Geo, Angela, and Kaiser were best friends, and practically inseparable despite their differences. Angela’s life was perfect. She was smart and beautiful – guys wanted to date her, girls wanted to be her. She craved attention and her best friends were happy letting her have it. But when Geo catches the eye of an older, good-looking Clavin James, Angela gets jealous and the trio’s relationship is changed forever. Angela goes missing soon after, and everyone is forced to accept that she is never coming back. Fast forward 14 years, Angela’s remains are found and Calvin is on trial for her murder. Geo’s giving her eye witness testimony, but we soon find out that what really happened to Angela all those years ago isn’t as it initially seems.
So, I’ve wanted to read more Asian authors this year and I came across this novel by Jennifer Hillier when I was researching Asian thriller authors, and OH MY GOODNESS. I know she’s also Filipino but I promise you I’m not being biased when I say that she is amazing. From its dark, sinister characters to the fast-paced plot, I was kept on my toes throughout this novel and I honestly couldn’t put it down. The book is told from Geo and Kaiser’s POV throughout 5 parts titled with the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) which aided the flow of the novel and guides us through the different emotions that Geo felt since the moment her best friend was killed.
The novel starts with us knowing that Geo is getting prison time for keeping her involvement in the murder a secret so I was a bit sceptical about how it would progress (if we already know she’s guilty, now what?). It then goes on to describe Geo’s time in prison and fans of Orange Is The New Black will appreciate that the book doesn’t just gloss over her experience, but pulls us into the prison with her. We get a good picture of how things went down in the cells from drug smuggling and rape, to gang formations and power struggles. Geo doesn’t have a easy time in the prison at all but we do meet my favourite character Cat who was imprisoned for killing someone in a drunk driving accident. Their relationship really warmed my heart and it lured me into a false sense of security with Geo because after reading about how loving she was towards her cell mate who suffered from cancer, I never expected the ending that happened. When she leaves prison, Geo tries to start a new life but her past keeps coming back to haunt her and we see just how much Calvin messed up Geo’s life.
Meanwhile, we learn about the first time Geo meets Calvin. When he first approaches the best friends in a 7Eleven car park, he’s instantly attracted to Geo (much to Angela’s dismay) probably because he’s the standard “cool kid” who finds someone like Angela annoying. Think Patrick Verona in 10 Things I Hate About You – I literally had Heath Ledger in my mind as I read this book. As is with every high school relationship, Geo and Calvin end up spending all their time together causing Geo to quit things she loves, like cheerleading. Gaps begin to form in her relationship with Angela and Kaiser, and they have several arguments about who she’s becoming. But like any other teenage squabble, they build bridges to get over their differences. Except this time, the bridge is made out of flimsy plastic rather than solid bricks. And then, it all goes downhill when Geo and Angela decide to go to Calvin’s house after a party. Intoxication, immaturity and suppressed rivalry are never a good combination but that ends up fuelling the events that happened that night, which led to Angela’s death. I’m telling you… it’s not good.
This all leads us to the end in the present day where Geo is visited by an unexpected guest who nearly kills her too. Just when I thought there couldn’t be any more disturbing plot twists, Hillier chucks in a couple more for good measure.
Massive trigger warning: the book covers issues like rape and abuse in a way that some readers may find disturbing and uncomfortable. I reacted out loud to many parts of the story and found myself holding my breath at times. It’s depiction of these events is very vivid and descriptive of both the physical and emotional pain, and I found it almost hard to read some of it because this is the first novel I’ve consumed that mentions rape that many times (there’s 3 in the book, plus one attempted).
This one hurt, but I mean that as a compliment. It’s a beautifully written book with grab-you-by-the-throat power. I’ve now got Creep and Little Secrets on my TBR!
Jar of Hearts – Jennifer Hillier
Publication Date – 12/06/2018
Paperback pages: 320
Rating – 4/5