Love, mystery, and danger collide in this new literary thriller with the dark heart of a Gillian Flynn novel and the lyrical prose of Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun .
A triumph of authenticity, grace, and nail-biting suspense, Lucia DiStefano’s ingenious debut is an unflinching, genre-bending page-turner.
As seventeen-year-old Linnea celebrates the first anniversary of her heart transplant, she can’t escape the feeling that the wires have been crossed. After a series of unsettling dreams, inked messages mysteriously appear on her body, and she starts to wonder if this new heart belongs to her at all.
In another Austin neighborhood, Maxine braces for a heartbreaking her sister Harper’s death. Between raising her brothers and parenting her grief-stricken mother, Max is unable to ignore her guilty crush on Harper’s old flame or shake her lingering suspicion that her sister’s drowning wasn’t really an accident. With Harper as the sole connection, Linnea and Maxine are soon brought together in fantastic and terrifying ways as the shocking truth behind Harper’s death comes to light.
A former high school English teacher, Lucia DiStefano currently works as an editor, ghostwriter, and writing coach. First-generation Sicilian-American and daughter of an olive farmer, she admits to having recurring pasta dreams. Hailing from central Connecticut, Lucia lives near Austin, Texas with her husband and an old bloodhound named Waffle.
“There’s got to be more to our existence than what the brain can comprehend.”
Borrowed is a haunting exploration of mortality, toxic masculinity, violence, and bodily autonomy.
This breakout debut is a rare gem of a genre-bender. It starts off as a coming-of-age contemporary, and then it darkens, making a turn before seamlessly transforming into a frantic psychological thriller. The transformation leaves you breathless, and before you know it, you’re totally hooked. DiStefano’s mastery is in the unpredictable twists, the tense build-ups and satisfying reveals. Her aching portrayal of sisterhood and grief is authentic as it is stark. Though, at the heart of this book lies the question of what makes us human: What are we beyond the bodies we wear, what is left when our physical lives are forfeit, and what are we willing to sacrifice for those we love?
Update: Yes, you're allowed to be jealous:) I just received an advanced copy of this wonderful book, and I'm going to dig in any moment now! If you haven't added BORROWED (Lucia DiStefano's debut!) to your highly-anticipated shelf, go ahead - do it now! This book is a genre-bending thriller! It deals with the phenomenon of cellular memory! That's all I'm going to say for now, and just go and read the description:) And ADD THIS BOOK TO YOUR TBR! Oh, and did I mention it's the Winner of the 2018 Sheehan YA Book Prize?
I loved this book and love the author. I wish I could give it 5 stars (I would give it 4.5 if possible), but there were a few things that were just not-quite-there for me. Overall amazing book, though! Definitely worth a read a deserving of the awards it has won.
Strengths of this book:
Pacing. I finished it in less than 3 hours, in one sitting. The prose is tight, the stakes high, and the concept intriguing. In many books I read I can see what the ending will be and what will happen but I was consistently surprised while reading Borrowed.
I appreciated that while the heart transplant set the stage for the story, it wasn't the whole story. (Almost like *gasp* the characters-- like people themselves-- are more complex than one attribute. In this way, the characters were round (with interests besides Finding The One™) and clear personalities).
Toxic relationships were portrayed as the toxic person's fault (as they should be more often in literature!) The toxicity of certain people not initially apparent, just as it isn't in real life.
The more-or-less happy ending, without being too cliche or forced. Along with that, there was a lack of cliche characters, plot points, genre tropes, etc. Very refreshing.
The parents and/or love interests do not save the damsel-in-distress™. Many books that now try to have Strong Female Characters™ actually don't let her 'save herself' or solve the main conflict.
I love the name Linnea (almost as if I used a version of it in my own novel Insomnus). Also, having the main characters have different-sounding names helped some with distinguishing between them.
Things I wish were better:
I really wish I was less confused while reading. I got lost during some transitions between points of view. Some of the 'reveals' were not obvious enough or had not enough foreshadowing that initially I had trouble believing them (*I'm looking at you Tyler. Where did you come from?*). Namely, I didn't have an issue with these plot points (I think they were great ideas) per say, but they felt out-of-the-blue when they were revealed. Some were well foreshadowed (ie the writing on the arm, etc) but some were not sufficiently hinted at.
