A massive thank you to the awesome team at Penguin Random House for sending me a review copy of Tin Heart by Shivaun Plozza! This novel is one of my highly anticipated LoveOzYA reads of the year and I’m thrilled to be writing a review of it!
When Marlowe gets a heart transplant and a second chance at life, all she wants is to thank her donor’s family. Maybe then she can move on. Maybe then she’ll discover who she is if she’s no longer ‘The Dying Girl’.
But with a little brother who dresses like every day is Halloween, a vegan warrior for a mother and an all-out war with the hot butcher’s apprentice next door, Marlowe’s life is already pretty complicated. And her second chance is about to take an unexpected turn…
The story revolves around 17 year old Marlowe Jensen, who was diagnosed with a congenital heart condition as a child (it was unspecified). The book began with the tale of Marlow being the recipient AND survival of heart transplant, in which the precious organ was bestowed by a 16 year old young man. Ever since the surgery, Marlowe feels that she is missing a critical part of herself, and hence, experiencing a partial loss of her identity. Under strict regulations, organ recipients are forbidden to contact donor families. But our girl Marlowe here, is determined to find her anonymous donor, as she wishes to express her gratitude to the donor family, and most importantly – to understand the boy who gave her a new heart, thus the ‘new’ part of herself.
Much to my surprise, the novel has a wonderful balance of family dynamics, friendship drama and so on *wink*. Marlowe’s single mother is a vegan queen, who runs a small business selling vegan and health products next to a family-owned butcher. Her brother Pip adores David Bowie so much that he dresses in epic outfits in every literal scenes (sooooo good). Well, with a bloody butcher next door, of course there’s gonna be a bitter ever-present rivalry. And not just the owners, but between the kids: Marlow VS. apprentice butcher Leo.
Leo appeared rude/arrogant/etc, but beneath his exterior is also charismatic at times and, you guessed it – extremely attractive. I enjoyed reading the parallel between Leo and Marlowe as they both share parental constraint. Leo is constantly pressured to abandon his education for the family business, resulting a cold war between him and his dad. While Marlowe’s mother’s overwhelming affections is getting of out hand and outrageously embarrassing (I mean she IS 17, and my brother is also at that age so I know EXACTLY what they are like). Let’s just say: the romance is cute.
With Marlow’s recovery, comes real life responsibility: school. There, she befriends Zan Cheung, who is a Chinese Australian. Zan’s character is so so important as it challenges stereotypes, sexuality, racism and advocates for equality. The tentative friendship between Marlowe and Zan was lovely, supportive and ahhhhhh I simply love all their scenes together!
When Marlowe believes she may have found her donor through an online group, she reached out and befriends her her donor’s sister Carmen under an assumed name. As a doctor-to-be, I don’t condone her deception and breach of the organ donation conduct, though I sympathise with Marlowe as unconsciously.
The transition from being a patient on a loooooong waiting list to becoming a recovering survivor is a journey of realisation and acceptance. And Marlowe’s story is an empowering one that illustrates that. Marlowe’s experience is prevalent across Australia. Last year in Australia, over 1400 individuals were the recipients of an organ transfer from over 500 patients. Marlowe’s journey represents the 1000s of organ and tissue donors and recipients throughout our communities each year. Those waiting for the opportunity to truly begin their lives, and the longing for days without the longing. Organ donation is rarely spoken about until a family is confronted with the death of a loved one. This story is truly a powerful one that encourages discussion in said issue.
If you are Australian and would like to find out more about organ donation, or even better: want to become a donor yourself, click onto this link: https://register.donatelife.gov.au
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