I Hold Your Heart by Karen Gregory
|I Hold Your Heart by Karen Gregory|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A strong novel about coercive control in teen relationships. A lot of research and work has gone into it. Yet the resulting novel sacrifices nothing in terms of well rounded characters and credible plotting. A genuine achievement.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 336||Date: July 2019|
|External links: Author's website|
Gemma has just started her A levels at school. She's a keen student and she has a good, close set of friends. Gemma loves country music and in her spare time she enjoys writing and singing country songs. She's pretty good at it too. Home life is busy - Gemma's brother Michael has a chance at a football career and the whole family, propelled by Gemma's rather over-invested dad, is supporting him with everything they've got. Gemma hasn't had a serious boyfriend yet, so when the handsome Aaron appears and an instant attraction fizzles between them, Gemma is keen to see where romance could lead...
... and at first, it's great. Aaron is romantic and not afraid of big demonstrations of love. He's also vulnerable with a difficult past and this finds the nurturing part of Gemma. Soon, they're inseparable. And that's when it all starts to go wrong.
I Hold Your Heart is the story of a coercive, gas lighting love affair, told mostly from the perspective of Gemma. She has a clear, strong voice throughout and you can really see how an inexperienced girl in the flush of a first, all-consuming love can miss all the cues, all the red flags. And how her friends try to warn her but she can't hear them, deafened by infatuation. But Gregory also inserts short chapters from Aaron's first person perspective. I was unsure about this for large portions of the book - as Gregory herself says in an afterword, an explanation is not an excuse. It's tricky to explain why without spoilers, but the reason for this becomes clear at the end and yes, I approve what must have been quite a difficult authorial decision. Not saying more than that!
Girls need books like these. They need to understand coercive control and abuse patterns generally. They need to be able to recognise red flags as soon as they are waved by any boy they're in a relationship with so that they can get out before damage is done. I think I Hold Your Heart does this very well. Aaron's use of coercive and abusive techniques are clearly laid out in very relatable and recognisable situations. Some scenes are quite distressing but Gregory walks the line between illustration and prurience well and I didn't feel anything was voyeuristic or in bad taste. And she keeps the focus on the reader's wish for Gemma's wellbeing.
A difficult novel to write but a genuine achievement. I hope I Hold Your Heart finds a readership in girls and helps them to protect themselves.
Meet Me At The Boathouse by Suzanne Bugler creates a tense, electric atmosphere in a story about obsessive, abusive relationships, including a disastrous teen love affair.
You can read more book reviews or buy I Hold Your Heart by Karen Gregory at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy I Hold Your Heart by Karen Gregory at Amazon.com. You could get a free audio download of I Hold Your Heart by Karen Gregory with a 30-day Audible free trial at Amazon.co.uk.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.