I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay Smith
Release date: October 25th, 2016
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Genre: Young adult, fantasy
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.
I have so many mixed feelings about this book. I want to say I liked it, but I’m honestly not even sure. What I do know for sure was that I did not enjoy it at the beginning. I considered putting it aside and moving on but the introduction of the “time travel” part is what kept me going.
Part of what originally turned me off of the book was its main character, Reiko, who is definitely not very likeable! She’s self destructive, very angry and sees no problem in hurting those that have “wronged” her. Reiko wants revenge on her ex-girlfiend, her brother, her parents and her cousin. To top all of that, she’s visiting Japan in an effort to sort out her problems but this has only increased them due to her lack of language ability and support. Sure, I kind of understand why she is so hellbent on getting even, she’s had a lot of terrible things happen to her, but her blind anger was a bit overwhelming in the first few chapters. I kept on thinking if this is what the entire book is going to be like then why am I reading it?
Luckily for me, the book changed when Reiko discovered a rock at a shrine that transported her back in time to the Edo period. Her conscience inhabited the body of a very wronged young woman named Miyu. She was a lot easier to like. The whole village hated her, her father believed her to be worthless and she was being married off to a terrible older man. I felt for her and so did Reiko. This really changed the way that I saw Reiko, for once she was worrying about someone other than herself.
The transitions between the present day and historic Japan were well done. The author had obviously done her research. The village, its history and Miyu’s past were well constructed and more importantly, the time travel aspect was clear and believable.
I don’t want to give anything away, so I can’t write too much, but I was so wrong. By the end of the book the way I had viewed the characters had completely changed. There were twists and turns and these held my interest. So, it wasn’t as I feared. Anger and revenge are themes that run through the story, but it is more about self discovery, acceptance and forgiveness.