Published: April 20th, 2017
Purchase here: Amazon
Synopsis: Donating your heart is the most precious gift of all.
Adam is a teenage boy who lives with his mum and younger sister. His dad has left them although lives close by. His sister no longer speaks. His mum works two jobs. Adam feels the weight of the world upon his shoulders.
Then his grandfather dies and in doing so he donates a very precious gift – his heart.
William is the recipient of Adam’s grandfather’s heart. He has no family and feels rootless and alone. In fact, he feels no particular reason to live. And then he meets Adam’s family.
William has received much, but it appears that he has much to offer Adam and his family too.
A powerful tale of love and strength in adversity.
Diversity: Adam and the Shah family are Muslim and while the country they’re from isn’t really specified, his grandmother speaks Urdu. William is mixed raced, with one Jamaican parent. Adam’s sister Farrah uses sign language to communicate. A diverse cast of secondary characters around Adam at school, including Cans and Laila.
Warnings: domestic violence, death, gang violence (although nongraphic).
I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Out of Heart is something entirely unique, heartwrenching and wonderful.
This was quite slow to start. It took a while to fully be introduced to Adam and his family and William and the quirks of their lives. It meant that for a little while I wondered whether I was actually going to become invested in this story – but then I hit a point where I felt their pain in my chest and I knew I was gone.
I think a large part of this emotional investment comes from the Master’s writing. This book is beautifully written. The writing balances this strange line between something beautifully poetic and wonderfully colloquial, that both mirrors the world we live in and the world we want to live in. I enjoyed the moments of the text that were broken up through wordplay – “Two silent tears. Two tears silent, too silent tears” -that gave a great glimpse into how the character of Adam thinks, which is brilliantly individual all the way through.
Out of Heart is very much a character driven story, which means that the characters Master creates have to be enough to engage a reader and this is something he succeeded in doing. While not all backstories are explained and there are holes that would have been good to have filled, they weren’t necessary. Master displayed complicated characters, ones that are more than how they speak or how they look, and this book is a great snapshot of that complexity.
Adam is an interesting protagonist, so different from any other I’ve read before. His mind is a strange mess of the artwork he uses to understand the world he’s in. He holds his past scars in every step. He’s a character that’s smart, but distant, a little too lost in his head and I think this is something that most readers and most creative people can relate to.
William in return is someone who we’re told less about – and it would have been nice to have some more insight into his thoughts – but what we do get is enough to feel a fondness for him. Adam and William bond through the harsh traumas of their lives and it’s through their almost faux parent-child relationship that they both make a change to each other’s lives. Adam becomes lighter. William lives a life he didn’t think he’d ever have the chance to.
The flaws in this piece come down to vagueness or structure. Some of the points of views jump about all over the place, slipping out of one and into another and back again at an erratic rate. It doesn’t take you out of the piece really, but there was some point of views I wanted to stay in for longer or some scenes that I felt might work better in another point of view. I’ve mentioned this before, but there is also a vagueness in character history. It would have been nice to have some more concrete information, especially about William who is so important to the story and to Adam and his family.
Overall, Out of Heart is a really quick and easy read that approaches the idea of loss, love, acceptance and found family in a really interesting way. Irfan Master has a great author’s voice and, despite the criticisms I do have, it was an enjoyable story that hit me right in the feels.