Today is my spot on the blog tour for Karen Gregory’s latest book I Hold Your Heart. I think this might be my favourite of Karen’s books.
About the Book
‘You make me feel like there’s something good in the world I can hold on to,’ Aaron says. He kisses me again, draws me so close it’s almost hard to breathe. ‘I love you, Gem. And I promise I’ll hold your heart forever.’
When Gemma meets Aaron, she feels truly seen for the first time. Their love story is the intense kind. The written-in-the-stars, excluding-all-others kind. The kind you write songs about.
But little by little their relationship takes over Gemma’s life. What happens when being seen becomes being watched, and care becomes control?
Told in both Gemma’s and Aaron’s words, this is a raw, moving exploration of gaslighting in teenage relationships that skewers our ideas of what love looks like.
Release Date: 11th July 2019
Genre: YA Contemporary
I Hold Your Heart is the story of Gemma and Aaron, told in alternating chapters from both character’s perspectives, which gives us a detailed insight into what each is thinking from the moment they meet until the end of the book. This book tackles some serious issues of emotional and sexual abuse, so take care in reading this if these issues are likely to be a trigger for you.
In Aaron’s chapters we see his growing obsession with Gemma. I found him creepy from the outset, although in the early stages his behaviour could easily be mistaken for being concerned and caring, and you can see what attracts Gemma to him. To her, Aaron is kind, caring, generous with his time and money, and everything she’s dreamed of; she falls for him hard and fast. Gemma has some issues in her life: her dad is quite controlling and her family life revolves around her brother and football, and being with Aaron gives her something in her life that belongs only to her. There is no doubt that Aaron has some problems of his own, but I really struggled to sympathise with him because he is so controlling and jealous he made my toes curl.
Aaron becomes increasingly controlling. The story takes place over a short space of time, but the change in him is gradual and sometimes almost imperceptible. It’s easy to understand how Gemma didn’t notice the situation she was in until much later. Aaron has brief flashes of anger, he slowly separates Gemma from her friends and family by spending more time with her and making sure he is everywhere she is. He makes her nervous and insecure as time goes on; she starts to doubt herself, because she believes that if Aaron is upset then it must be her fault. She is blinded by the strength of her feeling for him. Aaron’s chapters become increasingly uncomfortable to read, and build until the situation between the couple is terrifying. I wanted to reach through the pages and rescue Gemma from it all. I hated seeing how easily she gave everything up for him (her singing, her friendships).
I adored Gemma’s friends Esi and Cal. Both are brilliant characters in their own right, but I loved how much they tried to support and warn Gemma about her relationship. Esi is the kind of person I want to be when I grow up. She was brave in standing up to Gemma and confronting her, but still comes through for Gemma when needed, even when she is hurting herself. We all need a friend like Esi in our lives.
I think this might be my favourite Karen Gregory book so far. I Hold Your Heart is brilliant, intense, emotional and ultimately hopeful. I am sure it will help many readers in similar situations.
About the Author
Karen Gregory has been a confirmed bookworm since early childhood. She wrote her first story about Bantra the mouse aged twelve, then put away the word processor until her first child was born, when she was overtaken by the urge to write. Her first novel, Countless, published in 2017, was shortlisted for the Leeds Book Award and longlisted for the Branford Boase. Her second novel, Skylarks, was published in 2018. Karen lives in Wiltshire with her family.