Heart Sister


Publication Date: 1 May 2021
Format: Paperback / softback

ISBN 9781459824874

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    After Emmitt's twin sister, Minnie, dies in an accident, his world goes sideways. He's lost his best friend and it feels like his family is falling apart without her. But Minnie was an organ donor and Emmitt soon receives an anonymous thank you letter from one of the transplant recipients.

    Inspiration strikes, and he decides to try and put his sister back together, in spirit. He's going to track down each organ recipient and film them to show his parents Minnie's selfless act and help them move on. But when each recipient falls short of his expectations and the star of his film, the girl who received his sister's heart, refuses to meet him, Emmitt has to turn to extreme measures to find her.

    What he doesn't know is that his "heart sister" is hiding an agonizing secret, one that could push Emmitt to the breaking point.

    Information

    Book Type: Junior High
    Age Group: 13 years +
    Traffic Lights: Green/Amber
    Class Novel: Yes
    Good Reads Rating: 5/5
    Literary Rating: 4.5/5

    Review

    Emmett's twin sister Minnie was into roadkill taxidermy. She made detailed dioramas from trapped mice or squashed squirrels she came across on the way home from school, setting them up like scenes in a movie so they looked like humans. To her it was a way to honour the animals' lives after they were gone and much better than them being run over time and time again, before being thrown in a rubbish bin. Sadly she was hit by a car after dashing onto the road to recover a dead raven.

    Their father is a vegetarian butcher who can no longer bear to even speak his daughter's name. He spends his days creating meat lookalikes out of vegetables and selling them from his shop, Slaughterhouse-Chive. People line up to get their hands on them.

    In the meantime, their mum is overwhelmed with grief and barely functioning. She spends her days lying on the lounge with the TV playing in the background, making barely any sign that she can hear or even register what is going on around her.

    Then, six weeks after Minnie's tragic death, his family receives two anonymous letters, via the transplant organisation that coordinated her organ donation.

    The first letter is from the girl who was given her heart, expressing gratitude for the incredible gift of life that Minnie has given her- after a life spent protected, unable to participate, always at risk--now this person can live a full life, an active, adventurous life. The second is from the man who received her corneas, who was blind until Minnie's gift enabled him to see.

    Heartbroken himself, and feeling inadequate in the face of his parents' incredible grief, Emmett determines to track down all the recipients of his sister's organs and film them, in order to give his parents some sense of the difference his sister's life--and death--has made to so many people.

    His quest leads him from a lepidopterist (butterfly hunter) with PTSD, all the way back to the one place he hoped he'd never have to return to--the hospital ward where his sister died. While some of the organ recipients are filled with joy, others are consumed by bitterness or failing to win the battle against alcoholism--the very thing that led to the need for a transplant to start with. He comes to realise that that's the very reason organ donation is the ultimate gift. It's a gift given to strangers, right when you're in the midst of the most awful heartbreak and pain. Strangers who may or may not "deserve' it, with no strings and no idea who your gift will actually save.

    While his quest initially comes from a place of great loss and sorrow, Emmett discovers there is more to family than the bonds of blood, and more ways to make a difference than the big sacrifices--there are the quiet moments, the small choices, the momentary kindnesses that can impact lives wherever you go.

    He doesn't just collect stories of hope, he gathers together a diverse group of people connected by his sister's incredible gift. And when he meets Rebecca, he ultimately discovers that while his blood sister may be gone, he can love his heart sister for all the time she has left.

    A beautiful story of loss, love, and friends with a bond that cannot be broken. Highly recommended.

    Themes

    grief, loss, twins, family, organ donation, taxidermy, alcoholism, choices, restoration, hope, courage, selfless giving, kindness, friendship, virtual reality, depression, healing, terminal illness

    Content Notes

    1. Rebecca tells Emmett she wants to "tongue kiss' a boy at least once before she dies (p232), but when Emmett kisses her (p319-320) they both realise it's like the scene in Back to the Future where Marty McFly's mum tries to kiss him. Definitely not meant to be! 2. Emmett's mum takes too much Tylenol and ends up in hospital. It wasn't a suicide attempt, just a very dangerous mistake that highlights the state she is in, and leads to her getting much-needed help for her depression.

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