When My Heart Joins The Thousand – A.J. Steiger – HarperTeen – Published 6 February 2018
Alvie Fitz doesn’t fit in, and she doesn’t care. She’s spent years swallowing meds and bad advice from doctors and social workers. Adjust, adapt. Pretend to be normal. It sounds so easy.
If she can make it to her eighteenth birthday without any major mishaps, she’ll be legally emancipated. Free. But if she fails, she’ll become a ward of the state and be sent back to the group home.
All she wants is to be left alone to spend time with her friend, Chance, the one-winged hawk at the zoo where she works. She can bide her time with him until her emancipation. Humans are overrated anyway. Then she meets Stanley, a boy who might be even stranger than she is—a boy who walks with a cane, who turns up every day with a new injury, whose body seems as fragile as glass. Without even meaning to, she finds herself getting close to him. But Alvie remembers what happened to the last person she truly cared about.
Her past stalks her with every step, and it has sharp teeth. But if she can find the strength to face the enemy inside her, maybe she’ll have a chance at happiness after all.
When My Heart Joins The Thousand offers a beautiful insight into growing up and learning to accept your self.
Alvie has only another year until she will legally be free – free from fear of being returned to the foster care system, free to continue living on her own terms, free from the continual assessment of others as seeing her as something different, something other. When a young man enters the sphere of her daily routine she is at first shaken, but then takes up the opportunity to prove that even she can enjoy the closeness of others. But her relationship with Stanley is nothing like she imagined. As Alvie faces the challenges of living alone, fights for her freedom, and faces her past, it is her relationship with Stanley that prompts her to reassess everything she knows about herself and love.
Well, that is one intense prologue. Talk about getting thrown right into the story. Actually, intense is the perfect descriptor for this book. It tackles so many important themes in an upfront and honest way. It is intense in an unputdownable way and I greatly enjoyed reading Alvie’s story.
Alvie is a wonderful narrator and main character – she is the driving force behind this book and the reason it is so powerful. It is her story, told in her way. Alvie has Aspergers. At times, it defines who she believes she is and what she can do, but this book focuses on her journey of seeing herself outside of her diagnosis and outside of her past. When My Heart Joins the Thousand captures all the complexities and ups and downs as Alvie fights to become emancipated, as she faces the continued challenge of others’ judgment or expectations, as she struggles to balance steady employment and housing, and as she meets Stanley and assesses how this will change the routine of her life. Alvie is a unique, individual, and deeply layered character – perfect for this character-driven novel.
Alvie and Stanley’s relationship is both heartbreaking and incredibly sweet. Neither of them has anyone else on whom to lean. They need each other and yet they are both so afraid of hurting each other. Their romance may not have a conventional start, in fact, there may not be anything ‘standard’ about their relationship, but instead it is authentic and incredibly moving. I loved Stanley. Loved his deeply caring nature. Loved his patience with Alvie as she both pushes him away and pulls him close. As Alvie slowly learns more about him and his story, it was so easy to fall in love with him.
When My Heart Joins The Thousand is suitable for a very mature young adult audience. I would actually classify it as new adult fiction, due in part because of the frequent and detailed sexual content, but also because the challenges the characters face are very much relevant for an older young adult reader. That said, I think it is the perfect addition to this crossover category, offering a much-needed, well-considered, and powerful approach to issues surrounding coming of age, relationships, and independence.
When My Heart Joins The Thousand is a powerful novel that captures the anguish of being different and the magic that comes from being accepted for who you are. Romance, self-discover, and triumph over emotional trauma combine in this heartfelt novel.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: New adult fiction, Young adult fiction.
Themes: Sex and dating, relationships, Autism, Asperger’s, animals, employment, homelessness and housing, independence, family, memories, therapy, medication.
Reading age guide: Ages 16 and up.
Advisory: Strong, frequent sexual references, detailed sex scene (oral), mast*******. Infrequent, strong coarse language, f*** (6), m*****f***** (1), co** (1), sh** (5), as***** (2). Violence -fist fights and physical beatings, injuries.
Published: 6 February 2018 by HarperTeen.
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 352 pages.