A Heart in a Body in the World

A Heart in a Body in the World

When everything has been taken from you, what else is there to do but run?So that’s what Annabelle does—she runs from Seattle to Washington, DC, through mountain passes and suburban landscapes, from long lonely roads to college towns. She’s not ready to think about the why yet, just the how—muscles burning, heart pumping, feet pounding the earth. But no matter how hard she...

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Title:A Heart in a Body in the World
Author:Deb Caletti
Rating:
Edition Language:English

A Heart in a Body in the World Reviews

  • Madalyn (Novel Ink)

    This review originally appeared on

    .

    I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

    CONTENT WARNINGS: intimacy, stalking, grief, PTSD, depression, gun violence, murder, death of loved ones, self-harm (pushing oneself past physical boundaries)

    As a voracious reader, I’ve read many stories over the course of my lifetime that have resonated with me deeply. But books like A Heart in a Body in the World, b

    This review originally appeared on

    .

    I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

    CONTENT WARNINGS: intimacy, stalking, grief, PTSD, depression, gun violence, murder, death of loved ones, self-harm (pushing oneself past physical boundaries)

    As a voracious reader, I’ve read many stories over the course of my lifetime that have resonated with me deeply. But books like A Heart in a Body in the World, books that strike you in your very soul— those are much fewer and far between. This book contains one of the most important stories I’ve ever read.

    In A Heart in a Body in the World, we follow a runner named Annabelle who, after undergoing a terrible tragedy, decides to run from her home city of Seattle, WA across the country to Washington, DC. It’s a story about grief, about guilt, about toxic masculinity and how it breeds violence, about what it means to be a person. Every single element is masterfully woven into this gorgeous narrative.

    I don’t know how to fully articulate the emotional impact this book had on me. It’s brutally painful to read, but that just makes the moments of hope in this story all the more joyful and triumphant. Annabelle’s physical journey mirrors a personal one. I felt for Annabelle during every panic attack, every guilty feeling, every memory, and every triumph. Unfortunately, her story is one that will be all too familiar to women everywhere.

    A huge thread in the story revolves around what it’s like to exist as a woman in a world where, all too often, we are still viewed as objects, as prizes, as possessions. It examines the real, horrific repercussions of toxic masculinity. Women are socialized to never, ever come across as impolite or unfriendly, and too often, that puts our safety at risk. So much gun violence we see in this country stems back to toxic masculinity, to this sense of entitlement toward women, and I really appreciate Caletti tackling these subjects in tandem in this book.

    Over the course of the story, Annabelle runs 2,700 miles. I’m not a runner, so the idea of running 16 miles a day for five months straight is just… mind-boggling to me. Though Annabelle originally embarks on this journey alone to process her trauma, her family and friends form the support system that keeps her going. I LOVED every single one of Annabelle’s friends and family so, so much. From her mother, Gina, who calls her three times a day to check in; to her brother, Malcolm, who, along with two of her friends, sets up a GoFundMe to fund Annabelle’s run; to her grandfather, who drives the trip along with her in his RV, watching over her every step of the way… their support brought tears to my eyes. They were always there to pick her up when the journey seemed impossible. Some of my favorite scenes in the book involved Annabelle running into people along her route who heard about her run and showed up to support her in ways both large and small. The kindness of these strangers was one of the most hopeful parts of the story– it reinforces the fact that, while the world is terrible and dark and contains some awful people, there are also so many good people. What are we even doing on this earth if we don’t look out for one another, anyway?

    This was, somehow, my first Deb Caletti novel, and her writing was stunning. I was put off at the beginning of the story due to the use of third-person present tense, but after reading a few chapters, this tense did not detract from my enjoyment of the story whatsoever. There are stunning, poignant passages about womanhood, violence, grief, and kindness throughout the novel. Every few pages, I would read a paragraph that left me breathless, which hasn’t happened in to me in quite a while. The care Caletti put into writing this story is evident on every page.

    Okay, now that I’ve cried three times while writing this review… I could go on and on about A Heart in a Body in the World and why it’s exactly the timely, important story that everyone needs to read, but honestly? I think this is a reading experience you have to experience yourself. I recommend this story to absolutely everyone. It instantly became my favorite book of the year, and I think it’ll be damn near impossible to top it.

  • Emily

    This is one of the strongest YA contemporaries I've read in a LONG time.

    Caletti's writing is lovely and accessible, but it never feels dumbed down. I think she's particularly strong at using language to convey how trauma affects Annabelle's (the MC) mental health/mental state.

    This is a book examines how women and girls are so often are reduced to objects to be controlled by another. I was

    impressed with how Caletti dives into the nuances of this. When girls are

    This is one of the strongest YA contemporaries I've read in a LONG time.

    Caletti's writing is lovely and accessible, but it never feels dumbed down. I think she's particularly strong at using language to convey how trauma affects Annabelle's (the MC) mental health/mental state.

