Jar of Hearts book review: not entirely sure how to describe this one

Jar of Hearts book review

What is this about?: Told in two timelines, this is the story of the murder and cover-up of Angela Wong, and the consequences Geo has to bear all those years later.

What else is this about?: I suppose it questions whether certain things are genetic or not on some level. That’s all I got really, because this is a dark read, with some serious issues regarding consent I couldn’t wrap my head around.

Blurb

This is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who’s been searching for the truth all these years . . .

When she was sixteen years old, Angela Wong—one of the most popular girls in school—disappeared without a trace. Nobody ever suspected that her best friend, Georgina Shaw, now an executive and rising star at her Seattle pharmaceutical company, was involved in any way. Certainly not Kaiser Brody, who was close with both girls back in high school.

But fourteen years later, Angela Wong’s remains are discovered in the woods near Geo’s childhood home. And Kaiser—now a detective with Seattle PD—finally learns the truth: Angela was a victim of Calvin James. The same Calvin James who murdered at least three other women.

To the authorities, Calvin is a serial killer. But to Geo, he’s something else entirely. Back in high school, Calvin was Geo’s first love. Turbulent and often volatile, their relationship bordered on obsession from the moment they met right up until the night Angela was killed.

For fourteen years, Geo knew what happened to Angela and told no one. For fourteen years, she carried the secret of Angela’s death until Geo was arrested and sent to prison.

While everyone thinks they finally know the truth, there are dark secrets buried deep. And what happened that fateful night is more complex and more chilling than anyone really knows. Now the obsessive past catches up with the deadly present when new bodies begin to turn up, killed in the exact same manner as Angela Wong.

How far will someone go to bury her secrets and hide her grief? How long can you get away with a lie? How long can you live with it?

Yeah there are mild spoilers, not a whole lot, but it needed to be out there if this review was going to be make sense

Jar of Hearts opens 14 years after Angela’s death, when Geo is testifying against Calvin, the Sweet Bay Strangler, who murdered her friend. She gets five years for helping him cover it up.

From there, we are taken to prison, to Geo’s experiences (rape) and almost-non-consensual sex with prison officer/s, who get her things. But there are also friends, but the problem is I still don’t understand the point of wading through her time in prison because nothing and no one from that part of the book and her life, actually has any bearing on the story; in fact, it’s soon forgotten when women and children start being murdered, and Geo believes it’s her old boyfriend Calvin come back for her.

You know how some books you just want to say you finished, even though you didn’t like it?

Yeah, this is that book for me.

The dual timelines give a comprehensive picture of a young girl besotted by the wrong guy, and unable to tear herself away from him before he murders her best friend in an alcohol-fuelled night. Rape is a constant theme in this book – three rapes and one attempted one, and three out of those four are Geo.

There’s a point where I began to wonder if they were just there for shock value. The thing that mystifies me even more is that years after Calvin raped her, Geo is still attracted to him – what am I supposed to do with that?

The book is erratic, with motives and actions that make no sense to me especially with Geo – she hates Calvin, but is attracted to him, and even almost is longing for him in the courtroom where it’s the only time they see each other after Angela’s murder. While I have sympathy for the younger Geo, caught up in a relationship with a controlling Calvin, but then the book slightly jumps back and forth in the past timeline, and we see two Geos – one confident and controlling doing something readers won’t expect, yet we know that Geo was losing it when Angela was discovered missing and people began searching for her. She was truly an accomplice in the cover-up of Angela’s disappearance, and in control but she seemingly slowly is losing it in the aftermath of her disappearance and that disconnect isn’t explained enough.

Calvin strangely enough is the most consistently characterised individual mostly because we don’t see him that much.

The murders that happen when Geo is released are reflective of his earlier ones, and Kaiser, an old friend (and the cop that arrested Calvin and Geo for Angela’s murder weirdly enough), is convinced that he is coming back for Geo. From there, the book does indeed give readers a stunning twist, but by that point, I was reading it and feeling miserable about what I just put myself through, I didn’t really care.

There’s no hope in this book, and I suppose Geo is one of those unreliable narrators we’re supposed to empathise with, but I really honestly didn’t – her characterisation didn’t sit well with me, and the overuse of the rape trope was just unnecessary – and turned me off this book completely by the end.

13 Comments

  • It seems weird to devote a big chunk of the book to things that are totally irrelevant to the main plot. I despise seeing someone attracted to their rapist-that beggars belief for me.

    • Verushka says:

      I was seriously annoyed I slogged through all her time in prison for no reason. It could have started when she’s released, but nope. We had to endure that nonsense. I am beginning to think or hope that the attracted to the rapist storyline got warped bc it went through edits and the timelines got mixed up. Or something. anything tbh bc I seriously don’t get it

  • This book was all kinds of messed up! But I did like, and I’m sorry to hear your really didn’t. 🙁 I think for most it was a hit or miss. Great review for it.

    • Verushka says:

      Count me in the miss camp for sure. The messed up bits of it, especially the ending was good, but the rest was a hard no for m.e

  • Angela says:

    I can’t stand when authors include stuff that doesn’t end up being relevant to the story or is never explained or resolved. And the fact that rape is employed several times – yeah, I don’t know if I could read this book.

    • Verushka says:

      If the rapes (Jesus, I have to use the plural) were an essential to the characterisation or the plot, I would have endured it. But neither was necessary. It was just violence for the sake of it for me. And man, that prison stuff. Did nothing to the rest of the story that couldn’t have been done in shorter way.

  • Sorry to hear this one didn’t work for you. I remember being really interested when I first heard about the book but then several mixed reviews put me off of it.

    • Verushka says:

      Be prepped for twisty goodness that gets lost in everything else that just doesn’t work, if you do decide to go for it.

  • This was slightly twisted and I must admit I devoured it.

    • Verushka says:

      I don’t mind twisted, because even then most times things make sense (and there are some good twisty bits in here), but I couldn’t deal with this one as a whole unfortunately.

  • I saw this cover around LOT and was interested. Now not so much. Sorry this didn’t work out.

  • Oh no, sorry this didn’t work for you. I’m not a big fan of books set in prisons, so that’s kind of annoying the beginning that talks about that doesn’t really add to the overall story.

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