Fierce Fragile Hearts is the stunning companion novel to Sara Barnard’s YA bestseller Beautiful Broken Things, which was selected for the inaugural Zoella Book Club. It is about leaving the past behind, the friends who form your future, and learning to find love, in all its forms.
Two years after a downward spiral took her as low as you can possibly go, Suzanne is starting again. Again. She’s back in Brighton, the only place she felt she belonged, back with her best friends Caddy and Rosie. But they’re about to leave for university. When your friends have been your light in the darkness, what happens when you’re the one left behind?
I finished reading this book about two weeks ago. Mental Health Awareness week was just round the corner. A week where we are encouraged to talk about mental health, raising awareness and remind each other that it’s okay to talk about these things. So here I was with this book in my hands. This beautiful book about three friends and the pain of growing up in a world that only seems to deal in sorrow and heartbreak, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. A wonderful example of how we can find truth, friendship and support through reading novels such as this.
As the synopsis said Fierce Fragile Hearts is a companion novel to Beautiful Broken Things where events unfolded through the voice of Caddy. A story that culminated with a suicide attempt (unsuccessful) by one of her closest friends. Suzanne survived but she left Brighton and her friends Caddy and Rosie in an attempt to heal. To continue to survive.
It is now two years later and Suzanne has left her foster carers and is returning to Brighton; a place filled with memories and also the two people she loves most in the world – Caddy and Rosie. This time we hear through Suzanne’s voice. A voice that has suffered in her childhood in a way that has left it’s mark far more than any physical scars may show. My heart went out to this young woman who, so desperate to let the past go, was still suffering and yet was filled with a steely determination. When Caddy and Rosie leave for University, Suzanne is left alone but she gradually begins to adjust to her new life living alone in Brighton. I was drawn into this tale and it made me feel. It reminded me how lonely life can be, even when you are surrounded by the people you love. It also reminded me how precious it is and how important it is to allow people into our lives. It’s easy to build a wall. To avoid the chance of being pushed away, beaten or unloved. Yet then we miss out on so much. This we can see not only through Suzanne’s relationship with Caddy and Rosie but also the new relationships she builds with the most unlikely of people. Sometimes it’s okay to need people and accept help… and oh how I would like to meet someone like Dilys!
The thing with mental health is that there is no quick fix. It’s something that takes time, effort and support. Sara has touched on this beautifully in Fierce Fragile Hearts. We can see how fragile Suzanne is but how she longs to be better. The steps after the counselling, after medication, after the world goes back to normal… that’s when we can feel lost again. As someone who has suffered from depression and anxiety one of the things that amazed me, when I came out of my own personal fog, was that some days you still feel bad. Yes you are ‘better’ but it can be a little scary when you suddenly feel the shadow again. There will always be bad days. Everyone has them. It’s what we do to cope with them that matters.
Suzanne’s story reminded me that it’s okay to have bad days. It’s okay to not always get it right. Suzanne has shown me that it’s our experiences and how we react to them that makes us who we are. She tried to make herself unlovable, because the alternative frightened her and after all, why would anyone want to love her? Right? But those who truly know you will always be there for you on the other side. Life is about give and take and Suzanne finds what she has to give the world along her way. It’s about accepting you for who you are, good and bad, and making the very best life for yourself. This is a story full of hope and light to help chase out the shadows and remind you that you’re never alone and that you are enough… just the way you are.
* This is a YA novel and although I feel it will be suitable for older teens please be aware that there are themes of mild drug use and sexual relations within the story line. It is never crude or unjustified though.
About the author
Sara Barnard lives in Brighton and does all her best writing on trains. She loves books, book people and book things. She has been writing ever since she was too small to reach the ‘on’ switch on the family Amstrad computer. She gets her love of words from her dad, who made sure she always had books to read and introduced her to the wonders of second-hand book shops at a young age. She is the author of Beautiful Broken Things.
You can follow Sara on Twitter at @saramegan
Fierce Fragile Hearts was published by Macmillan in February 2019.
Thank you to Macmillan for providing a review copy via Netgalley. This is one that I didn’t hesitate to buy in for the school Library. 🙂