    This is a book examines how women and girls are so often are reduced to objects to be controlled by another. I was

    impressed with how Caletti dives into the nuances of this. When girls are

    to derive value in relation to the male gaze, what happens when that becomes internalized? Caletti digs into the vulnerability of wanting to feel pretty, to be perceived as desirable, and how that DOES NOT mean you are inviting toxic behavior, despite the fact that society always tells us otherwise.

    The use of extreme distance running as a reclamation of agency is just so well done. I loved Annabelle, loved her family, her friends, the people she meets on the road. All of it.

    I can imagine some people might be frustrated by the fact that we don't learn what happened to cause Annabelle this much pain. But by prioritizing the effects that an act of violence had on Annabelle, on her friends and family, rather than prioritizing the act itself, Caletti avoids sensationalizing it. If you really want to know what happened, it's not that hard to look up. But I would recommend going in without doing so.

    Cannot recommend this enough.

  • Julie Zantopoulos

    I am kicking myself for not taking a physical arc copy of this book at BookCon because I didn't think I could relate to the running theme that I knew would feature heavily in this book. However, I'm glad the copy went to somebody else and I was approved on NetGalley because, man, I was wrong to think I could pass this book up.

    I am kicking myself for not taking a physical arc copy of this book at BookCon because I didn't think I could relate to the running theme that I knew would feature heavily in this book. However, I'm glad the copy went to somebody else and I was approved on NetGalley because, man, I was wrong to think I could pass this book up.

    If you are making a list of hard-hitting, heartbreaking, and beautiful books and this isn't on it, well, you're wrong.

    is a story about survival, guilt, trauma, love, hope, and change. Annabelle starts off the story having a bit of a breakdown, running away from picking up her dinner (it's literally still in a take-out bag as she sprints away from town) and refusing to go back home. She's got it in her head that she's going to run straight from Seatle to Washington D.C. and even though she's got no idea what she'll do when she gets there, she's going all the same.

    Throughout the course of this book we understand her motivation for running, the horrific events of gun violence unfold, and we get a look at Belle's mental state (which she's amazing about checking in with). You see her coping with trauma and loss. You see her dealing with survivor's guilt and shame. You see all the ugly personal gritty bits of a girl who has dealt with forced intimacy and unspeakable trauma as she becomes an inadvertent activist raising awareness as she runs across the country with the aide of her grandfather and his RV.

    This is not only a story of woe, it's also a story of healing, of mending back the pieces of a broken heart and reclaiming your voice and your power and doing something to force the change you want to see in the world. It's a timely, harrowing, and beautiful look at the world we live in today, a world that does not value or protect its young girls the same way it does men and guns. Some books you read and enjoy but soon forget, this is a book I won't be forgetting. If you are looking for a contemporary that gives you insight into the realities of the world around you, a vantage point I hope nobody else ever needs to have, then please consider picking up this book.

    Trigger warnings for forced intimacy, stalking, gun violence, murder, the death of a loved one, trauma, self-harm by way of pushing past physical boundaries (aka running too long/too hard at times), PTSD, grief, and depression.

    All quotes were taken from an ARC copy and are subject to change. ARC provided by Simon Pulse by way of NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  • Chelsea (chelseadolling reads)

    This book is beautiful and haunting and powerful and I’m just 😭😭😭 maybe I’ll come back to write a more coherent review when I stop crying but tonight is not that night. EVERYONE needs to read this book.

  • Jane

    I don’t even have words for how vital and heartbreaking and inspiring this book is. This is probably one of the strongest, most well-crafted books I’ve read in such a long time. This was just incredible.

  • Ari

    3.5 stars. I might set it to 4 after I think about it for a while.

    The story is actually really good (the idea behind it even better), I could relate with the main characters every now and then and I know how important it is to give voice to this subject.

    But the way it was told... the pacing is really slow in the beginning (bordering on boredom) and the big reaveal comes only near the ending, so even though I heard the grieve in her voice I didn’t actually feel it, as I was - frustratingly - tryi

    3.5 stars. I might set it to 4 after I think about it for a while.

    The story is actually really good (the idea behind it even better), I could relate with the main characters every now and then and I know how important it is to give voice to this subject.

    But the way it was told... the pacing is really slow in the beginning (bordering on boredom) and the big reaveal comes only near the ending, so even though I heard the grieve in her voice I didn’t actually feel it, as I was - frustratingly - trying to put the pieces together. Indeed, I guessed what was supposed to come, that was not the problem, I just didn't feel emotionally invested as I didn't know on what to focus all those emotions I was supposed to feel.

    I think that I enjoyed more the secondary characters, because they were more active. Which then sounds kind of strange, because Annabelle is the one actively running.

    There is also this talk about the 13 pages of hurt, I just felt like I got these hundreds of pages of guilt, of shame, of anger, of sadness, of running away. I just didn't know from whom and towards what exactly, so after a while there was just all this running (physically and mentally) and beautifully written beautiful paragraphs, and I wanted... more.

    BTW, did I ever tell you how I love this cover? It's stunning, I simply adore it!

