“She survived something big, and when you survive something big, you are always, always aware that next time you might not.”
I can truly say, with every single ounce of my heart, that this is one of the best books I’ve ever read in my entire life. It’s so quiet, but so loud. It’s so heartbreaking, but so healing. It’s so impactful, it’s so powerful, and it’s completely and utterly unforgettable. I truly recommend this story with my entire soul. A Heart in a Body in the World is now one of my favorite books of all time.
On the very surface, this is a story about a girl who is feeling the astronomical weight of guilt and grief. She lives in Seattle, and one day while she is feeling particularly powerless over something that happened nine months ago, she decides to run to Washington D.C. regardless of how long it will take. Her family is a little shocked, but very supportive, so she begins her healing journey the only way her body and heart knows how; by running and pushing her body to the limits that her mind is forced to relive every single free moment. And watching her reclaim what was taken from her is one of the most powerful things I’ve ever read in my entire existence.
Okay, so I went into this story knowing what the main theme was, and it did not hinder my enjoyment whatsoever. Yet, I have seen so many reviewers say that this story is best to consume not knowing, and that they consider the central plot to be a big spoiler. So, please use caution reading the rest of this review, because I am going to talk about what this book is about, and I don’t want to spoil you if you believe that it could be a potential spoiler! But regardless, this is one of the best books I’ve ever had the privilege of reading, and I implore you all to pick this up when you are able to, especially if you are a woman living in the United States.
“Danger can seem far away until the sky grows dark, and a bolt of fury heads straight toward you.”
A Heart in a Body in the World is a story about toxic masculinity and gun violence, and how that can be one of the most dangerous combinations that American women can ever face. Especially when we live in a country where it is easier to buy a gun than to vote. Especially when we live in a country that normalizes teaching young kids to hide under desks in the event of a school shooter. Especially when our country proves over and over that it doesn’t think we are worth protecting and that our safety isn’t worth more than an assault rifle. And especially when we live in a world that conditions girls to be scared to say no to boys, and that internalization is passed down every single generation, to both girls and boys, to truly create the most evil and most scary cycle.
This is the best depiction of grief and guilt I’ve ever read in my entire life. I could feel the weight Annabelle’s grief, and it constantly felt like it was going to bury me. This book took so much out of me, but in the best way possible; in the realest way possible. And violence took everything from Annabelle because we live in a world where it can be deadly to reject men.
Annabelle did everything right. She reached out. She asked for help. She told people. And it didn’t help, and these kinds of stories prove over and over again that it won’t help. But we live in a world where proving your masculinity and power will always be louder than a teenage girl asking for help. Being nice and being kind can potentially lead to someone taking absolutely everything from you.
Okay, I know this is a really heavy review, and I’m sorry for that, but this book honestly just does such an amazing job depicting so many young women’s realities. But to end on a sweeter note, the family dynamic in this novel is also a damn masterpiece. You all know that strong sibling bonds (especially with little brothers) is my favorite thing in books! And also, the relationship that Annabelle has with her Italian grandfather, and the unconditional love he shows her over and over again, made me so damn soft.
Overall, this is one of the most important, meaningful, and impactful pieces of literature I’ve ever read in my entire life, and probably ever will read in my entire life. I recommend it with every single fiber of my being. And I will truly carry this book in my heart forever. Also, if you want to see me cry over the perfection of this story, and how sad I feel to live in a country that doesn’t protect me, watch my day seven contemporayathon vlog!
Content and trigger warnings for PTSD depiction, panic attacks, grief depiction, loss of a loved one, death, murder, stalking, mention of cancer, self-induced harm via running, and any and everything surrounding the gun violence in America.
❤ I also read this for Contemporary-a-thon!