Book Review: “Hearts & Other Body Parts” by Ira Bloom

April 6, 2017

Esme, Katy, and Veronica are sisters who just happen to be witches. Surprisingly, this causes relatively few problems for them in high school, where their classmates have collectively agreed to think of them as Wiccans instead. Still, being witches doesn’t really prepare them for the arrival of two new and unusual boys – Norman, whose giant body seems to be held together with bolts, and Zack, who has a sun allergy and seems to be flirting with every girl in school. When women around town start disappearing, things start getting really weird.

The conceit of Hearts & Other Body Parts by Ira Bloom is a fun one – it’s basically a YA Monster High extravaganza. Throw in a little Sabrina, a little Charmed, and a little Twilight (the bloody parts), and you’ve got a good idea of how this book works. I most enjoyed the dynamic between the three sisters, and Bloom has set up a world that seems rich for serialization, maybe because most of his influences are also series. Kasha, Esme’s talking cat familiar, was another favorite – he’s delightfully demonic. Overall, Hearts & Other Body Parts is a breezy read that fans of teen monster romances should gobble up.

But the book was disappointing in a few ways, too. First, as I already said, the sisters were my favorite part, and they spend most of the book out of their minds for Zack. The reader knows from the beginning that he’s bad news, so there’s no element of suspense about it – we just spend a couple of hundred pages watching them jinx each other and act out-of-character. We spend way more time with them when they’re “not themselves” than when they are, and that’s a little frustrating.

Hearts & Other Body Parts also flubs with some bad jokes and plot twists. After one character admits that he is gay (not a major plot point, just a minor incident in the text), his next line is “Honey, you’re not going to wear those shoes, are you?” This character has never expressed interest in fashion before, nor called anyone “honey,” but now that he’s gay, of course he must be interested in both. It’s a cheap shot, and it feels out of place – another similar joke comes later in the novel.

My second side-eye moment does contain spoilers, so STOP READING if you don’t want to be spoiled on Hearts & Other Body Parts!

Turn back now!

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If you’re sure…

It’s pretty clear throughout the book that the eldest sister, Esme, is meant to have a thing for Norman, who is smart, funny, and nice, but horrifically ugly (as Bloom tells us over and over again). When they finally kiss at the end of the book, Esme feels nothing for him because he’s just too darn unattractive. While maybe narratively unsatisfying, it would have been pretty interesting if Esme had taken this time to examine her needs in a relationship; though it may seem shallow, it’s important to acknowledge what does and doesn’t attract you. Hearts & Other Body Parts almost goes there but veers off to left field when Esme gives Norman a potion to make him more attractive instead. Suddenly, she has no problem falling in love with him. It definitely felt like a weird way to end the book.

As always, these kinds of flaws always stand out more when the book has a lot of potential. Bloom gave himself a lot of openings for more stories set in this world, and I hope that if those books appear, they pull off all the fun with a little more grace than this one did.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review.