'You make me feel like there's something good in the world I can hold on to,' Aaron says. He kisses me again, draws me so close it's almost hard to breathe. 'I love you, Gem. And I promise I'll hold your heart forever.' When Gemma meets Aaron, she feels truly seen for the first time. Their love story is the intense kind. The written-in-the-stars, excluding-all-o
others kind. The kind you write songs about. But little by little their relationship takes over Gemma's life. What happens when being seen becomes being watched, and care becomes control? Told in both Gemma's and Aaron's words, this is a raw, moving exploration of gaslighting in teenage relationships that skewers our ideas of what love looks like.'
Being able to kick off the blog tour for this new novel was wonderful news, Karen Gregory is a fantastic author, known for her novels such as my favourite 'Skylarks'. 'I Hold Your Heart' instantly drew me in and refused to let go, much like the premise of the novel. Perfect for fans of Holly Bourne and Louise O'Neill 'I Hold Your Heart' will not disappoint.
Karen Gregorys’ writing never fails me, between ‘I hold your heart’ and her 2018 novel ‘Skylarks’ you have two very different never the less contemporary novels, offering an insight into society today and relationships in general. ‘I hold your heart’ is an emotionally balanced book that will be a tough read for many people. From a distance, everyone would think they should be able to spot the signs of an abusive relationship but when you are the one in that situation is it actually easy to tell? Karen Gregory as always weaves in the finer details to her enigmatic novels, for instance the ee cummings poem reference in the novel, what I always thought of as words of sentiment, actually take on a more twisted meaning.
‘I Hold Your Heart’ is a tense must-read. As you are reading through the dual narrative and reading Aaron’s chapters it makes you feel uncomfortable because we can see it isn’t normal and his actions throughout the novel are controlling and toxic. However, as a writing technique the dual narrative made me read it quicker than I would perhaps have done otherwise, so I actually really liked the way it was set out and it made a good change.
Gemma, where do I start? She was a wonder as a protagonist of the story to read. I really liked the fact that we had a protagonist in YA writing who had a loving, caring family as often as not, families aren’t written about, and I am glad that this novel had that in it. Actually the only other example I can think of that has family aspects is ‘To all the boys I’ve loved Before’. The support as well for each other was very real and made me feel connected as a reader.
Gemma is outgoing and has so many hobbies and dreams such as playing the guitar and singing, all pretty normal, until she meets Aaron and she starts to give these things up one by one, things that brought happiness to her life, alarm bells started going off in my head. Was this just because her relationship with Aaron is new and exciting or is it something more sinister? Personally, this is where ‘I Hold Your Heart’ is a testament to Karen Gregory’s writing, because I vaguely knew the details of the novel, I was alert as I was reading for signs that it was going to go wrong. However the story unfolded so naturally and emotionally, it is easy to see how you could end up in a situation you aren’t happy in. Aaron is never written as a fully-fleshed villain, more as just a boy in love. ‘I Hold Your Heart’ is an emotional story that will certainly have people questioning what constitutes normal and definitely help a lot of people in setting boundaries within their own relationships.
Things all come to a boiling point when eventually Gemma feels claustrophobic of her relationship with Aaron and realises that actually this might not be okay, - and it is emotional abuse - she goes for a walk and has to ask herself some really brutal questions that would be hard for anyone to honestly answer within themselves. For instance Aaron is a bit older, confident and charming and having faced hardships in his own life, Gemma finds him to be sensitive and understanding. He makes her feel loved, but to the point where when his behaviour starts becoming increasingly erratic Gemma finds it hard to notice. From a readers point of view and an outsider of their relationship it was difficult to read.
‘I Hold Your Heart’ is an important book about setting boundaries, bold and thought-provoking and I imagine it should become necessary reading for a lot of people. It was a compelling read and I think Karen Gregory treated a really sensitive subject with a lot of research and in a way that I think a lot of people will connect with. Unputdownable and one of my favourite reads of the year so far, now we just have to wait for Karen Gregory’s next novel!
About the Author:
Karen Gregory has been a confirmed bookworm since early childhood. She wrote her first story about Bantra the mouse aged twelve, then put away the word processor until her first child was born, when she was overtaken by the urge to write. Her first novel, Countless, published in 2017, was shortlisted for the Leeds Book Award and longlisted for the Branford Boase. Her second novel, Skylarks, was published in 2018. Karen lives in Wiltshire with her family.