heart to heart explores the dynamics between three families all affected by one tragedy.
Elowyn and Kassey are best friends forever. Elowyn loves lavender and French country decor (her bedroom is yellow and blue with pale purple flowers). As they grow up together, their relationship changes but Kassey is always a part of her friend's life. She goes on vacation with Elowyn's family and spends much of her free time with Elowyn's family. For Kassey this is important because her father and mother split up years ago and with her mother working long hours, she misses a normal family life.
In high school they play volleyball together and have classes together. When Elowyn gets a boyfriend, Wyatt Nolan, Kassey is left "to figure out my life on my own". Despite this, Kassey remains faithful to their friendship and supports Elowyn as her relationship with Wyatt runs into trouble. On her 16th birthday, Eolwyn is given a new car. One stormy night, after a fight with Wyatt, Elowyn doesn't come home.
After a horrific car accident, Elowyn remains in hospital, brain damaged. When doctors inform Elowyn's parents that she is "brain dead" they decide to take her off life support and donate her organs. This tragic turn of events is devastating for all involved; Elowyn's parents, Terri and Matt, Wyatt Nolan and Elowyn.
The recipient of Elowyn's heart is 16 year old, Arabeth St. Clair who has been suffering from heart disease since she was six. Her father, a soldier in Afghanistan was killed when she was 13 by a roadside bomb.
Most of the story from here on in deals with the relationship between Kassey, Wyatt and Elowyn's parents, and Arabeth and her family. In a special program, transplant recipients are allowed to meet their donor's family if all are in agreement. McDaniel uses the phenomenon of "cellular memory" to add a unique angle to her novel. Cellular memory is the theory that the brain is not the only organ that stories the memories, habits, likes and personality of the a person. There have been documented cases of people who have received heart transplants undergoing changes in philosophies, food preferences and having memories of events that they themselves did not experience.
heart to heart was riveting because of the new relationships that develop once the three families meet one another. For example, Wyatt begins dating Arabeth because her habits and mannerisms remind him of Elowyn. In the end, all involved must try to come to terms with what has happened and to move on with their lives.
Not a tear-jerker like many of McDaniel's other novels but well written, short and appealing to teen readers.
heart to heart by Lurlene McDaniel
Delacorte Press 2010
214 pp (small pages with small text)