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The Heart Does Not Grow Back
The tagline plastered on the back of Fred Venturini’s debut novel–“Every superhero needs to start somewhere”–may draw in readers, but it may mislead them as well. It is true that the novel’s protagonist, Dale Sampson, has a superheroic ability to regenerate his limbs, but the novel is much less of an origin story than it is a quirky coming-of-age story. And as our review states, the balance between these genres can lead the book astray at times. Nevertheless, it’s a fast paced book with lots of teen interest, especially teen fans of Venturini’s mentor, Chuck Palahniuk.
VENTURINI, Fred. The Heart Does Not Grow Back. 272p. Picador. Nov. 2014. pap. $16. ISBN 9781250052216; ebk. ISBN 9781250052223.
Dale Sampson has always been a loser. His star ballplayer best friend, Mack, is the closest he came to popularity in high school. One fateful night, the only girl he’s ever been interested in, Regina, is murdered, and he and Mack are injured. Mack’s athletic future is over due to his injuries. Dale’s strange destiny is just beginning, as his hand heals super-fast and his lost ear regenerates itself. After high school, Dale continues to hide his ability from others and works just enough to get by, when he reconnects with Regina’s shy twin Raeanna. He realizes she is a victim of domestic abuse and tries to help, but soon becomes the husband’s target. Dale heads to Hollywood to star in a show about his ability, all to gain fame in a greater plan to help Raeanna, but her secrets may bring her to ask Dale to sacrifice more than he can. This is an interesting, bizarre, and depressing story, and suspension of disbelief is necessary, especially regarding the unexplained organ regeneration. Dale’s sense of honor is admirable, but overshadowed by his frustrating inability to act, which permeates the story. The ending is hopeful, but less realistic in context. A high concept read for teens interested in superheroes, sports, Hollywood, quirky fiction.–Kelly Jo Lasher, Middle Township High School, Cape May Court House, NJ
Filed under: Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy
About Mark Flowers
Mark Flowers is the Young Adult Librarian at the John F. Kennedy Library in Vallejo, CA. He reviews for a variety of library journals and blogs and recently contributed a chapter to The Complete Summer Reading Program Manual: From Planning to Evaluation (YALSA, 2012). Contact him via Twitter @droogmark
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