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April's Heart

by Shilah Ferr

Rating: ***

April’s Heart is a coming of age novel following April Schweiter, an all-American girl, from the age of thirteen. The book is in four parts and set in the late 1970s through to 1980s. We primarily follow the rollercoaster relationship between her and Mitchell Hudgins. This on/off romance is played out among April’s tribulations with family and friends as well as her path through High School and College.

I found April’s Heart entertaining but, at times, exhausting. Personally, I think the book should have begun with April a little older, fifteen perhaps, and been a little shorter. Part One certainly captures the unsophisticated logic of a young teenager and first love. Ms Ferr writes with a short sentence construct which makes for a fast, enthusiastic tempo. There is a lot of telling in her narrative which does lend some of the passages a slightly one-dimensional feel. However, April is an interesting character and I liked that she was aware of her flaws and yet was confident in her abilities despite them. As the novel progresses, you do sense her personality mature; thought processes clearly become more refined and less naïve. There were times I wanted to slap her, times I found her funny and times I nodded knowingly. Ms Ferr nicely captures and immerses you in the melting pot of teenage scheming, angst, and heartbreak. Her subjectivity and passion for telling this story is obvious throughout and especially towards the end.

I did find some parts repetitive, although the situation with Harriet; her Mother, provided a break from the on/off Mitch narrative and I would have liked this explored further or returned to later in the novel. There were a few loose ends with her familial relationships which don’t impact on the main thrust of the book but it would have added some depth if these had been delved into more.

The scenes between April and Mitch are nicely written and really redolent of those teenage moments. I felt the butterflies for both of them. I also found the late 70s/80s backdrop refreshing due to the lack of technology but, ironically, I thought the Spotify links were a nice addition.

Despite reservations concerning the length and occasional superficiality of April’s Heart, I would certainly recommend it for a fun, easy and engaging read that perfectly encapsulates the emotional drama of those bittersweet teenage years.

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