Review: Red Heart Tattoo by Lurlene McDaniel

Publication Date: July 24th, 2012
Delacorte Books
Format: EPub from Net Galley
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


At 7:45 a.m. on the day before Thanksgiving break, a bomb goes off at Edison High. Nine people die instantly. Fifteen are critically injured. Twenty-two suffer less severe injuries. And one is blinded. Those who survive, struggle to cope with the loss and destruction. All must find new meaning for their lives as a result of something they may never understand.

Lurlene McDaniel’s signature expertise and finesse in dealing with issues of violence, death, and physical as well as emotional trauma in the lives of teens is immediate and heartrending.


Ripped from the headlines, Red Heart Tattoo is a story of people coming together after a couple of attention-hungry kids set off a bomb in a high school. And in the centre of the chaos was Roth; a tattooed senior with a reputation for inciting malice. Roth has been attracted to Morgan for what seemed like an eternity.  But Morgan was on the opposite spectrum of Roth’s world; she’s popular, president of the students council and was the other half of the ‘IT’ couple in school. That didn’t deter Roth from trying to catch her attention either way, however and Morgan would do just about anything to calm her breathing every time she catches Roth staring at her like he was flaying her skin. When the senseless violence happened, they found themselves at the centre of it all; Roth was the hero, Morgan, the straight A student whose blindness was brought on by PTSD. 

This is the story of coping – to perish or to strive. A story about hope and how a traumatic event can change a person. From the beginning of the novel to end, the characters’ metamorphosis was astounding. Roth, for example was a completely different person. Gone was the arrogance, the egotism that you’d know of him at the beginning of the novel. Physically he was still Roth, tattooed, pierced and perpetually disheveled. But on the inside, he’d become responsible and a person who actually cared. This was basically the theme of the book: what would become of a person after going through a harrowing experience. It wasn’t just the physical damage that was costly. These are high school kids – fragile in some ways. Adolescence is hard as it is, compounded with this trauma and you’ve got yourselves a succession of appointments with a therapist. 

I wish this book was longer. I wish there was a sense of contentment when I finished this book. It wasn’t rushed or anything, but I wanted to read more. There were characters here that barely scratched the surface of who they were and who they could be. But I understand. It’s difficult to end this novel with rainbows and unicorns. This novel wasn’t about a couple of kids who got bullied. These was about them being bored and lacking the attention at home and school. Senseless violence, no matter what the motive, is still senseless. There’s no valid reason. 

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