Title: A Darkly Beating Heart
Author: Lindsay Smith
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction > Time Travel, LGBT
Edition: eARC Kindle (272 pages)
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (Oct. 25, 2016)
Date Read: 2/12/2017
A time-travel story that alternates between modern day and 19th century Japan as one girl confronts the darkness lurking in her soul.
No one knows what to do with Reiko. She is full of hatred. All she can think about is how to best hurt herself and the people closest to her. After a failed suicide attempt, Reiko’s parents send her from their Seattle home to spend the summer with family in Japan to learn to control her emotions. But while visiting Kuramagi, a historic village preserved to reflect the nineteenth-century Edo period, Reiko finds herself slipping back in time into the life of Miyu, a young woman even more bent on revenge than Reiko herself. Reiko loves being Miyu, until she discovers the secret of Kuramagi village, and must face down Miyu’s demons as well as her own.
Trigger Warning: This book contains thoughts and acts of attempted suicide and cutting.
If you go searching through my blog, you’ll find that I have published a few posts mentioning A Darkly Beating Heart and how I couldn’t wait to read it. Although it took me a little bit longer to get to it than expected, my anticipation finally won out and I actually sat down and read it! Woo! Yay for me, right? Well, yes and no…
“I have mastered the path of hatred, and I know now where it ends. It ends with my revenge.”
A Darkly Beating Heart was on my radar for a while, especially when I realized how diverse it was. Our main character, Reiko, is Japanese, bi-sexual, and suffers from anger, anxiety and depression, which she takes medication for. Majority of this story takes place in Japan, where Reiko goes with co-workers, thinking getting away from home may help solve her problems. Although this book is labeled as LGBT, and Reiko claims to be bi-sexual, it isn’t proven within the story. She has no female love interest, which is kind of what I was hoping for when seeing the LGBT tag. So I was slightly disappointed on that level.
“I clench my fists at my sides as a wave of anger rolls over me. I’m just livid, but I don’t even know what I’m angry about. I want to see blood pouring down that stage, feel the bones of someone’s head condense and crunch between my hands…”
When we are first introduced to Reiko, we can clearly see how angry she is. So, so angry. I wanted her to find the peace she was looking for. Whether that be in Japan, at home, or wherever. But that never happened. Reiko was angry throughout the entire story, until the very end. It was continually pounded into our heads how angry she was, so much that it just became boringly repetitive. I understand the author wanting her readers to become as consumed in Reiko’s anger as she was, but there comes a point where it just becomes too much. And this book hit that point, unfortunately.
The main focus here was Reiko, but I would have liked a little more development in some of the secondary characters as well. Her boss, Aki, was the only character that truly stood out to me because she had such a loud personality. Although she wasn’t likeable as a person, I enjoyed Aki as a character in this story, simply because she HAD personality.
“I am nothingness. An empty vessel. The core of me is rotted away, and I can never get it back. There’s nothing left to fill me but anger. There’s nothing left for me to sense but pain.”
Traveling through time between modern day Japan and historic Japan, Reiko encounters another angry soul like herself. I would have been more intrigued had the author not made historic Japan sound so terrible. I get that this was done for the plot, but a few niceties could have been thrown in every now and then, right?
Overall, I really did not enjoy this book. I feel the author used Reiko’s anger as filler throughout a lot of the story, and for a while I felt it was going no where. The very end of the book is when I started to like it, and by that time, it was over. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend this book unless you want to hear over and over and over again how angry someone is. I hate that I was so disappointed in this novel when I was looking forward to it for quite some time. But they can’t all be winners, can they?
*I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.