Link to Goodreads It took me forever to figure out what I wanted to say about this book. For a while, I honestly didn’t know whether ...

Heartless by Marissa Meyer: Heart-Wrenching and Thought-Provoking, the Origin Story of a Villain

It took me forever to figure out what I wanted to say about this book. For a while, I honestly didn’t know whether I loved it or not. I mean, it was good, amazing honestly, gripping and engaging with SO MANY PLOT TWISTS, drawing me in just the right amount to know that, every time real life made me leave, I absolutely needed to return ASAP. I know that even when I disagreed with the characters’ decisions, I felt for them; and in spite of the fact that it was doomed from the start, I still somehow hoped that things would turn out well. In fact, I almost stopped about midway through the book because Cath was so good and she deserved so much more and it hurt to think that she’d turn into the infamous Queen of Hearts sometime before the end. In a way, I did love her and Jest and Mary-Ann and even the King a little bit; the Cheshire Cat was my absolute favorite and the Duke was just awkward enough that I at least had to feel bad for him, if nothing else. I know that the writing was absolute gorgeousness and that Marissa Meyer needs to write a cookbook or something so I can just relish those incredible descriptions of food for forever (because I don't cook).

All of this to say that on all the technical story-telling elements, this book is just sublime. The only reason I’m not sure I love it is because of the way it ended. And obviously, it had to end the way it did in order for it to work as an actual origin story, so I’m not necessarily faulting it. But it just… it hurts, honestly. To know that someone as pure and passionate as Cath, with all the right turns and all the wrong choices, could become someone as selfish and heartless as the Queen of Hearts.

The part that I found the most interesting, though, apart from the heart-wrenching bit, was the thought-provoking questions the book subtly posed. These are kind of spoilery, so you can highlight to read if you want, but if you don’t, let’s just say it really made me think about whose fault it is when situations like this go awry and how a culture of inaction can suppress one’s ability to make certain decisions.

The people of Hearts were prone to looking the other way when something went wrong, to sweeping it under the rug so they could just swing on along with their pretty lives and not have to worry; no one actually knew how to deal with real problems. Because of this, Cath dilly-dallies over her decisions for ages, and then things happen and circumstances change and she’s left with far fewer options than she began with, causing her to have to make decisions that are basically gonna turn out badly either way. So, when she finally does make a decision, she pendulums in the opposite direction and not only acknowledges the problem but also takes... let’s say drastic measures to rectify the wrong done.

Springing off of that, another question arises based on one of the last scenes: whose fault is it that everything went awry? Her mother’s, since she stifled Cath’s every dream and verbally bullied her daughter about her weight? Her father’s, for simply standing by until the very last moment, only to step in in exactly the wrong way? The king, for being too spineless and childish to properly guard a kingdom? The Fates for twisting EVERYTHING such that they received exactly what they needed and no one else came close to what they had originally desired? Does the blame lay squarely with Cath herself? Perhaps the fault is the Hatter’s, simply for being a general jerk throughout the entire book (I honestly don’t remember how I felt about him when I read the original Wonderland tale, but he made me so mad in this one). Or is it a myriad of choices, winding into a myriad of outcomes, at which point Cath plucked out the only one she seemed to be able to choose?

I’ve actually got a few theories, and I’m planning a separate posts based on them, but suffice it to say for now, the book really got me thinking.

Overall, Heartless is a brilliant story and (up to the end) thoroughly enjoyable. It’s occasionally disturbing, but very exciting and brilliantly written, an original take on an older tale.
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5.

So have you read Heartless? What'd you think of it? What's a book you've read that really made you consider how it could apply to real life? Can't wait to hear from you, and I'll see you in the comment section!

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  1. This one is part of the Lunar Chronicles, right. I still need to finish that series.

    1. It's by the same author, but it's actually a standalone. So you could just read this one (but you should also finish Lunar Chronicles because they are amazing!!!).


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