I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier
Published by Minotaur Books on June 12, 2018
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.
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?
April has been an amazing month for domestic thrillers and me. I have loved them for ages, but they don’t always love me back, and I am oftentimes leery to try, having been burnt so many times by authors who fancy themselves the next Gillian Flynn. I am so glad that I took a chance on Jar of Hearts, though – and as someone who primarily reads YA fiction and has to be in a very particular mood to appreciate the nuances of adult fiction, I promise this one is worth it.
How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend
Georgina – “Geo” to those close to her – and Angela are the very best of friends. Cheerleaders and confidants, they do everything together, along with their third wheel best friend Kaiser who acts as part body guard, part droopy-eyed puppy dog. Together, the three of them have a happy, carefree high school experience, until one day they stop at a gas station and meet Calvin.
Calvin is older. Calvin is the cool, unobtainable guy. And he fancies Geo – second fiddle to Angela, always the bridesmaid Geo. This creates a lot of friction in their otherwise happy friendship, but the girls eventually rally and buoy past it, until one fateful night when suddenly nothing can buoy anywhere any more. One night, backlit by alcohol and stale pizza, Angela is murdered by Calvin. Geo knows this, because Geo was there, too.
24 years later, Geo is 30 years old, engaged to a high-profile businessman – and a very successful businesswoman herself. So it’s with a mix of trepidation and relief when she is arrested for the death of her best friend, all these years ago. Geo is taken to help prosecute her ex boyfriend Calvin, and then escorted to prison herself to serve a five year sentence. But right as Geo is released from prison, murders begin to happen again. And they’re taking a very familiar shape …
Told from Geo’s perspective in two timelines (16 year old Geo and 30-35 year old Geo), we learn the inner machinations of a very complicated young woman, one you set out to hate and wind up in love with by the conclusion of the book. Geo is nuanced and has had a rough life. We feel for her at 16, dating a terribly abusive young man that she can’t seem to get out from underneath, and again at 30, finally imprisoned for a crime she committed so long ago and tried to put behind her as best she could, and again at 35, released from prison and trying to put behind her a past that just won’t stop rising from the ashes.
It took me until the end of the book to “get” the twist, and the only ding I have against this book is the epilogue – it ranks up there with the Harry Potter-level epilogues I’ve read, in the league of “what just happened to this plot?!” endings wrapped up with a shiny red bow where it’s just not realistic for there to be any sort of bow, much less the giant “I just bought this brand new car” sort of bow that you see in these epilogues.
The Bottom Line
Jar of Hearts is a thrill ride from start to finish. Geo is flawed, but ultimately likable as our main character, and I think we can all see at least a small part of ourselves in her. It doesn’t take a lot of work to remember what it’s like to be 16 years old and jealous – of your best friend’s love life, of her clothes, her other friends, of anything at all – and Geo really puts you back in those awkward, ungainly shoes again. If this book were a perfume, it would smell of cinnamon and wood smoke, and it would cling to your clothes long after you’ve finished turning the pages. Look for Jar of Hearts on shelves on June 12, 2018, and remember: it’s never too late for the past to haunt you.