My Loft of the Cabin where I store all my virtual reads, reviews and discover new adventures and share new stories!
I love reading book series and was especially excited to be able to read them as part of two book tours for Ms. Emlyn Chand. I am so happy I did, especially now that I have finished Open Heart.
One thing I do want to say before I go into the review of Open Heart are the new cover for Farsighted and collection of covers for the rest of the series are amazingly beautiful. I was privy to be able to do a cover reveal for not only Open Heart but the upcoming third novel due out Spring of 2013. I now have seen the rest of the series covers and cannot wait to do some more cover reveals as well as read the books (spoken like a true "Cover Lover").
Another kudos' point of a more serious nature, is Ms. Chand's featuring a group of character's that are not the stereo typical cast of pretty white girls and boys who are cheerleaders and the quarter-backs with the tragic scape goats being taunted and bullied. Here the heroes are the disabled, geeky, multicultural and socioeconomic standing. Here the ones that save the day or have the advantage are the underdogs of highschool. In other words, the majority of the student body.
Unlike my bubbly rambling review of Farsighted, I hope, as with the book, this review takes a bit more serious (and yet still fun...like the book) voice. Open Heart is, again, a true young-adult novel. But more importantly, it is a book with a very strong and serious message within its pages. It deals directly with body image and eating disorders, specifically bulimia. The author, unlike many books labeled as Y.A has a very clear warning about this and other mature situations in the book more poignantly directed at the older teen. After all, our protagonist, Simme is hovering near 17 and is dealing with her own body image, the acquiring of her eating disorder as well as embarking into the world of being "sexually active". There is some violence, labeled minor (I concur) which makes this book one I would recommend for parents and their teens starting no younger than the age of 14 -16. I wouldn't let my Willow, age 13 turning 14 in December, read the book yet but I would want her to read it next year when she starts high school (10th grade). It is another book that will open up dialogue, hence why it is a real YA Book.
Having said all that let's talk about the story, or at least a sliver of the aspect of it because there are a lot different things we can discuss since Emlyn has incorporated a lot of incredible messages. Choosing what to talk about is killing me. On one hand we have the synopsis reading "Simmi's loyalty is on the line. Who will she choose--the blind seer who loves her, or the charming telekinetic with "bad idea" written all over him? Emotions run high as the tension mounts in book two of the Farsighted series." this definitely is one aspect of Simmi's life that is addressed, and it does take up a large point of the story, but what about dealing with continuing the paranormal aspects from the end of Farsighted we are left with the wreckage being cleaned up after Simmi saves lives of animals and public alike with her own emerging paranormal power in this instance.
There is so much to talk about with this book, the complexities of the writing, the allegory with certain scenes has a myriad of messages for the reader I am somewhat at a loss of where to begin.
Our heroine, Simmi, is considered (or considers herself) the fat girl, she is from India and we get to be her cheerleaders in her battle as well as get a huge exposure of the Indian culture and family structure. The thing is, Simmi is like the majority of all high school teens. She sees herself as plain, even ugly, fat and undesirable. Her safe relationship with Alex because he cannot "see" is being threatened by her attraction to the pretty bad boy, Dax. Though a very normal story arc, Open Heart in no way takes on this typical scenario in the normal fashion. Even if you took out the paranormal aspects, the weaving of the Chakra's and the literary references Ms. Chand uses add more things to consider and think about. It is a dense wonderful heart stomping, stopping and wrenching read.
I cried several times throughout the book. I remember feeling like the fat girl in high school but when I look back at those images I was a size 12 too and in no way was I fat, I was rock hard muscle, but when I looked in the mirror I saw the girl who was called fat because of my non coke or bulimic induced size 2. I was "the other", an athlete, a smart girl, a book nerd, the newspaper and year book geek who hung out with the math and chess geeks as well as someone in choir and theater. Though I never got the starring roles like our Simmi nor did I ever have the confidence she with her talent. But like Simmi, I know theater was one of my escape routes when I needed to feel pretty, (Simmi singing "I Feel Pretty" was NOT an accident nor was the choice of West Side Story as the play), by becoming someone else on the stage so I did not have to look in the mirror. Later on in life, because no one addressed my issues I became the fat mom, the woman who to this day looks in the mirror and when I was at my thinnest a couple years back, I still saw a fat girl. The story is beautiful and heart breaking.
I blazed through the book and found myself sad to see my progression percentage getting further and further along... I did not want the story to end. However, I am pretty sure this is not going to be a favorite in the series for all of the fans, because of the subject matter being so hard addressed in such a manner. I need a "Team Simmi" shirt because it is one of mine. I found Open Heart addressing very real aspects which happen in every girl's and woman's world.
Consider the fact despite one of the parents having the ability read minds, he never is able to discern Simmi is in danger from herself with her eating disorder. It is easier to address her not dealing with her emerging paranormal abilities. Yes she does her best to not think about things around him, and Emlyn does make a point of this when Simmis keeps humming "Who Let the Dogs Out" but there is no way this would keep her safe all the time. I saw it as a statement towards society in a whole. We ignore issues that the female gender faces on a daily basis. Even in this enlightened age woman's issues are swept under the rug and ignored, much like Mr. K does with Simmi.
Open Heart's and Ms. Emlyn's messages state something very bold; even in today's world it is easier to deal with the absurd (the paranormal), or the general acceptable things teens face, then it is to deal with specific things that FEMALE teens face. Even her Dax, who recognizes she is bulimic, wordlessly showing support and understanding, though not an actual enabler, never actively is shown trying to help her. What is Ms. Chand saying with those red M&Ms? The Open Heart here are these messages, the red M&M's a drop of blood being bled daily in the mirrors and scale junkies before class in the morning. You do not need a special paranormal gift to read minds, or calm emotions to see this. An open heart for the readers to see, laid out on a table of teenage angst, of girls dreams being smashed by themselves in the much of destructive behavior.
I only had a wee problem, and this is me wanting a bit story because I am not a teen dealing with this stuff anymore, was more of the paranormal to bring a bit of balance. I can see how this would be hard to do when a book deals with so many serious subjects and has so many statements being made. I do not think the fictional tale with our paranormal teenage heroes, gets left behind, just more stage left instead of center stage,but Simmi is the TRUE star after all isn't she? So it is not a to considerable problem but I do wish there was a tad bit more. Putting it right after Farsighted it is nicely balanced. We have a story from the blind hero's point of view his world is focused around what he "sees" in his visions where as Simmi's voice is based on seeing the world around her and yet not being able to "see" herself for who she truly is. For the subject matter this probably was a good choice.. oh dear I am rambling and I promised I wouldn't do that!
I want a "Team Simmi" shirt.. seriously. She is my favorite character in the series and she has made my top five favorite leading ladies from my reads this year for sure! Ms. Chand hit another out of the park. PITCH, book 3, is going to from our ghost whisperers point of view, mid-2013 cannot come soon enough!