Isabelle Day Refuses to Die of a Broken Heart is the story of a young teenage girl whose world has been turned upside down. Isabelle’s dad died and then her mum decided they would move to Minneapolis for a new start, so Isabelle has not only lost her dad but also her home, her friends and the only life she had ever known.
Isabelle and her mum now rent a small apartment from two old ladies who live in the apartment downstairs. Flora and Dora immediately want to look after Isabelle and her mum. They start checking in on Isabelle when she’s on her own and they bring food for her. Isabelle just wants to be left alone though, she doesn’t want people fussing over her.
Isabelle is in eighth grade and at an age where she doesn’t want to be different from her peers, she just wants to make friends and feel normal. Once she starts her new school two girls, Margaret and Grace, befriend her but Isabelle has a hard time realising that these two girls really do like her.
Isabelle is desperately trying to find a way to hold on to her dad even though he has never been a part of the life she has now, he will never see their new home or meet her new friends and she’ll never again be able to tell him anything that happens to her. Isabelle’s pain is tangible at times.
This is a coming of age novel which is also about coming to terms with loss; it’s about how when someone dies you don’t just lose them but who you were to them. The writing in this novel is so subtle and beautiful, yet the small statements of grief feel like a punch in the gut. The simplicity of the writing belies the intensity of the grief. There are moments in this novel that took my breath away. Isabelle, who is only a young teenage girl, realising that nothing in her life will ever be as hard as finding her father dead; it’s such a powerful and sobering moment in the novel. The heartbreak that Flora and Dora have also gone through in their lives is first told so subtly that you could almost have missed it but when you realise what they are not saying, it just makes your heart ache.
Yet even though this is a novel about a bereaved girl, it’s in no way a depressing, downbeat novel. Isabelle is like any other teenage girl – she gets up to mischief and has fun with her friends. It’s a coming of age novel, it’s about how life can throw the worst things at you and yet you can still find yourself laughing at funny things and being silly with your friends. Isabelle slowly begins to understand that life moves on and while she still feels sad that her dad isn’t there, she realises that there is still a lot of happiness to be found in the world and that she won’t die of a broken heart.
This is a short novel but one to take your time reading, the subtly of the writing means so much of what is being said could easily be missed. This isn’t a fast-paced, action packed book, it’s a beautiful and moving account of one girl’s struggle to find a new normal. This book is for everyone but particularly good for a middle grade reader to help them understand grief and loss. It’s written in a way that doesn’t ever overwhelm, it’s a realistic but also very comforting read. It’s such a wonderful book though that whatever age you are, I highly recommend reading it.
I rate this book 10 out of 10.
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review but I’m sure I’ll be buying my own copy of this in the future as I know I’ll want to re-read Isabelle’s story.
Isabelle Day Refuses to Die of a Broken Heart is out now and available from Amazon