Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier (2018) Review

How long can you keep a secret?

Why I picked up the book:

Angela Wong, Georgina Shaw, Kaiser Brody were best friends. When they were 16, all of their lives changed forever when Angela went missing without a trace. Kaiser and Geo never quite recovered. 14 years later, Angela’s body is found, and Kaiser, now a detective with Seattle PD, finally discovers the truth about what happened to her. Evidence suggests that Angela was Calvin James’ first victim.

Things get complicated when Geo’s name comes up in the investigation: she used to date James. We soon see Georgina’s arrested for her involvement. Still t it seems like the killer is not done: as Geo’s release date approaches, bodies start turning up, and it appears the killer is trying to send her a message.

The book through my criteria lens:

I would say that my favourite thing about Jar of Hearts was its overall atmosphere. It felt real, dark, disturbingly claustrophobic, and hopeless. I was also pleasantly surprised at how fair Hillier played. All the clues were in the pages, and even though I guessed the last twist, I was still shocked when I found out I was right.

I actually liked Geo, even though she wasn’t always perfect. Her arc was really well done, and we got to know her motivation, thoughts, and feelings really well. I loved Kaiser, though I wished his chapters and development could have been stronger. I wonder what Jar of Hearts would have been like if he had been less passive in certain events.

My personal feelings:

No sugar coating here: Jar of Hearts is intense and gritty. Hillier really didn’t shy away from accurately portraying cancer, rape, life in prison, bullying… Even her psychopath is raw and evil. I hadn’t disliked a killer this much since Pretty Girls.

Geo’s Jail time was disturbing. I have never been arrested, but based on some of the documentaries I have seen, Hillier’s descriptions seemed authentic. Especially the rape and survival instinct. Geo had to learn to navigate prison’s politics and do what she needed to survive. Personally, I found those scenes hard to stomach.

Everything about this book felt “real life,” unsettling and dark – from the high school queen bee to bullying, cancer, rape, and abuse. In a way, I have to commend Hillier for her amazingly insightful narrative. I would love to know how she copes with writing these books as I am pretty sure it might take a tow on her emotions. It did on mine, and I am just a reader; this is the sole reason why I didn’t enjoy the book more, even though I thought it was brilliant. I read books to escape reality. Hillier yanked me by the hair and pulled me right back into it. There are people like Angela and Calvin and Bernie out there, and more of them than I care to acknowledge.

Even though I wasn’t expecting what I found in the pages of Jar of Hearts, I will definitely be reading Hillier’s other books. But next time, I will go in prepared!

Enjoyability     7

Characters       8

Ambience        10

Fairness          10

Plot                  10

Execution        8

My total rating: 4.41

Review for this book is mentioned in this video: Up at the end of May

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

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