Saturday, May 2, 2015


Heart TransplantI have mixed emotions about the message in this book.  Author Andrew Vachss takes readers into the dysfunctional life of a boy named Sean.  The victim of an absentee father, a distracted mother, and taunting, physically abusive classmates, Sean must learn to cope with the mess life has thrown his way.

Sean comes home to find his mother and her current boyfriend shot to death.  As the police arrive and begin to discuss calling social services, an elderly man arrives claiming to the father of the murdered man, and therefore, Sean's grandfather.  Although, Sean has never seen the man before, he has little choice but to go with him.

As time passes, Sean and Pop become close.  Pop shares the wisdom of his life experiences with Sean and tries to help the young man make something of himself.  One life lesson is to teach Sean that you cannot be bullied if others don't think you are worth associating with.  Boxing lessons allow Sean to feel able to defend himself, and when he exercises some of the skills he has learned, it seems that the bullies finally leave him alone.

The book is designed as a picture book for teens.  The illustrations by Frank Caruso are bold and intense.  Each illustration furthers the accompanying text in a powerful way.

My discomfort with this book is the suggestion that fighting back is Pop and Sean's solution to bullying.  The idea of meeting force with force would definitely have an impact, but my instinct is that two wrongs don't necessarily make things right or solve a problem that effects so many.  Despite my misgivings, HEART TRANSPLANT is still worth a look as a tool to present and discuss the issue of bullying.

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