A Heart in the Body in the World – Deb Caletti – Simon Pulse – Published 18 September 2018




When everything has been taken from you, what else is there to do but run?

So that’s what Annabelle does—she runs from Seattle to Washington, DC, through mountain passes and suburban landscapes, from long lonely roads to college towns. She’s not ready to think about the why yet, just the how—muscles burning, heart pumping, feet pounding the earth. But no matter how hard she tries, she can’t outrun the tragedy from the past year, or the person—The Taker—that haunts her.

Followed by Grandpa Ed in his RV and backed by her brother and two friends (her self-appointed publicity team), Annabelle becomes a reluctant activist as people connect her journey to the trauma from her past. Her cross-country run gains media attention and she is cheered on as she crosses state borders, and is even thrown a block party and given gifts. The support would be nice, if Annabelle could escape the guilt and the shame from what happened back home. They say it isn’t her fault, but she can’t feel the truth of that.

My thoughts

Achingly poignant and beautifully written, A Heart in a Body in the World is a book that everyone, man, woman and teen, must read. I truly do not have words adequate enough to describe both the importance and the beauty of this incredible story. It brought me to tears (multiple times), it had me on the edge of my seat, it had me raging at the world, and it had me smiling in hope and joy and hoping that maybe, just maybe, through stories such as these of strong, brave men and women, we can make a difference.

After everything that happened, everything that has been taken from her, Annabelle isn’t sure what to do. What can she do? So she runs. One night just takes off and starts running. She doesn’t have a plan, doesn’t expect her younger brother to create a route for her from Washington State to Washington DC. Doesn’t expect her mother to agree. Doesn’t expect her Grandpa Ed to travel with her in his RV as her support team. She also never expected to become an unwitting activist with a message to share. All Annabelle knows to do is to put one foot in front of the other – because after you’ve lost everything, what else can you do.

It’s not clear from the start of Annabelle’s story what exactly she has endured. I was expecting a story of sexual assault but it is made clear early on that it is not that story. Yet it is about assault and control and dominance and all those things that go with sexual assault and inequality of power and rights. But it is also about violence and control and dominance shown in another way. As Annabelle runs, the reader is given tiny glimpses and hints as to the trauma Annabelle has experienced. Slowly, pieces and patterns fall into place through traumatic flashbacks. Yet for the majority of the run, there are more questions than answers. A Heart in a Body in the World is therefore not only a timely contemporary novel with an important and powerful message, but also an intriguing thriller that had me glued to the pages.

A Heart in a Body in the World is beautifully written (but it’s by Deb Caletti so that’s not unexpected). It is poignant and carefully constructed and has a provoking and important message (again, to be expected). But it is the little slice of humanity captured within the pages that make A Heart in a Boy in the World such a gripping and powerful read. It’s Annabelle herself, through all the stages of her journey, through numbing grief and guilt, aching sadness and hopeless depression, to rage and anger and endless, endless bravery. And it’s Grandpa Ed with his Italian insults and love of anchovies and the way he sticks by Annabelle, and gets mad, and falls in love. It’s Annabelle’s mother and her consuming worry that translates to love. It’s Annabelle’s brother who is super smart, surprising, supportive and completely organised. It’s Annabelle’s friends. It’s the people she meets along the way. And it’s the people who are no longer there. A Heart in a Body in the World might be about loss and trauma and terrible, terrible things, but it is also about hope and a tiny spark of faith in humanity.

All I can say is read it. It might tear you to shreds, but you won’t regret it.

The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.

More information

Category: Young adult fiction.

Genre: Contemporary.

Themes: Running, family, stress, gun violence, physical abuse, emotional abuse, relationships, friendship, social issues, abuse, control.

Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.

Advisory: Coarse language, f*** (20), sh** (34), as**** (6), di** (4), pi** (12). References to male genitals. Violence, descriptions of gun violence and shootings.

Published:  18 September 2018 by Simon Pulse.

Format: Hardcover, ebook, Audiobook. 368 pages.

ISBN: 9781481415200

Find it on Goodreads