*I was given an arc of Guard Your Heart in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Macmillan and Sue Divin*
CW: Alcoholism, substance abuse, scenes of violence (sometimes including guns), sexual assault, death of a parent, PTSD
Born on the same day, the Nothern Ireland peace deal, Aidan and Iona are complete opposites. He’s a republican catholic, she’s a British protestant.
At a post-exam party, Aidan is wandering across the peace bridge, into the protestant side of Ireland and is attacked. Witness to the attack Iona ends up with Aidan’s phone and decides to contact him so he can get it back.
Meeting in a neutral territory both can help but a strange intrigue with the other and their friendship slowly starts to grow. With obvious differences and secrets hidden about their families, Iona and Aidan despite it all want to be together.
This book had me interested from the get-go. Instantly I felt intrigued by Aidan and his background and felt the need to know more. There is something very beautiful about the way it is written and I didn’t even mind the multiple perspectives.
Told in the first person from both Iona and Aidan, Guard Your Heart has a wonderfully emotive tone throughout that you cannot help but feel empathetic towards. The constant inner turmoil from both characters as plain to see and getting to wade through their feelings made for an interesting read.
I don’t really know too much about the Nothern Irish peace deal so those parts were very informative and I find that I now have a better understanding. These parts made the story all the more intense and heartwrenching. Sue Divin did a great job of using Iona and Aidan’s differences to create that all-important angst in these types of books.
Honestly, I was expecting this to be a light YA read and if you looking for that type of book then I suggest you look somewhere else. I have included content warnings at the top of this review so please do check them out.
Guard Your Heart tackled a lot of real serious issues and I think that Sue Divin did well to do so in a way that is not harmful. There is a lot of talk about drug use and alcoholism in this book and in no way are they glorified. Looking at the real consequences of such issues and showing that you can overcome them and be better for it, this book has one of the best representations of these issues that I have seen in a while.
Romance is obvious a large part of this story, however, it is not sappy or cliche. Depicting a teen relationship in a book and making it come across as realistic is no easy feat. Often you find the romance in YA to be so over the top and cliche, but there is none of that here.
The relationship between Aidan and Iona is raw and real. They are aware of the consequences and do not play them down. I actually kept forgetting that they are only eighteen and not many years older. This was a depiction of a mature teen relationship and it was done extremely well.
The reason why I have only given this 4 stars is because the pacing was not always great. It didn’t necessarily start out slow as the first few chapters are pretty heavy, however, the events leading to the book’s end felt quite rushed. The middle part slowed down dramatically and I believe that some smaller parts could have been removed to make this book flow a little better.
However, with that being said Guard Your Heart is compelling and emotive and if you are looking for a more serious read then you should definitely check it out. Also although this is a YA read it holds an impressive maturity that will allow enjoyment from older readers.
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