In a land where the human heart is considered gray, useless, and valuable only to be traded away, one girl refuses to become heartless. V. Romas Burton’s Heartmender pumps new blood into the classic good-versus-evil paradigm by way of the classic Seven Deadly Sins. To rescue her brother from a lord of darkness, young Addie Tye must triumph in a quest that feels both symbolically familiar and terrifyingly strange. Though this fairy tale opens slowly, it soon begins to race into nightmarish territory with uncomplicated prose tailored for young adult fans. Our agoraphobic heroine must overcome monsters that surpass all her fears. Puzzling ambiguity and a fumbled surprise cause the ending to skip a beat, but otherwise don’t detract from this explicitly Christian allegory’s heartfelt rush of emotion.
Best for: Young adults seeking a dark fairy tale.
Discern: Bloody violence, squicky surgical imagery, menacing evil, frightening creatures.