I Hold your Heart.
I Hold your Heart
Bloomsbury, 2019, pp336, [pounds sterling]7.99 978 1 5266 0916 8
Gemma lives with her overbearing father, football prodigy brother, and meek mother. It is clear from the start that she is overlooked by all, other than as cheerleader for her younger sibling. Then she meets Aaron, with his declarations of love, and showering of gifts, it isn't long before she is in his thrall and desperate to please. Aaron loves Gemma, but is distrustful and possessive. He is able to rationalise his actions as being evidence of his feelings, and a result of being badly treated in the past.
This gripping novel pulls no punches, and clearly shows the rapid spiral into coercive control of Gemma by Aaron but does so in a way that apportions no blame to the victim. Gemma never stands a chance, and at times we are even left wondering if Aaron really knows what he is doing --is this coldly calculating, or is it an unconscious act that he can't control?
Gregory allows the reader to unpick the nuances of behaviour, ego and relationships, and there will be much in here that readers will recognise. By switching narration between Gemma and Aaron we can see how each view the same event so differently, Aaron spinning the narrative to suit his agenda, and Gemma allowing her conviction to be eroded by self-doubt. Interestingly, Gemma and her mother seem to be a victim of similar tactics in the home, with Gemma's father using silence and barely suppressed aggression to get his own way with his family. Again we are left wondering just how self-aware he is, but when Gemma's parents start to realise how toxic her relationship with Aaron is, they certainly recognise it for what it is.
Every teenager should read this book, and it would make a fantastic reading group title with teens. There is much to explore, discuss and unearth. Oh, and beautifully written, as always with Karen Gregory.