Heart Murmurs by R. R. Smythe

Heart Murmurs by R. R. Smythe
Publisher: Astraea Press
Genre: Historical, YA, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (206 Pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Review by: Cyclamen

Mia Templeton is dying. Or was dying. After receiving a heart transplant, her world is forever altered. Before her eyes open, she overhears her donor was a murdered girl of the same age. Whispers invade Mia’s head before she’s even left the recovery room. She develops tastes for foods she once hated, and dreams so vivid, she feels they’re someone else’s memories. Her personality is altered—once a quiet doormat, she’s now inexplicably flippant, and confident. And her unexplained longing for the new boy at school is borderline obsessive.

Morgan Kelley is new. Adopted by his aunt, a descendant of Louisa May Alcott (Little Women), he’s thrown into life at a new high school, and as a historical guide for his aunt’s store—a homage to all things Alcott. Conspiracy theories abound about his mangled lower leg—but no-one has been brave enough to ask. Till Mia.

Something is awry with the Underground Railroad tunnels beneath his aunt’s home. Mia and Morgan enter the world of a secret Literary Society–and are drafted to help bring a rogue Literary giant to justice, solve the mystery of her heart donor, the the real fate of Beth from Little Women.

Mia Templeton needs a heart transplant because her own heart is failing. She receives a heart from a murdered girl of about her same age and as soon as she receives the heart she begins hearing whispers, having strange dreams which feel incredibly real as if they are memories.  She likes food she’d never liked before, and becomes more assertive, able to stand up for herself. She is also attracted to Morgan, a new boy at her high school, who has been adopted by his aunt, Mia’s friend Beth, a descendant of the author Louisa May Alcott.

R. R. Smythe has done a marvelous job of bringing to life the story of Louisa May Alcott and her family. The entire time period is captured including the Battle of Gettysburg. Beth has re-created a house in Gettysburg to match the Alcott home and she gives tours of the house and the battlefield. Mia and Morgan both work for Beth. Part of the tours involve the Underground Railroad tunnels, but after Mia’s surgery and Morgan’s arrival, the tunnels begin acting strangely. Mia is drawn into a mystery she never dreamed of, where there are caretakers for the tunnels and these caretakers are governed strictly to be sure they don’t violate any of the rules surrounding the use of the tunnels.

I really like Mia and I think her recovery after the transplant surgery seems very real. Mia used to be very active, horseback riding, being a cheerleader, and so forth, until her heart disease prevented any exertions at all. Now, as she is recovering, she realizes that many of the activities which she loved are gone forever. The loss of her former life would be a blow to anyone, but for someone who is just a senior in high school, it is a daunting prospect to have to adjust to. In addition to learning about her new heart and what she can and can’t do, Mia also has the added genetic changes and the memories she experiences as vivid dreams. I found Mia’s adjustments to be realistic and very human. I could feel her pain, her frustration, and her bewilderment.

I also like Morgan and Beth who have their own problems which they have to adjust to as well. They hold secrets and it quickly becomes clear to them that Mia is discovering those secrets on her own. An entire literary world unfolds as the story races forward, and it is exciting to see how the characters change and interact as the events unfold.

Readers of historical fiction, especially about the American Civil War and the literary figures from that time period, are sure to enjoy this novel about Louisa May Alcott and her descendants.

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