The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett

anatomical.jpgArtist 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?*

This book had a little bit of a slow start or maybe it only felt that way because the romance took more time to kick in than I’m used to in a YA book, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It made it feel so much more realistic; it was a natural progression rather than a forcing together of two characters.

Bex and Jack’s relationship is completely unlikely at first glance–they’re just too different on the surface, the criminal and the rule-follower. But as readers get to know these two better, and as they discover more about each other, it becomes clear how they fit together. They also grow together as events progress and unfold, making their relationship work instead of abandoning it during the many opportunities there were to do so.

One thing that I really liked about this book is that the author is extremely candid and open when discussing sex. The characters all have open dialogues about it and about responsibility, not only Bex and Jack but Bex’s mother as well. It provides a wonderful example to young adults of honest communication, mutual respect, and healthy relationships. Bex’s ex-boyfriend may seem to come up a lot, but it’s a good way of showing people who read this story that it’s okay to end toxic relationships and that it’s important to recognize when a relationship is unhealthy.

There are a lot of issues covered in this book and they’re dealt with thoroughly, which is surprising since the book is only about 300 pages. The ones that stood out to me the most were teenage relationships, family troubles and the various coping mechanisms made necessary by this drama, and mental illness. There is also a lot about art, and the way the author uses Bex’s art as a metaphor for how her personality is changed by Jack was really beautiful. Everything portrayed in this book, all of the characters and the drama and the setting, all felt so real that when I wasn’t reading it I experienced some weird cognitive dissonance that made me wonder why I was in my living room and not on a train at midnight speeding through California.

This book will make you laugh, it’ll make you cry tears of joy and sadness (if you’re an emotional wreck like me, anyway!), and it will make you want to read it again and again. It isn’t often that I finish a book and want to immediately reread it, but I certainly felt that way with this one. Basically, if you enjoy stories where love (familial and romantic) triumphs over all else, this is the perfect read for you.

*Cover image and synopsis are from


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