Book Review – The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett

Posted December 4, 2015 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Read in 2015, YA / 2 Comments

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review – The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn BennettThe Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett
Published by Feiwel & Friends on November 3rd 2015
Pages: 304
Genres: Contemporary, Mental Illness
Format: eARC
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Also by this author: Binding the Shadows, Banishing the Dark


A mysterious graffiti artist, an anatomy-obsessed artist, and a night bus that will bring the two together.

Artist Beatrix Adams knows exactly how she's spending the summer before her senior year. Determined to follow in 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?

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The Anatomical Shape of a Heart introduces two uncommon artists that meet one another on the Night Owl bus. Beatrix “Bex” Adams is intent on spending her summer perfecting her scholarship entry, an intricate drawing of a cadaver. Jack Vincent is also an artist, but of the more secretive sort, seeing as his graffiti/art goes up on the walls of buildings all over the city. Bex’s focus from her scholarship entry to Jack and his intriguing nature and otherworldly good looks immediately switches and predictability ensues.

I’m a huge fan of this author and her adult Urban Fantasy series, Arcadia Bell. While I’m not a frequent reader of YA Contemporary I was still anxious to see how Bennett did with the switch to YA. Suffice it to say, it breaks my anatomical heart to not have loved this as much as I had hoped. Initially, this reminded me heavily of Graffiti Moon but I failed to fall for Bex and Jack as much as I fell for Lucy and Ed. So, if you’re looking for another love story + graffiti, this isn’t it. At first, I did love Bex. I loved her tales of kids at school calling her Wednesday Addams because of the way she dressed, her affinity for braids, and naturally because of her similar last name. I loved her quirkiness and her desire to do art that was outside of the norm. I loved her conviction and determination to win the scholarship. I wanted her romance with Jack to not completely devour all things interesting about her, but it did. She transformed into a total manic pixie dream girl with Jack fitting in completely as the manic pixie dream boy.

‘When the jacket stood back up, it grew arms and legs and a face that probably competed with Helen of Troy’s in the ship-launching department.

‘He was a walking figure study in beautiful lines and lean muscle, with miles of dark lashes, and cheekbones that looked strong enough to hold up his entire body.’

There is honestly nothing worse than a heroine waxing poetic about a boys looks,  ad nauseam. A sufficient description without going overboard or sounding like a swoony idiot would have been preferable. So Jack goes around the city of San Francisco in his 1958 Corvette tagging up the place. He has a “retro-rockabilly” look and wears mala beads but claims to be a bad Buddhist. As anticipated, he has a mysterious past where something somber happened but he can’t talk about it because sad.

Then there’s Bex and her sudden obsession with all things Jack. There’s one point in the story where the duo hadn’t been talking because Jack was going through his sad things. A new piece of Jack’s art appears with a single word: ENDURE. Bex begins mulling over the meaning and of course immediately made it all about her.

‘ENDURE. Did it mean anything? Was he expressing something about whatever he was going through? Was it a sign that he was ready to communicate again?’

Oh, come on. His art/graffitti/whatever you want to call it clearly has personal meaning for him and he was doing it long before he met you. The answer is the very definition of the word: to suffer (something painful or difficult) patiently. The whole psuedo-mystery surrounding Jack’s past (including his romantic past) could have all been resolved over a nice, simple heart-to-heart. But that’s too rational to actually happen and where would we get the requisite drama? I don’t know, I don’t mean to hate on it so much but it was all just so predictable, pretentious, and overdone.

But before I morph into a complete asshole, I’m going to end on a happy note and talk about the one thing I did appreciate about this story: the sex-positive message. We have two teen characters that actually make it a point to have a discussion about sex before diving straight in. There’s also a parent that’s open about sex talks and brings home mass quantities of condoms… just in case. View Spoiler »

I’m clearly not the targeted reader and sometimes I feel I do books a disservice by attempting to explore these genres that I don’t typically read, just in an attempt to branch out. Nothing wrong with reading outside of your comfort zone but I think it’s time to accept that YA contemporary love stories are simply not my cup of tea.



2 responses to “Book Review – The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett

  1. Like you, I didn’t really enjoy this all that much, but for different reasons. I felt almost as if Jenn created a checklist and then followed it to write a perfect YA contemporary read. Diversity, sex-positive message, positive representation of mental illness, check, check, check. And so on. It felt empty.

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