Instructions for a Second-hand Heart by Tamsyn Murray

Hey guy’s it’s Zoë here today and I am going to be reviewing a book I read late last month called Instructions for a Second-hand Heart by Tamsyn Murray. Lets’ get to it!

Jonny isn’t like “normal” teenagers. Every day he wakes up in hospital, kept alive by a machine. Every day he wonders if this is the day they’ll find a donor match for his heart. Every day he wonders if this is the day he’ll die.

Every day, Niamh fights with her “perfect” brother Leo. Every single day, Leo wins. Every day, Niamh dreams of a life without Leo. But all that changes on the day of the accident: the day EVERYTHING falls apart.

This is a story about facing the future no matter how frightening. This is a story about healing your heart, no matter how much it hurts.

I initially picked up this book not really knowing what to expect. I thought it looked like a bit of a light-romance book which I sometimes like but often find very clique so when I started reading it I was pleasantly surprised. Despite my original thoughts when I started the book I found myself reading something I didn’t really expect. It was such an honest and raw story mixed with humour and heart-breaking moments. When I look back on me initially reading the blurb I can’t believe I missed the whole plot line and story seeing as it is laid out pretty clear, but incase you don’t know I won’t spoil it for you:). I think I wasn’t concentrated enough until it happened and I was like “well that makes sense”, but I think this added a bit to the suspense of the story.

The narrative alternates between Niamh and Jonny’s points of view and I found myself really engaged in both perspectives. I think I started out enjoying Johnny’s story a bit more as I wanted to know more about him and what caused him to be in the hospital, but as the story progressed I found myself equally loving Niamh’s chapters. I think both characters were both so interesting and really complemented each others story lines as they were so different and had lived such different lives leading up to the present. Both Niamh and Jonny are going through really difficult phases of their lives and this was portrayed and written really well.

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Out of all the characters in this book I would have to say Emily was my favourite character. She was Johnny’s best friend, also in the hospital fighting cancer and undergoing treatment, and I found her and Jonny’s friendship so lovely and heartwarming. I think they were a really good support system for one another and I loved their banter and how comfortable they were with each other. Emily seemed like such a genuine, optimistic and lovely character and was written beautifully.  I think the book dealt with relationships really well in general, wether they were between friends or family, it was really nice to see as this as it isn’t explored as often in YA romance and contemporary books.

“See, when a girl with no hair and a mouthfull of ulcers feels sorry for you, you know you’re in trouble.”

This was the kind of story that made hold back tears and really contemplate about life. It was an emotional rollercoaster of a story, and at points I didn’t even know what was going to happen. I do think that at a certain part of the book you kind of know how it is going to end and what’s going to happen with Johnny and Niamh, so the ending didn’t come as a surprise. I did think it was a nice way to wrap it up but again a bit clique and predictable. I found some of the characters in the story also quite unnecessary such as Johnny’s school friends. I know they played a role as they were different, but I didn’t think this needed to be explored the way it was. Additionally, I didn’t really connect with either Niamh or Johnny’s parents as neither of them were as genuine as I would have liked. I know they would have both been going through extreme parts of their lives but I think this parental figure could have been explored a bit better.

Overall I really loved the book and thought it was such a raw and honest story, however there were some things I didn’t really connect or like about the book, but that comes with most books you read.  I would definitely recommend Instructions for a Second-hand Heart to anyone who’s interested in reading a story of grief, loss and second chances. I think that it was very different to anything I have read before which was nice and its definitely an engaging story.

Thanks for reading guys, if you have read this book make sure to let me know your thoughts on it down below in the comments. Hope you’re having a good August so far and we will be back with another post soon. x

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