My Jenn Bennett obsession continues with The Anatomical Shape of a Heart, a book all about family, identity, and romance!
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 her family’s closet tear them apart?
Okay let’s be real here, the summary makes this book seem very dramatic. In reality, the book doesn’t have so much drama and instead focuses more on family, identity, forgiveness, mental health, and romance.
Let’s start with the characters, shall we? I found Beatrix (Bex) to be a likeable character. I enjoyed how confident she was in her body and how much she developed emotionally throughout the book. Jack also had a lot of development throughout the book and it was refreshing to have the male character be the romantically inexperienced one. There were a couple instances where I thought he was a bit too out there, but for the most part I found him endearing and fun. As with most Jenn Bennett books, one thing I really liked about the characters was how mature they seemed. I hate reading YA books where the characters sound super young (*cough* Stay Sweet *cough*). Despite this pitfall of some YA, I tend to stay away from adult fiction because I find their characters to be boring and unrelatable. Bennett’s characters are always written to be relatable, mostly level-headed, and undramatic, landing perfectly in the between spot.
Family dynamics are a huge part of this book. I really liked how Bennett incorporated trust, forgiveness, sibling bonds, and divorced/distant parents into the story. The conflicts related to these topics drove so much character growth and plot development. Admittedly, a lot of these conflicts were wrapped up nicely at the end which deoesn’t happen in reality, but that’s one of the reasons I like to read contemporary YA. Bennett is able to tackle these topics in ways that are entertaining, educational, mature, and a bit too nicely wrapped up to be wholly realistic.
Mental health is a topic that’s approached in what I think is a respectful and educational way throughout the book. It seems like Bennett did a good amount of research into what schizophrenia feels like to someone who actually has it, not just what Wikipedia has to say about it. It didn’t feel like it was just used as a plot point or something to brought up occasionally when it’s forced into the book. This was a very important piece of Jack’s identity, parts of his plotlines, and his family as well as how Bex developed from this in relation to her relationship with Jack.
Another of my favorite Jenn Bennett staples is her approach to sexuality and sex. It really is refreshing to have a YA book approach this topic in an upfront way rather than making vague hints and innuendos. It’s so important that teens feel comfortable about this topic, and I think having it talked about so openly in the books they read is an important part of this.
Goodreads doesn’t seem to have very great reviews for The Anatomical Shape of a Heart but I think it was another great book by Jenn Benett. The characters were a bit more out there than her usual characters, but I enjoyed those aspects of their personalities. The plot was multi-faceted and kept evolving as the book progressed, and the topics explored throughout the book were relatable well-written. I would definitely recommend giving it read!