October 29, 2015

Love & Art • The Anatomical Shape of a Heart

The Anatomical Shape of a Heart book cover
The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: November 3, 2015
Source/Format: Publisher || ARC
[I received this book from Macmillan. This in no way affects the contents of my review.]

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

I had no expectations when I started reading The Anatomical Shape of a Heart, and luckily, I was pleasantly surprised. It's a contemporary YA novel that hits all the right notes: complex characterization, unique elements (I have never read about anyone who aspires to draw anatomical art for a living before!) and a realistic plot with a few curveballs thrown in. The fact is, Bennett drew me into Beatrix's life so completely that it felt like a culture shock when I emerged from reading to go about my real life duties. I'd say that's a hallmark of great writing, in addition to superb storytelling, and it obviously means that The Anatomical Shape of a Heart is really really good.

It revolves around the life of Beatrix Adams. Her art, without question, is one of the most important things about her character; it defines her life goals, what she does with her free time and how she views the world around her. But that's not the entirety of who she is. She's also fiercely loyal, hardworking, smart and devoted to her family. Anyway, it's the summer before her senior year, and her goal is pretty simple: draw a piece of anatomical art to enter into a scholarship competition, preferably based on viewing actual cadavers.  

Her summer should have been totally straightforward... But even the best laid plans can be interrupted, and Beatrix finds her interruption in the form of a boy named Jack. Jack is the type of guy who poses a question you'd like to answer, and Beatrix can't help but be drawn to him. As the summer goes on, Beatrix realizes that she herself has questions - about Jack, about her art, about her family. Her search for answers is portrayed in a way that feels authentic and raw, and I couldn't help but be completely absorbed in everything that happens along the way. I can't say much more than that without spoiling the plot; not knowing what will happen is part of the pleasure of reading this one. If you're in the market for a novel that combines personal growth, relationships and art extremely well, then The Anatomical Shape of a Heart is certainly one you should read.

What's your favorite heart artwork?

This was a surprisingly tough one to come up with an answer for, but I finally managed to pick something that always stands out to me when I see it. This piece by Banksy features a girl reaching out for a heart-shaped balloon, and it is so simple yet striking. I love that my perception of it changes depending my mood for a day. Sometimes, I feel like she is chasing after it to catch it; at other times, it feels as if she might have let it go.


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