The Hearts We Sold by Emily-Lloyd-Jones (great name!) took me by surprise. Lately, I’ve been working my way through piles of OwlCrate books I’ve yet to read. I promised myself I’d be pickier about reviewing new books, and I have. After a few titles that left me yawning, Lloyd-Jones’ YA novel about demons, deals, and (literal) heartbreak felt refreshing.
Author: Emily Lloyd-Jones • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers • Released: 2018
The story follows teenage Dee who appears, at first, another “every-girl” of the YA genre. She’s shy, average in every way (except she’s smart, of course), and inexperienced in affairs of the heart. Without giving too much away, Dee makes a deal with a daemon and finds herself entangled in the fate of the world. Dee’s new companions waste no time showing her the ropes of the perilous, unstable missions they’ve agreed to complete, leaving Dee’s life full of sudden secrets and a unearthly, lurking evil.
Dee’s growth throughout the story from a meek and timid young woman to a passionate and fierce heroine is emotional and compelling. Her narrative voice is honest and insightful, and the amount of introspection and self-awareness Lloyd-Jones cultivates throughout the novel impressed me. Too often Young Adult heroines find themselves saved by their romantic interest, but Dee’s catharsis comes from within, it’s significance only magnified by the love and loss she experiences. Dee’s transformation never feels rushed or forced forward through manufactured trauma. Instead, it naturally develops over the substantial 375-plus pages. Lloyd-Jones’ standout main character blew away my expectations and reignited my love for the naïve, young adult heroine.
“She became her own knight; she collected those broken promises and whispered apologies and fashioned them into armor.”
― Emily Lloyd-Jones, The Hearts We Sold
Surrounded by an excellent cast of supporting characters, The Hearts We Sold’s coming-of-age arc is heartfelt (pun intended) and realistic despite its heartless plot and surreal setting. Dee’s companions – the lovable Cal, the sharp and dangerous Cora, and the tortured artist James – never feel like supporting characters. They demand the reader’s attention, filling the pages with their own struggles, triumphs, and tragedies. Halfway through the novel, a twist brings different characters to the forefront, and this growing ensemble of personalities only adds to the fullness of the story. I felt submerged in Lloyd-Jones’ writing, like I was a part of this group of desperate but hopeful kids believing that, in a world so broken, there were still things worth fighting for.
A lot of Young Adult novels explore the somber, vulnerable, and painful sides to growing up. A world without safety nets often erupts unexpectedly for many teens, and it can leave them feeling adrift in a life that’s largely beyond their control. Lloyd-Jones captures this feeling in her writing with excellent descriptions of fear, heartbreak, hopelessness, and anger. She casts her supernatural world in contrasting colors of black and white, and her characters are left to stumble through all the grey areas they never knew existed. Every page turn feels like a descent into deeper, darker secrets about life, people, and love. When Dee finds the answers she’s looking for, they only create more questions about herself. Lloyd-Jones’ weaving, evolving plot will bring you to rock-bottom with her characters as she forces them to figure out how to climb out all by themselves.
“Nothing comes for free. We just don’t know what it’ll cost.”
― Emily Lloyd-Jones, The Hearts We Sold
I find it difficult to say much more about this novel without spoiling everything I want you to experience. Normally, I’d elaborate on the details of the story, setting up the exposition so you know what to expect, but Lloyd-Jones’ writing needs to be devoured whole from beginning to end. I implore you to pick up this book as blind as possible – don’t even read the summary on the inside cover! Trust me.
You should read this book if: you love Young Adult novels, romance, supernatural stories, or are looking to dip your toe into any of these genres. I’ll admit, my patience for YA books has been tested of late, but Lloyd-Jones’ novel helped me remember why I fell in love with them in the first place. The Hearts We Sold is a fresh take on the coming-of-age story, slipping daemons and the supernatural so seamlessly into our world that after I closed the book, I couldn’t help but wonder. Are they here? The daemons? Would I make a deal?