Book Review – Heartstream by Tom Pollock

heartstreamI just wanted to see you. Before the end.

A taut psychological thriller about obsession, fame and betrayal, for fans of Black Mirror.

Cat is in love. Always the sensible one, she can’t believe that she’s actually dating, not to mention dating a star. But the fandom can’t know. They would eat her alive. And first at the buffet would definitely be her best friend, Evie.

Amy uses Heartstream, a social media app that allows others to feel your emotions. She broadcasted every moment of her mother’s degenerative illness, and her grief following her death. It’s the realest, rawest reality TV imaginable. But on the day of Amy’s mother’s funeral, Amy finds a strange woman in her kitchen. She’s rigged herself and the house with explosives – and she’s been waiting to talk to Amy for a long time. Who is she? A crazed fan? What does she want?

Amy and Cat are about to discover how far true obsession can go.

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My rating: Cyan-Full starCyan-Full starCyan-Full starNo-StarNo-Star

I am seriously struggling to review this. There are part of it, around the story and the writing, that are seriously amazing. I love an unreliable narrator and secrets and suspense and all this was so well engineered here. Amy’s story is hard as I don’t feel too bad for here. Cat’s I connected with a little better but honestly I struggled with the cringe factor of what she was doing.

And this is where the conflict comes in – I found some of the character’s actions to be cringey, largely around Cat and Evie. I also felt like I didn’t understand some of her motivations. It’s hard to talk about why without massive spoilers, which would utterly ruin the book, so I’ll just say that she is naive and easily lead and I found that frustrating. When she does gather a backbone (and I was cheering her on for large parts of the book) what it leads to is both convoluted and evil. And honestly I do get that it has to happen for the story, and how it ends up interacting with Amy’s but blimey. And then Amy’s story – I’m glad there was more to it, but there’s no result from it?

I think I’m just not sure of the point of this book? Of its moral? Cat initially does little wrong (that isn’t led by Evie) and is yet punished throughout the book, even in her own head. And when she does do wrong it’s for reasons that are utterly understandable even if what she does isn’t. Amy’s story is similar – I struggled to understand the heartstreaming her mum’s illness, but as her story progresses she becomes easier to understand and like. Her concern for her brother is lovely too. And her faith at the end that something can work out. But again- a frustration is that we never find out what. Or if it worked.

I can’t decide if this is a commentary on the callousness of society or just what seemed like an intriguing idea. The overall story is honestly executed brilliantly, and I could barely put it down, but I still wanted *more*. Something to give me a why, or a response to all the actions in both stories. I have never so thoroughly enjoyed a story that left me so thoroughly bereft at the end.

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Buy Heartstream from Amazon UK.

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