I Hold Your Heart
Rating: 5/5
Buy or Borrow? Buy
Source: ARC copy gifted by Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review

When Gemma meets Aaron, she feels truly seen for the first time. Their love story is the intense kind. The written-in-the-stars, excluding-all-others kind. The kind you write songs about. 

But little by little their relationship takes over Gemma's life. What happens when being seen becomes being watched, and care becomes control?

Told in both Gemma's and Aaron's words, this is a raw, moving exploration of gaslighting in teenage relationships that skewers our ideas of what love looks like. 

When the chance to be part of Karen's blog tour for her new novel, I Hold Your Heart, came to me - I jumped at the opportunity. I've been a huge fan of Karen's work for a few years, and she's such an asset to the YA community; often discussing taboo topics within her books and highlighting their importance. I Hold Your Heart was no exception.

***Before you read this review, please note that I will be discussing physical, sexual, and mental abuse, and these themes are explored heavily throughout the book***

I Hold Your Heart focuses on our two main characters, Gemma and Aaron. Both are teenagers, and the story alternates between their voices, and explores the complexity of their fast-blossoming relationship.

Gemma has little experience with boys; so when Aaron whirlwinds into her life, she is swept off her feet instantly. He's attractive, charismatic, a people-pleaser, and showers Gemma with gifts, love, and affection. A dream first boyfriend, right?

As Gemma's obsession with Aaron grows, she begins to isolate herself from her previous life to please him. As the reader gets further into the novel, it becomes increasingly uncomfortable to read what she's willing to do for him, and how he manipulates her into thinking that what he's doing is okay.

Like most teenagers and their first love, Gemma is naïve, and completely blind to the only version of love she has ever known. Her relationship with her parents and brother are already quite strained; so before long, she feels as though Aaron is her only escape from the dullness of her normal life. Aaron uses this to his advantage, and as part one of the book came to an end, I had to stop. With tears streaming down my face, and reading a situation I found myself all too familiar with.

I will say, this book is not an easy read. I had many breaks. Many moments of identifying with Gemma. Crying with Gemma. Feeling everything she felt. Watching her spiral into someone almost unrecognisable from her first chapter in the book. And being able to read how Aaron's thought processes worked, and the insight into his mind during something so traumatic (but all too common), was gut-wrenching, and shocking.

Although a minor plot point, I thought Gemma coming from a working class family, and it being written about so accurately, was something I found very relatable. Like Karen's earlier work, she always does this with a lot of sensitivity, and care for her audience.

I feel like saying any more about the plot will take away the shock and the journey you must go on with Gemma whilst reading this. Gemma, although flawed, is a truly "normal" character who you ache to save from the first few chapters.

Karen has done something incredible in writing from both character's perspectives. It almost feels like you're reading two different author's works because it feels that authentic. I absolutely adored this book - enough to include it in my book subscription box. You can find the full unboxing here.

Check out the other stops on the I Hold Your Heart blog tour here:


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