By Kayla Whittle
It appears a recent trend in the young-adult publishing industry is to push forward countless novels that center their plots around tragedy. Jessi Kirby’s “Things We Know by Heart” is an interesting take on this current theme, as it seems to take place after the traumatic incidents that would typically take center stage in other novels.
Quinn loses her boyfriend in a terrible, unexpected accident, and suddenly everything about her life is a little darker. She never imagined breaking up with Trent, let alone losing him — and now she is forced to go through prom, senior year and several life-changing experiences without him. After the accident, some of Trent’s organs were donated, and Quinn begins to think that she can’t possibly move on until she’s personally met all of the organ recipients from her boyfriend’s tragic passing.
There were some parts of “Things We Know by Heart” that I truly loved. I wanted to learn more about Quinn’s relationship with her family, particularly her father and her sister, because they seemed like characters who could’ve been used much more than they were. They’re only a part of the support system that helps Quinn throughout the novel. But there’s also the budding problem of Colton, who received Trent’s heart and doesn’t know the transplant is the reason Quinn ultimately came to meet him.
I feel like much of the story was rushed to explore Quinn’s new relationship (not necessarily romantic, but hinted in that direction) with Colton, and I wish the plot hadn’t sped forward. In that way, I would have felt much more emotionally connected with these characters. Instead, I didn’t care for them as much as I should have.
The novel seemed to want to have a focus on finding the implications of how humans connect to one another. The dry and rushed plot left more questions than answers. The audience is forced to invest their emotions into a romantic connection rather than the true, human connection, since that is now the status quo for young-adult novels. If Kirby had focused less on the vague romance, the true message of the novel would have been better rendered.
With a plot that didn’t pack much punch, I was hoping for a more heart-wrenching ending. There was so much left to be explored, and the novel dropped off at an awkward, uninteresting point that left me baffled and disappointed. I feel like Kirby never really got to the heart of her own novel. The premise was good, but not executed as well as other authors with similar interests — such as Sarah Dessen —who always makes the novels message clear.
“Things We Know By Heart” is a so-so novel with no big emotional impact and no lasting memory for me. I would recommend skipping this one rather than ordering it.