I recently commented on Instagram how I am loving so many Young Adult books recently, and I am reading more of them now as an adult then I did when I was a teenager. Exchange of the Heart was another that captured my attention as it delved into the subject of grief.
Exchange of Heart by Darren Groth
Published by Penguin Random House
Date 31 July 2017
There was so much packed into this book that I hardly know where to start or what to share with you. Much like most of the Young Adult books I have been reading recently there is a lot of emotion attached to this story, getting at the very core of what it is like to lose a loved one and how we all deal with this type of pain differently.
Munro is a teenage boy struggling to come to terms with the death of his sister Evie, who had always dreamed of going to Australia. Munro is plagued by the coyote (a tormenting voice in his head), pain, flashbacks, and anger and feels that if he can fulfill Evie’s wish and go to Australia as an exchange student that everything will be ok.
While on his exchange, his school requires him to do 50 hours in a volunteer program. Munro chooses Fair Go – an assisted-living center in Brisbane, because of its familiarity to his own life experiences and the peace his mind has while he is there, well kind of.
Indeed the coyote is silenced for sometime as Munro puts everything into Fair-Go, making time for engaging in new friendships at school – particularly with Caro, and assuring his parents both in America and his exchange parents in Australia that everything is OK. But, the realities of grief soon see the coyote making its presence known again and sees Munro’s life crashing around him.
While it took me a little while to initially get into the book, after a couple of chapters I could not put it down. I just wanted to see where Munro’s journey took him and if he was able to fight the coyote that plagued his mind. I really enjoyed that humour was seamlessly weaved into the book without negatively impacting the integrity of the story. In fact, it added some light to what is a difficult but well written subject.
Some of the most impacting and my favourite parts of the book were:
- I felt strong emotion when that coyote was tormenting Munro’s mind, I wanted to take this away from him. The name coyote was a great choice of word to use.
- The friendships Munro make at Fair Go are a beautiful display of the non judgmental form true friendship takes and the journey he goes on with each of them is heartwarming.
- The scrutiny that his Fair Go friends put him through is so funny.
- I love that Bernie asks Munro if he uses ‘R’ word and that her passion for ridding this word from peoples mouths is a beautiful display of equality. I loved her continued advocacy of this when she began making her T-shirts.
- Iggy’s obsession with CPR is so funny at first but so beautifully weaved into a turning point of the story line.
- The story was never really about Munro’s sister Evie having down syndrome, but more about him feeling like he failed her.
- Shah’s departure left me both so very sad, but excited about where this would take Munro and how he would move on from this change.
- Dale sharing the iPad.
- The end of the story being written so smartly.
I just want to add that although many of the characters have challenges in the form of what society refers to as disabilities, the writer has so smartly written these characters that you don’t see these challenges at all. While we know these characters have them and they are talked about in the book, the focus is on friendship and the disability is second to the beautiful people that they are…equality definitely shines through, looking past typical society perceptions.
I highly recommend this book for young adults and adults.
Thank you to Penguin books for the opportunity to read and review this Young Adult book.
If you are experiencing grief, depression, sadness or any other feelings that are troubling you and you don’t have anyone to talk to please note there are hotlines such as:
Kids Helpline (Australia) (13-25years) – 1800 55 1800
Youth Line (America) – Call – 877 968 8491 Text – 839863
Youth Help Line (NZ) – 0800 37 66 33
The Mix UK – 0808 808 4994
*please note I am not in anyway connected with any of these organisations and the phone numbers are correct at the time of publication and may be subject to change.