I had trouble with one scene towards the end that was relatively unpleasant (if you've read it, you should know which one I mean). I go back and forth about it because I think the book could have done without it, but also understand, to some extent, why it was there. I think, all in all, I would have liked it better if it was threatened but didn't actually occur. The story was already dark enough, the character in question was unlikable/smarmy/etc enough without it.
Something just felt off at the end. Perhaps it was the confusion. Perhaps it was that at certain points I felt the character's actions weren't the most realistic-- see spoilers below for details. But I loved the end end (the very last bit).
Why did Linnea/Harper get into the back of the truck instead of just following him? Why did Max continue to be hostile towards Tyler after Harper told her what to do? (I can understand her being emotional, but it came off as just unintelligent). I really liked that Linnea/Harper had to eat the mushrooms-- many times novels introduce conflict but don't go far enough into them to have real stakes. In this way, I also liked that it ended up being Linnea at the end and the switching was due to death/near-death experiences (but wasn't explicitly spelled out. Thus, the rules to the 'magic' were clear but not hit over our heads).
I was pretty disappointed by this book. The characters are interesting enough, and though dialogue is not usually make or break for me, the interactions and conversations just felt awkward and empty to a point where the characters all blended into each other. This could also be a fault of this book’s length, cause it flies by at around 250 pages but tries to do so many things with the plot. Ugh, THE PLOT. The suspense builds and builds and then just... fizzes out. The ‘twist’ wasn’t executed well and towards the end I just wanted them to do something interesting and kill him off. Meh.
This book has an interesting premise and unique characters with well planned backgrounds. However, the writing was simple and uninteresting. I would say that this seems like a book written for middle school aged kids but there is some pretty adult activity at the end that makes its book unfit for younger kids. I have no one to recommend this to. I wish it were better because the summary was intriguing and I was looking forward to reading it.
I was fortunate to get an early read of this book and there is zero surprise it's already an award winner! The prose is stunning and the premise captivating. DiStefano is a brilliant new author to watch!!
This is such a underrated book in my opinion. Lucia Distefano has mastered the ability to incorporate effective plot twists that continue the suspense of the story and keep readers on edge for what will take place next. The pace of the book is fairly manageable and went along very well with the memoir that I was reading during the same time frame. Distefano develops the characters thoroughly which helps emphasize how they are connected by the focal point of the plot, that being a heart transplant. While the heart transplant is the main focus of the story, there are many smaller conflicts presented that add to the story's diversity and help the reader maintain interest. I can appreciate that Distefano takes risks in her writing rather than writing a book with predictable events based on generic situations in life, so I would encourage readers to give this book a chance and experience this fresh story.
I was fortunate to read an advance copy of this 2018 Sheehan YA Book Prize winner. My official blurb: Lyrical prose, full-bodied characters, and a riveting plot with shocking twists and turns that kept me guessing until the startling conclusion. I couldn’t put it down!
Personal notes: I was so impressed with Lucia's beautiful writing, and I raced through this story in two days - the concept of cellular memory was particularly fascinating. Beware that the final third of the story turns quite dark and violent. Trigger warning for sexual assault. I would recommend this novel for older teens and as a crossover-adult read.
Good suspense, but there is an unneeded incident in the final part that I don't think is forgivable. I am super sad about it--I think the whole incident could have been left out, and no matter what the author and her editor say, the scene is disgusting and wrong. #2booksunder50reviews
* Thank you to Elephant Rock Books for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest review *
Borrowed was nothing like what I expected it to be, and I mean that in the best way possible. This is a tale of grief, life, bodily autonomy, toxic masculinity, and survival told through the eyes of fascinating protagonists in a story filled with thrill and plot twists.
