“The Heart Does Not Grow Back” by Fred Venturini



After losing his hand in a shooting, unremarkable small-town teenager Dale Sampson finds that his body can regenerate itself. His newfound powers lead him to LA, where he becomes a reality TV star—the Samaritan, who gives a body part to a deserving recipient every episode—as part of a convoluted plot to save a new love interest from her abusive husband. The material for a pleasant but stale YA novel is all here: a more confident best friend who reveals vulnerability at climactic moments; a plot twist involving a childhood crush and twins’ mistaken identity; observations about the shallowness of mass media, acute but hardly new; and some magical realism thrown in for zest. Yet Venturini equips his debut with the ambiguity and thoughtfulness such novels often lack. Dale’s powers save lives, and bring him fame and fortune, but they can’t save his mother from cancer, save a classmate from getting murdered, or repair his fraught relationship with his best friend. Throughout, he maintains a beautiful cynicism: “I walked to the beach, where it’s easy to get mesmerized by the vastness of the ocean at night, but really, it’s a bunch of filthy saltwater slapping against a shore that has been as many needles and condoms as seashells.” The novel ends, however, on a note of hope—a slight, realistic hope, that comes not from a contrived plot twist or hokey revelation, but Dale’s reconsideration of priorities.

–Available November 4th from Picador


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