Graphic Novel Review: “Heart in a Box” by Kelly Thompson and Meredith McClaren

Emma is having a hard time recovering from having her heart broken. We’ve all been there, consumed by a pain so big it threatens to overwhelm everything else. At times like this, many of us may wish we’d never fallen in love, or that we didn’t have hearts to begin with. The only difference between us and Emma is that she actually gets her wish when a mysterious stranger overhears her pining. Though she almost immediately realizes she’s made a mistake (a nice twist on the whole “forgetting about love” trope, where this realization doesn’t generally come until the end even though we all knew it was a mistake from the start), getting her heart back isn’t going to be as easy as wishing it away.

Emma’s heart has been split into pieces and parceled out to unsuspecting recipients across the country. (If you’re wondering if we get an inside look into how this whole heart-commodity thing works, we don’t – but it’s done in a way so that you won’t mind. Mostly.) If she wants her heart back, Emma is going to have to retrieve every piece, either through violence or more palatably, trickery. Of course, telling anyone what she’s up to will mean she can’t get her heart back at all, so she’s going to have to figure this one out alone.

Heart in a Box has everything I enjoy in a good story – humor, an engaging plot, first edition books, and cats. So basically, it’s a home run. In all seriousness, though, I really enjoyed this graphic novel. As I mentioned earlier, the tale takes a turn from the norm when it comes to heartbreak and hits on something much more intricate than just “duh, we need our hearts even if they hurt sometimes.” Even if you’ve never had your heart broken by a boyfriend or girlfriend, I promise you that you will relate to one of the many types of heartache Thompson explores through Emma’s journey.

Meredith McClaren’s masterful illustrations complement the story well and kind of remind me of Invader Zim, if that makes any sense. I especially love the way she represents the pieces of Emma’s heart and how she draws them coming back together again. The ending leaves room for more of Emma’s story to be told – and I certainly hope we get to hear it.

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