The story starts out innocent enough with a feeling of coming-of-age and a look into the lives of two girls one year after one lost her sister and the other got a second chance thanks to a heart transplant. But, soon the story begins to twist and turn, accompanied by a writing style that will capture you and won't let you go until you're done. I had a couple of guesses along the way for what would happen next or who did it, but I never got it quite right and there were many things I didn't see coming, which I always appreciate.
Linnea and Max were great protagonists and I loved getting to know them better, see Max trying her best to keep her family alive, take care of her younger brothers and her mother, and Linnea wishing to become a proper pastry chef and go to school for it. Both had distinct voices, making it easy to differentiate between their chapters even if you forgot which name was at beginning, and sounded their age. Ezra, Daniel, and Chris were also very different and played varyingly big roles in the story leaving me wishing we could've gotten to know some more than others. Some were the types of guys you'd want to date, or see your sister date, and others the very type you'd never want to come across even in your worst nightmares. But, that's the reality of things, men like the monster in this story exist and they are even more horrifying in reality than a story can make them seem.
I've read Borrowed in less than two days and I've absolutely loved it. Lucia's writing style and way with words was captivating and enchanting, simple at times yet more than enough overall without giving you multi-paragraph descriptions or on the nose explanations, instead making you see what's between the lines and putting the pieces together right along with the characters. The story also taught me something I didn't know before about heart transplantation and cellular memory, which was both incredibly interesting and creepy. I'm really happy I got to read this book early and spread the word about it because it's amazing and I recommend it to everyone, though there are a few trigger warnings that probably should get mentioned for violence, and especially violence against women (psychological as well as physical), so if you're sensitive to that, please be careful or come back to it at a different time.
I give Borrowed by Lucia DiStefano 5 out of 5 stars.
Overall this book was great. Unlike many books I have read before, the plot twisted and switched perspectives in a way where boredom was never a sitting emotion. Something about the initial plot of a heart transplant bringing people together was sweet and from the one page, I read of the book before choosing it, made it feel like a very emotional and happy story. Yet upon reading I was astonished at the sense of thrill the book brought to the table. It twisted from a coming-of-age novel to almost a horror or thriller story. Honestly, if I knew that was the case, I feel like I never would have picked it, to be honest. But it was the greatest surprise to me of all and I loved the perspective changes. Although sometimes I was very confused while reading, because the perspectives were ever-changing so much, I feel like this wasn't a huge problem as the more I read the more it made sense. “It's not my body that worries me it's my mind.”(Distefano 24) This quote stuck out to me because it fits the plot of the story very well. I also feel like I can relate a lot to the quote as the fears that worry me the most are all in my mind. Overall I thought this was a great book. I would give it ⅘ stars as I did read it very quickly and it held my attention but was also very confusing at some points where ai feel like the confusion wasn't needed. I also loved the happy ending because it wasn't super cliche and forced.
This’s a very exceptional book! Didn’t realize it was from Young Adult section. Was an amazing story. Girl drowns and receives donated heart from teenage girl in her town. Where this story goes from there is nothing short of amazing! Maxine is Harper’s sister/harper died one year before story starts; Linnea received her heart’s transplant. The friendships and family dynamics are at the crux of this story.
Lucia DiStefano's Borrowed had my spine tingling and my butt so far out on the edge of my seat I just couldn't stop reading until I hit the back cover. Compelling characters and exciting plot twists come at you from every angle, as does DiStefano's crisp and beautiful prose. This book definitely needs to be on your to-read list in 2019.
The concept and premise are genius! I appreciated that the female characters were strong, independent and relatable. The significance of the heart resonates with me. I can’t wait to read the next novel Lucia DiStefano pens!
I liked the concept of this one. The beginning was a bit slow and the end a bit rushed. I really didn't like Harper at all. Especially the cavalier way she treated poor Linnea's body when she was possessing it. Which btw, yikes, the idea of a ghost girl possessing my body creeps me the hell out.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
BORROWED is a STUNNER! An undeniable page turner that will keep you up all night. Di Stefano weaves a tale of longing and sorrow but also one of hope and understanding and love. Just when you think you know where the story is going, you're thrust into a gut wrenching drop you didn't see coming. By the end of the book your heart will not be the same.