Heart on a String, by Susan Soares

HOAScoverHappy Valentine’s Day, everyone! In celebration of the holiday, I’m reviewing the contemporary teen romance Heart on a String by Susan Soares.

In the opening chapter, Marissa is running. Though she’s no longer part of her school track team, she still spends time running. Perhaps for good exercise or because she simply enjoys it, she’s not running to anywhere in particular. Metaphorically, she’s running away from the combined grief and pain of her mother dying from breast cancer and her brother leaving home unable to deal with it.

She dreads running past the cemetery. Holding her breath while she passes, she sees a family standing at a gravestone. A small boy is holding a heart-shaped balloon, and Marissa is instantly reminded of a similar balloon she brought to her mother’s grave and then let go to bring a letter to her. On her return run past the cemetery, she sees that the family has left, but the balloon is now caught in the branches of a tree.

She climbs the tree with the intent of freeing the balloon so the boy’s letter can float upward, but on her way down and out of the cemetery away from the tree, the balloon has deflated. A lesser person would probably have tossed the envelope aside because the family would never know, but because of Marissa’s feelings about her own loss, she wants to do what’s right. With only the name on the gravestone to go by, and at the encouragement and assistance of her best friend Zoe, Marissa seeks out the family.

That’s when she meets Brandon. The boy with the balloon is Brandon’s youngest brother, and they were mourning the death of their middle brother who was killed when a car hit him on his dirt bike. She becomes interested in Brandon, and not just because he’s kind and attractive, but because he represents something that she’s missing: the ability to deal openly with grief.

They start a relationship, but Marissa keeps him at a distance. She doesn’t want to let him inside, not out of any malicious intent, but because she’s afraid. But she’s also afraid that she’ll lose him completely if she keeps pushing him out of her life.

I won’t reveal any spoilers, but the ending contains an act of selflessness and support that’s completely believable for the character. Also, I opened this review with a mention of the symbolism of Marissa running alone and away from something at the start of the story. Keep that in mind when she’s running for something at the end.

This story is a tearjerker with hope. Everyone experiences pain, sadness, and grief, and everyone deserves a strong support system. I would put this in the same genre of books as John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars but obviously with a reverse slant since Heart on a String deals with how those left living deal with death instead of how those that are dying deal with their lives. Just as I would give Fault a high star rating, I give Heart on a String FOUR AND A HALF stars.

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Heart on a String is available at Amazon.

Read the spotlight of author Susan Soares HERE.

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