nothing is quite as blind as love. Everything suffers in her life – her friendships, her family, college and most painful of all – her love of music.
The story was told mostly in Gemma’s perspective, but Aaron had some chapters and boy let me tell you it gave a much darker insight in his psyche and gave a deeper dimension into the story. The insight it brought us really made us understand that he was not of a sane mind but one that was Obsessive, controlling, disturbed and broken.
The one question that was all on the tip of my tongue was….Will she actually leave him though? Well you’ll need to read that for yourself to find out.
I’m not ashamed to say that I cried during parts of this book. The plot is just so utterly horrifying but not like in horror books but the pure fear that this is actually happening all around us and we wouldn’t even know. I received an e-copy of this book but upon finishing it I purchased a paperback of it.