Review: Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult

Book cover of Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult

Okay, so I may have stolen this from the library a little. It’s not as bad as it sounds; I mean, I’m going to take it back and everything. I don’t know about your library, but ours has a ‘Group Reads’ section where you can only take out books if you belong to a Book Group that’s registered with Sheffield Library. That’s fine, not a problem. But the library doesn’t hold any of those books for non-Book Groupers so there’s absolutely no way to get them out. Makes perfect sense, right? Withhold books from the people who like to read alone. This isn’t even Jodi Picoult’s latest book! Anyway, I was in there last Thursday in The Foul Mood To End All Foul Moods because it was chucking it down outside and I’d just been for a session with my physiotherapist, a horrible, little man who could easily be the secret love child of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Adolf Hitler. I’d ducked in there to sulkily avoid the rain before traipsing back across town, so I yanked down the first book I saw, curled up on a sofa and snuggled down for an hour. Thing is, I got really into the book but when I closed it and prepared to check it out so I could take it home, I saw the big purple sticker – ‘BORROWING THIS BOOK REQUIRES A GROUP READS TICKET.’ *snarls* I’m pretty sure that the previously-mentioned foul mood negates any responsibility for my actions – I may have just shoved it in my bag and walked out. I know. I’m sorry. I’m a bad person. But I resented that Group Reads section to the very depths of my soul and I wanted it punished, damn it.

Anyway. Dubious acquisition of the book aside…

Summary – Shay Bourne becomes the first person in decades to be sentenced to death in New Hampshire, when he is found guilty of the cold-blooded killing of a policeman and his step-daughter. After eleven years on Death Row, the end is coming for Shay. Until he sees a news piece about a young girl who urgently needs a heart transplant. June’s husband and daughter died at Shay Bourne’s hands, and she thought her greatest desire was to see him killed. Then her remaining daughter is hospitalised, and she realises that there is something she wants even more: for Claire to live. Shay Bourne is offering June’s daughter a miracle – a second chance. But at what cost?
I’ve read both My Sister’s Keeper and Handle with Care (my reviews are here and here respectively) this year and vastly preferred both of them to this one. I’ve had a strange relationship with Jodi Picoult  – I either love her books or can’t even finish them, like The Pact and Salem Falls. Well, I did manage to finish Change of Heart at least, but it was a bit of a struggle to stay focused. 
For me, the blurb is quite misleading. Although the plot does revolve around whether or not Shay Bourne can donate his heart, it’s very indirect. Predominantly, it’s more about whether he is or is not a reincarnated Jesus Christ. Honestly, I just don’t think it was necessary for the story. The plot could have simply been based on Claire’s need for a heart and June’s uncertainty as to whether to accept it from the murderer of her other daughter. The whole religion aspect (and it was a huge part of the book) only over-complicated and dragged down the more interesting storyline, in my opinion.
I mean, the author has obviously done her research, as always. The detail included about Judaism, Christianity and Atheism is immense but unfortunately, I still prefer her medical ethics books. That’s kind of what I thought this book was going to be, but Claire and her heart problem barely featured. Not only that, but the author’s usual depth of character was missing also. Maggie, Michael and Lucius were all very real, but then they were secondary players, either from the prison or Church. The characters that were actually important to me – Claire and June, were very two-dimensional and flat. In the end, I really didn’t care if Claire got her new heart or not. Ouch. I think I just crossed the line into Bad Person Territory.

The author is renowned for her shocking endings. The first Jodi Picoult novel I read was My Sister’s Keeper, and I pretty much wandered round in a dazed trance for days afterwards. She’s obviously tried to do the same thing here, but it just fell flat on its ass. I don’t think I’ve ever sworn at a book before, but I did here. It’s just… awful. It doesn’t keep to the tone of the book or even manage to be that shocking really.  
Jodi Picoult’s novels are all supposed to revolve around the question ‘What would you do?’ Her other books present a difficult choice to be made, usually over the welfare of the character’s child and a sacrifice that needs to be made. I think this is kind of where this book fell flat – to me, there just wasn’t a choice. It was painstakingly obvious what the answer was and I wanted to throttle June for not seeing it immediately. In my opinion, and I admit I don’t actually have children, no mother would have questioned the decision to be made.

Visit Jodi Picoult’s website here, or find her on Twitter.


  1. Hannah says:

    I still find it hilarious that you stole a library book! xD

    I see what you mean about it being misleading. Ooh a hard choice with an interesting and heart-wrenching plot? Wait.. Christian lit? Meh. I avoid most religious novels. Not against religion for the most part just.. *yawn*

  2. Bex says:

    I don't think my library does this, but I can TOTALLY understand why you took it, and I agree, it's hilarious 🙂

    I actually can't remember if i've read this. I feel like I probably have, but I usually remember Jodi Picoult's books because I usually love them so obviously this didn't make too much of an impact…

  3. TheBookGirl says:

    I've read alot of her books, but not this one. My experience has been somewhat uneven as well, though I've finished all the ones I started. Salem Falls was one of my favorites, as was House Rules, the most recent one I read.

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