Title: Red Heart Tattoo
Author: Lurlene McDaniel
Publisher: July 24th 2012 by Random House Children’s Books
Format: Hardcover, 224 pages
At 7:45 a.m. on the day before Thanksgiving break, a bomb goes off at Edison High. Nine people die instantly. Fifteen are critically injured. Twenty-two suffer less severe injuries. And one is blinded. Those who survive, struggle to cope with the loss and destruction. All must find new meaning for their lives as a result of something they may never understand.
Lurlene McDaniel’s signature expertise and finesse in dealing with issues of violence, death, and physical as well as emotional trauma in the lives of teens is immediate and heartrending.
This is my first Lurlene McDaniel book and I’m not overwhelmed. The plot was good, the writing was okay, but I just wasn’t smitten.
The novel opened with a prank involving some fireworks that suddenly go off in the middle of a pep rally. The students reacted so dramatically, I assumed the bomb mentioned in the book’s blurb had already happened (it hadn’t). So, at first I was confused; why were they acting so put-out over a little firework display?
The plot was topical and interesting. Not only does it deal with the bombing, we follow as the entire town learns to cope with the aftermath.
Two boys, whom we know only as Executioner and Apocalypse, move from general disdain of the other kids to setting off a bomb in the school. Clearly Executioner, the leader, was a sociopath, but I wasn’t convinced that Apocalypse would have followed Executioner so blindly. He seemed like a fairly normal teenager, not one I would have presumed could do such a thing. Maybe it was because we never learned anything about them before we were introduced to them as future bombers. I think we were just supposed to take it on face value that they were ‘evil’.
Morgan was a strong character that I generally liked. She was popular and dated the most handsome jock, but she wasn’t a total snob, she was still friendly with the less popular kids. She was a bit naïve, though, and I didn’t believe how her relationship developed with Roth. You’d think that with this huge event in her life, her blindness, and the fact that Roth was the primary suspect in the bombing, might give her pause, but nope. She jumped right in. Morgan’s mom didn’t seem realistic to me. The entire town, including the local police, are positive Roth is responsible for the bombing, and she jumps right to defend him. I think in a situation like that, any mom would have been much more guarded and suspicious. And Roth was a bit of a mystery to me, too. He was a suspect in the bombing, yet did nothing to defend himself? It was like he just ignored it. Liza seemed almost like a throwaway character to me; perhaps McDaniel needed someone to introduce a little conflict between Roth and Morgan, so she added Liza. We never learned much at all about her, or why she felt the way she did about Roth.
The writing seemed choppy to me, and I never would have guessed that Lurlene McDaniel has authored over 80 books. It was also very short, and I think that affected how little she was able to develop the characters, settings and scenes. I would have enjoyed it much more if these areas had been better fleshed out. I didn’t think the ending was very satisfactory.
The cover is okay. It matches the tone of the book, and it will get your attention, but I’m just kind of meh about it. Pretty much how I feel about the book itself.
Red Heart Tattoo is a short book perfect for someone truly interested in the subject. Otherwise, it’s safe to skip.