Cover image for Instructions for a secondhand heart
Instructions for a secondhand heart
1st U.S. ed.
Physical Description:
307 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Jonny and Neve, both fifteen, bond after her twin brother, in whose shadow she has been living, becomes Jonny's just-in-time heart donor.


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A moving novel about grief, guilt, and the unpredictability of love, for fans of Everything, Everything and All the Bright Places .

Jonny knows better than anyone that life is full of cruel ironies. He's spent every day in a hospital hooked up to machines to keep his heart ticking. Then when an organ donor is found for Jonny's heart, that turns out to be the cruelest irony of all. Because for Jonny's life to finally start, someone else's had to end.

That someone turns out to be Neve's twin brother, Leo. When Leo was alive, all Neve wanted was for him (and all his glorious, overshadowing perfection) to leave. Now that Leo's actually gone forever, Neve has no idea how to move forward. Then Jonny walks into her life looking for answers, her brother's heart beating in his chest, and everything starts to change.

Together, Neve and Jonny will have to face the future, no matter how frightening it is, while learning to heal their hearts, no matter how much it hurts.

(Features select graphic novel illustrations from Jonny's sketchbook.)

Author Notes

Tamsyn Murray was born and raised in England and her first picturebook was Snug as a Bug.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

School Library Journal Review

Gr 8 Up-When the Venn diagram circles of improbable YA romance and YA tragedy lit overlap, you get this book. Neve's twin brother Leo dies while the competitive teenaged siblings are climbing rocks at the seaside; Jonny receives Leo's donated heart. Breaking all transplant privacy rules, 15-year-old Jonny tracks down Leo's family and falls for Neve-without ever telling her where his interest originated. This British import contains moments of brilliance: Neve's first person point of view is heartbreakingly true to life as she describes her family's stolid grief and her own mounting depression after Leo's death. But Jonny's counterpoint narration, while often very funny, is never as believable. His detailed, mature descriptions of life on a pediatric intensive care ward are at odds with his oblivious non-decision to stop taking his transplant medications. More jarring still are his choices to continue deceiving Neve about his past. The additional death of a secondary character from Jonny's ward seems unnecessary except to up the Kleenex count for the story. VERDICT Buy more copies of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars instead.-Beth Wright Redford, Richmond Elementary School Library, VT © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Jonny Webb, almost 16, has a life-threatening heart condition that has kept him in the hospital for years. Plugged into a machine that keeps blood pumping through his body, Jonny holds onto the hope that a donor heart will become available, but that means someone his age has to die. After 15-year-old Neve Brody's twin brother, Leo, has a fatal fall, his organs are donated, and his heart is a perfect match for Jonny. For the first time, Jonny feels as though he may have a future, but he can't help wondering whose life was cut short. His investigation leads him to Neve, who is trying to figure out how her family can move on without Leo. British author Murray explores teen illness and death realistically, shifting between Jonny and Neve's viewpoints. Given the setup, tears are expected, but Neve's hard edges and Jonny's enthusiasm for his new life keep the story from turning maudlin. Readers should find it easy to cheer on these two misfits who are figuring how they fit in and fit together. Ages 15-up. (Dec.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

British teen Jonny, in need of a heart transplant, describes himself as a boy with no future. In order to live, hes depending on someone to die--someone with his rare blood type whos also an organ donor. Meanwhile, Neves family is on vacation when her twin brother, Leo, dies suddenly; their unimaginable loss is Jonnys good fortune. Though his donors identity is anonymous, Jonny figures out that his new heart is Leos, and contacts Neve to learn more about him. But Jonny is afraid to tell Neve who he really is, and as their friendship predictably turns romantic, Neve suspects hes hiding something. Co-narrators Neve and Jonny manage to have a remarkably normal teenage relationship, despite Neves grief and Jonnys secret: they complain about their parents, flirt via Facebook messages, and worry that their crushes on each other arent reciprocated. At the same time, Murray doesnt diminish the challenges they face. Neve, who has been in her golden boy brothers shadow her whole life, is suddenly alone; Jonny, an artist (whose comics and sketches are interspersed throughout the story), worries hes not worthy of Leos sacrifice. While some elements of the sick-teen narrative are familiar (Jonnys best friend from the hospital, for example, gets worse as Jonny gets better), Neve and Jonny are emotionally complex, vulnerable protagonists who help each other face realities they never dreamed theyd see. rachel l. smith (c) Copyright 2017. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

It only takes a moment: one second Neve's twin brother, Leo, is scrambling up a rock face, and the next, he's falling. In the hospital, Neve and her parents learn Leo will never recover, so they make the terrible decision to let him go. In another hospital, 15-year-old Jonny undergoes a heart transplant. As he recovers, Jonny grows curious about his donor, and after a bit of research, he reaches out to Neve as the sister of a boy who recently died. They become cautious friends and then something more. Jonny misses his early chance to tell Neve about the heart transplant, waiting until the revelation will almost surely crush their romance. Although it's evident from the beginning that Neve and Jonny will end up together, their tentative journey nonetheless feels fresh. Jonny's hospital experiences include a friendship with a girl battling cancer, and the book includes his drawings of her alter-identity as Chemo-Girl. This will appeal to readers drawn to romances featuring ill teenagers, such as (naturally) John Green's The Fault in Our Stars (2012).--Colson, Diane Copyright 2017 Booklist