Review: Black Heart Blue- Louisa Reid.

Synopsis from Goodreads.
They tried to make me go to my sister’s funeral today. In the end I had to give in … I’d been walking in her shadow for sixteen years and I liked its cool darkness. It was a good place to hide.’

Rebecca’s twin sister Hephzibah was beautiful and daring. She was the one who always wanted more. The one who wouldn’t listen. Now she’s gone, Rebecca is alone.

While there were two of them, they stayed silent about their home life. But Rebecca, who knows the truth about how her twin died, suddenly finds herself keeping too many secrets. Hephzibah dreamt of escape, but failed. Could Rebecca be the one to find freedom?

Original and unforgettable, Black Heart Blue is not just Rebecca and Hephzibah’s story. It’s a story about all of us: a story about the lies we want to believe, the truth we sometimes can’t, and having the courage to discover the difference.


Cross-over fiction is a genre that I’ve thought a lot about.
Well, OK not really, I just said that so I sounded like I was ‘in the know’ about all things publishing. Before I read this book, a ‘cross-over fiction’ kinda book, I’d never really thought about it. But for reviewing purposes I have decided to do just that.
I’ve narrowed all my thoughts, highly highly intellectual thoughts, down to one question that I will attempt to answer in this review.

Is a book that is classed as ‘cross-over fiction’ a YA book that wants to be an adult book or is it an adult book who wants to be a YA book?

Now, you know that yours truly is a YA book blog so going off that fact alone we can establish that adult books are definitely cooler.

Nah, I’m completely kidding. YA books are all the rage right now and rightly so. Real people are reading YA books and they’re not ashamed because SURPRISE there are actually some great YA books out there. But adult books will always be the ones that top the bestselling charts and the ones that people talk about over canapés and champagne at high-brow dinner parties.
So are cross-over books, books that straddle the genre and appeal to all readers the way forward?

Anyway, let’s talk about this particular cross-over book. I have decided to create a scoring system to see if I can determine whether this book is a YA book asking an older book to buy it some Strongbow or whether it’s actually an adult book going through a mid-life crisis and pretending it’s in its late teens and is…. um… probably going to get something pierced or, I dunno, buy a motorbike.

Jo plays a snappily titled game of “Adult Book or YA book”?

1) I loved this book from the first page. That may sound completely cheesy and cliché but I literally did love it from the first page? Literally, Jo? LITERALLY?! DO YOU KNOW THE MEANING OF LITERALLY. I hear you bellow. Yes, I do and if you’d let me finish I’ll tell you why.
This book has a Sylvia Plath quote as its epigraph.

“You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.”

-Daddy, Sylvia Plath

If you’re starting with a Sylvia Plath epigraph you have to have guts because, I mean, it’s Sylvia Plath. If you write a pithy, awful book after starting with Plath then you’ll always be known as the author who thinks they’re good enough to follow Plath and no one wants to be that author. Luckily, Ms Reid did not write a pithy, awful book.

And while I’m not saying that young adults can’t read and love Plath (I actually read The Bell Jar when I was 16), the mere act of quoting a dark and uncomfortable poem perfectly sets up the reader for a dark and uncomfortable read. Black Heart Blue is difficult to read, it’s harrowing and it’s dark.
I don’t want to go into the plot points because of spoilers but… wooosha.
And you can quote me on that… though you probably wouldn’t want to.

So, re: Dark tone of the book. Adult book or YA book? Adult book.

2) It seems every YA heroine has a tortured sister nowadays. Not that it’s a bad thing and I’m not saying that this book is about a heroine with a tortured sister.
It’s about two heroines with a tortured sister.
That’s right! We have twins! I’m always wary of books about twins because even though in theory, they are a great way to explore sister (or brother, though I haven’t actually read any books with male twins) relationships they always just fall flat for me. The jealously. The angst. The bitchiness. Yawn.
But what I liked about Rebecca and Hephzibah were that they were completely different from each other. They didn’t really like each other at all. Hephzibah was a bitch to Rebecca but Rebecca wasn’t all sunshine and kittens either. I loved how they had two separate personalities but there was always that bond that they shared, both from what they had gone through but also just because they have the almost supernatural bond that they have. Like I said, normally I’m reluctant to read twin books but in this case, the sisters and their relationship added lots to the overall feel of the book.

Re: Twins and tortured sisterly bonds. Adult book or YA book? YA book.

3) OK, this next bit is a bit of a quibble I had with the book. I wasn’t entirely convinced about the setting. When I started reading this book I thought it was going to be set in the 50s or something but then there was talk of A-Levels, Glee and Cheryl Cole. It’s obvious that Ms Reid knows how to deal the twisty, dark human emotions but when it came to writing general teenager stuff… it didn’t always ring true for me.
And I don’t think I’ve ever met a seventeen year old boy who would want to ride a moped. I think most of them would be happy to settle with a Megarider or a lift from their parents. Maybe that’s just me. To me, anyway, this book sometimes read like a historical book… but I like historical books, so I was fine with that but I don’t think that’s what Ms Reid intended.

Re: Adults thinking that teenagers care about if Cheryl Cole rides a moped. Adult book or YA book? Adult book.

4) Tiptoeing delicately here but the adults in this book (bar one) were absolutely horrible. Despicable. Terrible. Seriously, I was so angry and scowly. Really well done though.

Re: Horrible adults. Adult book or YA book? Seeing as adults aren’t allowed in a YA book. Adult book.

5) Insert bad boy love interest. Adult book or YA book? YA book.

6) Hopeful ending. Well Ms Reid took us for a ridiculous sad ride through this book but there was a hopeful ending. All the nastiness is still there but all was not lost. Thankfully. I seem to talk about hopeful endings an awful lot on my blog but I think, as a whole, YA books like to have hopeful endings. I think adult fiction is a lot happier at slashing your hopes and dreams and leaving you to sob and what have you.

Re: Everything’s going to be alright…. Eventually. Adult book or YA book? YA book.

So, is it a YA book that wants to be an adult book or is it an adult book that wants to be YA?

It’s neither.
And it’s both.
It’s a cross-over book.




Sorry, I felt like I needed a wink at the end of that. Like I was starring in an advert for a book genre and that was the tagline. Do book genres have taglines? They should.
Whatever Black Heart Blue is, it’s good and you should read it.

I received a copy of this book from the publishers.

4 thoughts on “Review: Black Heart Blue- Louisa Reid.

  1. Thank you for a review that managed to stretch my tired brain.
    I think maybe ‘cross over’ is a term sometimes used when those sorts of people who insist on labels for everything has to give a label to something that is just a book that the author needed/wanted to write and didn’t necessarily intend to aim it at a particular age group.
    Or not. I’m just writing gibberish.
    ANYWAY… although this does sound rather good

  2. Aah! Accidentally posted when I hadn’t finished rambling on. Was about to say I think I need to be in the mood for this sort of drama. And the twins.
    Not too sure about twins… :/
    Great review, as always xx

  3. “Whatever Black Heart Blue is, it’s good and you should read it.” – you convinced me, Jo! This sounds really interesting and dark and intriguing and it’s not often I read books about twins but I’m keen to read this. I also like that it could be YA or adult.

  4. I like crossovers usually only because they usually have older people in them. As a reader in her mid-20’s, reading about characters that are sixteen or seventeen gets a little old for me. However, this seems to have some darker themes that make me really interested. Your highly intellectual thoughts made me a fan. Kudos.

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