    PS: I would also recommend

    , the main character is running away from her own kind of grieve and I feel like they are related in a way.

  • Tatiana

    A book for our time, and a well written one. Gun violence, violence against women, activism. I can see it capturing Printz committee's attention, even though I failed to love it.

    What I found the most compelling was the main character's grappling with her feelings about getting involved with a guy she never really felt comfortable with and always putting her self-imposed rule to be nice and kind to him before her discomfort. How much is one responsible for other person's expectations and assumpt

    A book for our time, and a well written one. Gun violence, violence against women, activism. I can see it capturing Printz committee's attention, even though I failed to love it.

    What I found the most compelling was the main character's grappling with her feelings about getting involved with a guy she never really felt comfortable with and always putting her self-imposed rule to be nice and kind to him before her discomfort. How much is one responsible for other person's expectations and assumptions, even more, that person's emotional well-being? Is it wrong to flirt with someone just to feel attractive for a moment, while being not romantically interested in him?Are you leading a guy on if you can’t bring yourself to set boundaries and make your disinterest known? - these are some of the questions the novel asks. I am not sure they were answered entirely to my satisfaction, but nevertheless these are interesting issues to ponder on.

    The main reason this novel didn't work for me is definitely the 3rd person voice. Maybe I am now conditioned to relate to 1st person stories better, but Annabelle seemed so remote, and it was hard to feel completely absorbed by her story.

    I see other readers being heartened by the ending, but if these past years taught me anything, it is that Annabelle's reluctant crusade is, unfortunately, futile.

  • Claire (bookscoffeeandrepeat)

    Annabelle was running away from her problems, literally running away from the issues that bothers her. So she sets foot to Washington D.C. despite the pain on her heels. It had been heavily emphasized that running was a great distraction for Annabelle. While reading this book, I wasn't sure what she had been talking about because Annabelle was thinking about many different things. The author didn't reveal what the premise referred to as the "tragedy" so the reader had to stick till the end for t

    Annabelle was running away from her problems, literally running away from the issues that bothers her. So she sets foot to Washington D.C. despite the pain on her heels. It had been heavily emphasized that running was a great distraction for Annabelle. While reading this book, I wasn't sure what she had been talking about because Annabelle was thinking about many different things. The author didn't reveal what the premise referred to as the "tragedy" so the reader had to stick till the end for the reveal. Hence, it was difficult to gauge what this book was essentially about besides running long distance for distraction.

    In a way, I wasn't sure how running helped Annabelle except to get her mind off the things that had been bothering her. I thought that counseling would've greatly helped her a lot more than running to Washington DC. This could also mean that I did not connect with this book as much as I wanted to. Most of the time, I get the urge to skim the pages because it felt like nothing was happening. The novel's pacing was slow and other times I felt that I couldn't see the "big picture" or what I thought I should be getting out of this story. Even if this had been the case, relatable topics had been addressed in this novel.

    There seemed to be a gap/bridge/disconnect between the mc and its reader. I felt that I was supposed to connect with the main character especially when the topic/s addressed in this novel were meant to pull one's heartstrings (or it was supposed to be relatable). The problem was that

    The writing was in third person but it was as if the narrator was speaking to the reader. I thought it seemed

    and the timeline was kind of

    . Also, the flashbacks were in the same page (or chapter) with the present story timeline. It's a shame because I liked the premise of this book, however this book just wasn't for me.

  • Kelly

    An all-too-timely feminist YA novel about the ways toxic masculinity harms each and every one of us. Annabelle has been victim of

    . To clear her head and try to do something, she begins to run. And suddenly, she decides her goal is to run from Seattle to Washington, DC. She has no real plan but knows this is deeply what she needs and

    An all-too-timely feminist YA novel about the ways toxic masculinity harms each and every one of us. Annabelle has been victim of

    . To clear her head and try to do something, she begins to run. And suddenly, she decides her goal is to run from Seattle to Washington, DC. She has no real plan but knows this is deeply what she needs and what she wants.

    Along the way, Annabelle connects deeply with her grandfather, who follows along in an RV. She connects deeply with the country and the people populating it. There's a fantastic scene in Marengo, Illinois, just minutes from where I live, and the love and heart there was so palpable.

    This is a tough-to-read book because it's too real. Caletti populates the book with such authentic, well-rounded characters, even the smallest ones throughout. It's a book that girls today will relate to deeply and intensely. They shouldn't have to.

    As much as this is a book about tough things and real life and how awful the world is, it's also a book complete with hope and humanity.

    I just attended a Florence and the Machine concert, and one of the things Florence said during the show was that hope is an action. I couldn't stop thinking about that line throughout this. Annabelle takes action on a physical, spiritual, and mental level. But her actions, as small as she feels they are (she doesn't think her run is a big deal or anything special), have this massive ripple effect on the world around her. She takes back her power.

    A great look at mental health, too, including anxiety and PTSD. There is no resolution. There is only working your way through, day by day.

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