Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Heart Like Ringo Starr by Linda Oatman High

A Heart Like Ringo Starr is an utterly predictable but sweet story about a young girl whose hopes for a normal life come true.

Faith Hope Stevens was born with a congenital heart defect. Prognosis: likely to die before her nineteenth birthday.  Faith's family runs the Stevens Brothers Funeral Home in Seafoam, Delaware where she lives with her mom and dad and her eight year old brother, Lenny.

"Dead people downstairs,
live humans upstairs --"

Great-Aunt Mary, whom Faith refers to as the "antique fairy" is eccentric in her dress. A hippie from the 1960's Mary tells Faith that love is what matters in life.

Due to her health problems, Faith has been homeschooled. She has little energy to do physical activity.  Her mother is in denial about the possibility of Faith dying from her heart. Lately Faith has been losing weight and shopping trip to Sears with her mother doesn't lift Faith's spirits. No teenager wants to shop at Sears for clothing.

Faith is on the waiting list for a new heart. As a member of "Here's-A-Wish", Faith and her family are entitled to a vacation to Walt Disney World. The vacation in Orlando is magical for Faith and her family. But Faith knows wishing upon a star won't help her. She also knows her parents are grieving about her situation. Faith has a long bucket list of things she wants to do in life as any young person would. But what Faith wants most is
"...a heart
that keeps
the beat
of me 
in dreamy

Never missing.
Never dropping."

"I want a heart
like a drummer,
a heart
like Ringo Starr,
a heart
to take me

Lenny is impressed with Faith's bucket list but he wants her to have a boyfriend.

"You need to find
your knight
in shining armor,"
Lenny says.

Shortly after they return home, Faith's father must prepare the body of Vinnie Green, a boy Faith's age who was killed in a crash down the road from their house. Vinnie was found drowned in Black Creek. Shortly after this, Faith's father receives a call that there is a heart for her. Faith may finally realize her dream of living a normal life. She will have to confront her own fears of living a life very different from what she's used to.


A Heart Like Ringo Starr is a novel in verse and is different from most novels in this genre because the poetry mostly rhymes. This makes A Heart Like Ringo Starr somewhat unusual to read. Like most novels in verse, the storyline is sparse but Oatman High's poetry does convey the story well. Life for Faith before she receives her new heart is vastly different from teens her age. She lives at home where she is schooled and she isn't physically very active. She has typical teenage dreams - to travel, to go to prom, to skydive, to go to concerts and to climb mountains. Despite this Faith has come to terms with her life as it is. However, her entire life changes dramatically after suddenly receiving a new heart. Faith feels lost  and finds herself wishing for her old life and even her damaged heart. As a senior in high school, she doesn't belong and has no friends. She feels like a freak. On a whim, Faith travels to Rehoboth at her Aunt Mary's suggestion where they look for sea glass. On the beach, she stumbles into a handsome guy Jimmy Winters, and from this point on, Faith's entire life is suddenly transformed. Like Faith, Jimmy too came to the beach on a whim. The two seem to connect instantly and this connection changes Faith. She falls instantly in love with Jimmy who seems to accept her as she is. On the surface Faith's radical transformation after meeting Jimmy might feel contrived yet it points out how we all need that connection to someone to feel whole. Faith never experienced this before because her health was always a barrier.

Jimmy Winter's connection to Vinnie Green and Vinnie's connection to Faith stretches credibility, although it is possible. It is this connection that pulls Jimmy and Faith even closer together and makes Faith feel "bereft". This twist in the story is predictable but nonetheless touching.

Oatman High seems to lead readers to incorrectly believe that dead people can donate organs.  Vinnie Green was "found drowned, in Black Creek"  which suggests he had no vital signs when found. Vinnie's organs would not be suitable for donation; major organs can only be donated prior to death. Once a person has died, the organs, especially major organs such as the heart, kidneys and liver are unusable for transplantation because they deteriorate almost immediately. They must be removed while the donor has a beating heart.

A Heart Like Ringo Starr is a quick read for those interested in sick lit, those who enjoy reading novels in verse and like a feel good ending.Recommended for high-low collections.

Book Details:

A Heart Like Ringo Starr by Linda Oatman High
Saddleback Educational Publishing      2015
250 pp.

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