Cover Jar of Hearts: Silhouette of a woman with falling rose petals in the foreground

About the Book

Title: Jar of Hearts
Published: 2018

Cover Story: Menstrual Migraines Medicine Ad
BFF Charm: Hell No
Talky Talk: Cause This Is Thriller!
Factors: Orange Is The New Black, Nature Versus Nurture
Anti-Bonus Factor: Abuse
Relationship Status: Don’t Come Back For Me

Trigger Warnings galore: This books depicts instances of rape, violence, and disturbing imagery. Please avoid if you are sensitive to such material.

Cover Story: Menstrual Migraines Medicine Ad

Do you suffer from migraines around that time of the month? Try this jar of heart-shaped gummies specially designed for your womanly needs (use only as directed) …Is that what this book cover is saying to me.

The Deal:

When she was sixteen, Georgina Shaw had two best friends: Kaiser Brody, the boy who was hopelessly in love with her (and hopelessly friend-zoned), and Angela Wong, the popular, sometimes bitchy cheerleader who she probably would’ve stopped being friends with in college, in all honesty. But they never got to that point in their friendship, because Angela disappeared without a trace one night and no one ever heard from her again. It was the biggest unsolved mystery in Sweetbay, right up till Kaiser, now a Seattle PD detective, arrests Geo in the middle of a board meeting after finding Angela’s remains in the woods behind Geo’s childhood home.

See, Geo’s been holding on to a big, big secret for fourteen years, but the jig, as they say, is up. She knows what happened to Angela: Geo’s dark and dangerous older boyfriend at the time, Calvin James. And now Geo’s in really deep, because Calvin didn’t just stop at Angela—he’s murdered at least three other women and earned himself the nickname, The Sweetbay Strangler, and, suddenly, more bodies are starting to pile up.

Geo may have finally let loose one secret, but there are still others too terrible to say out loud…

BFF Charm: Hell No

Hell No BFF Charm in Flames

Geo is a complicated person. She’s got her reasons, she’s got her demons; she had to Orange is the New Black it up in prison for 5 years. I alternately condemned her and sympathized with her. No one makes the best choices at sixteen. Could she have made way, way, way, way better choices though? UH YES. But all that to say, at her core, Geo isn’t bad. She’s not evil. So do I want to be friends with her? NAY, I say, NAY. Her best friends get murdered! I’m running like hell in the other direction!

Swoonworthy Scale: 0 x Nope

Calvin is the hot, Trans AM driving older guy taking advantage of an impressionable wing woman who never gets the guy, and he’s got all the trappings of a classic abuser. He’s your regular serial killer monster, so my skin crawled any time Geo had flashbacks to her first months with Cal (to be clear, not in a happy way. Girl was legit traumatized). Then you add in all the rape-y stuff and I just felt like I needed a consensual, sexless hug after reading this.

Talky Talk: Cause This Is Thriller!

I needed to get this review out so I could scrub this book free from my brain. Jennifer Hillier, props to you for making a book that thoroughly shook me. I was sucked in by the first few pages and ended up reading it all in one sitting, partially because I was super invested and partially because, well, see the first sentence. If you are into murder mysteries and thrillers that aren’t afraid to get dark, you will appreciate this book. If you are tender-hearted in the slightest, do yourself a favor and read anything else. Hillier did an excellent job of dangling me on the precipice of okay, okay, aboooout to be murdery TMI and then pulling me back onto solid land. Dare I say I wanted a bit more from the ending? It seemed to wrap up almost too quickly and neatly, especially with how expertly the prior reveals had unfolded.

Factor: Orange Is The New Black

Various prisoners in tan prison jump suits watching TV from Orange is the New Black

The beginning of the book opens on thirty-year-old Geo’s testimony of Angela’s murder and subsequent imprisonment as part of her plea deal. It’s not a very long section, but there were many shades of OitNB that I appreciated as a fan of the show. Also, note to self: never go to prison.

Factor: Nature Versus Nurture

One green sign saying "good" and one saying "evil" pointing different directions

While it’s not a huge plot point, there are plenty of small shout-outs to the idea of nature versus nurture. Is the offspring of a violent individual predisposed to being violent, or are we more of a product of our environment? What makes someone “turn bad”?

Anti-Bonus Factor: Abuse

Clenched fist pounding into a table

This book is a testament to the detriments of the abuse we do to others and ourselves. It’s tough to read about, but nothing ever felt gratuitous. Hillier wasn’t writing this to shock and appall, but to tell the story of the damage done to three innocent souls.

Relationship Status: Don’t Come Back For Me

Seriously, Book—please don’t haunt my dreams. You were fascinating like a Unsolved Mysteries episode, as crazy as the Crime & Investigation Network, and as addicting as season one of Serial (OMG, did Adnan Syed do it or not????). But just like with those things, I’m a one-and-done murder-book kinda gal. I think I need to go stand in the light for a bit. *shivers*

Literary Matchmaking

Jar of Hearts

We don’t review many books like this here, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t recommend the Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell (at least the first eight or so), which I loved back in my murder-y phase (of book reading! I swear!). Meet medical examiner and great Italian cook, Kay, in the delightfully ‘80s first book, Postmortem.

Mr. Kiss and Tell (Veronica Mars #2)

If you’re on a mystery kick but prefer a trustworthy friend come along for the ride, then the second Veronica Mars book from Rob Thomas, Mr. Kiss and Tell, should be your next pick!

Bad Romance

For more on the dangers of abusive relationships, check out Heather Demetrios’ inspired-by-her-own-crappy-experiences Bad Romance.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Minotaur Books. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. Jar of Hearts is available now.

Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.