Review of Borrowed by Lucia DiStefano
I bought this book on pre-order after following Lucia DiStefano on Twitter. She is an amazing writer and person and I was intrigued by the blurb she tweeted about her novel, Borrowed.
Blurb of the book:
Love, mystery, and danger collide in this new literary thriller with the dark heart of a Gillian Flynn novel and the lyrical prose of Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun.
A triumph of authenticity, grace, and nail-biting suspense, Lucia DiStefano’s ingenious debut is an unflinching, genre-bending page-turner.
As seventeen-year-old Linnea celebrates the first anniversary of her heart transplant, she can’t escape the feeling that the wires have been crossed. After a series of unsettling dreams, inked messages mysteriously appear on her body, and she starts to wonder if this new heart belongs to her at all.
In another Austin neighborhood, Maxine braces for a heartbreaking anniversary: her sister Harper’s death. Between raising her brothers and parenting her grief-stricken mother, Max is unable to ignore her guilty crush on Harper’s old flame or shake her lingering suspicion that her sister’s drowning wasn’t really an accident. With Harper as the sole connection, Linnea and Maxine are soon brought together in fantastic and terrifying ways as the shocking truth behind Harper’s death comes to light.
Strengths of this book:
Pacing. I finished it in less than 3 hours, in one sitting. The prose is tight, the stakes high, and the concept intriguing. In many books I read I can see what the ending will be and what will happen but I was consistently surprised while reading Borrowed.
I appreciated that while the heart transplant set the stage for the story, it wasn’t the whole story. (Almost like *gasp* the characters– like people themselves– are more complex than one attribute. In this way, the characters were round (with interests besides Finding The One™) and clear personalities).
Toxic relationships were portrayed as the toxic person’s fault (as they should be more often in literature!) The toxicity of certain people not initially apparent, just as it isn’t in real life.
The more-or-less happy ending, without being too cliche or forced. Along with that, there was a lack of cliche characters, plot points, genre tropes, etc. Very refreshing.
The parents and/or love interests do not save the damsel-in-distress™. Many books that now try to have Strong Female Characters™ actually don’t let her ‘save herself’ or solve the main conflict.
I love the name Linnea (almost as if I used a version of it in my own novel Insomnus). Also, having the main characters have different-sounding names helped some with distinguishing between them.
Things I wish were better:
I really wish I was less confused while reading. I got lost during some transitions between points of view. Some of the ‘reveals’ were not obvious enough or had not enough foreshadowing that initially I had trouble believing them (*I’m looking at you Tyler. Where did you come from?*). Namely, I didn’t have an issue with these plot points (I think they were great ideas) per say, but they felt out-of-the-blue when they were revealed. Some were well foreshadowed (ie the writing on the arm, etc) but some were not sufficiently hinted at.
I had trouble with one scene towards the end that was relatively unpleasant (if you’ve read it, you should know which one I mean). I go back and forth about it because I think the book could have done without it, but also understand, to some extent, why it was there. I think, all in all, I would have liked it better if it was threatened but didn’t actually occur. The story was already dark enough, the character in question was unlikable/smarmy/etc enough without it.
Something just felt off at the end. Perhaps it was the confusion. Perhaps it was that at certain points I felt the character’s actions weren’t the most realistic– see spoilers below for details. But I loved the end end (the very last bit).
Why did Linnea/Harper get into the back of the truck instead of just following him? Why did Max continue to be hostile towards Tyler after Harper told her what to do? (I can understand her being emotional, but it came off as just unintelligent). I really liked that Linnea/Harper had to eat the mushrooms– many times novels introduce conflict but don’t go far enough into them to have real stakes. In this way, I also liked that it ended up being Linnea at the end and the switching was due to death/near-death experiences (but wasn’t explicitly spelled out. Thus, the rules to the ‘magic’ were clear but not hit over our heads).