Emily Sinclair is a teacher in seclusion, reeling from the loss of several of her third-grade students by the hands of a shooter that opened fire on several classrooms within Marie-Glen Elementary. While dealing with the anxiety of leaving her home and facing the people of the town, Emily is terrified by what is waiting for her outside that takes the shape of shadowy figures resembling her deceased students and the ghostly kids that she refers to as “the pales” that get closer to her with every step she takes. With her sanity in question, Emily seeks help from a psychiatrist, Paul Cusick, as she tells her story of being an educator of children that seemed unteachable to that fateful day in October. However, sometimes what we perceive as reality is skewed.
"SMALL HEARTS, by Bryan W. Dull, is a visceral, explicitly cathartic horror novel delving into the psychological terror that comes with senseless child murder, and imagined reckoning born of a violence-saturated culture. This is a straightforward horror story with a paranormal twist and a social conscience."-IndieReader.com
Bryan W. Dull writes books, which, if you really knew him, makes perfect sense as that’s all he has done since sixth grade; spinning a yarn at a moment’s notice. He is best known for writing horror and suspense stories with his first novel, Solstice, being his first experiment into publishing; it was a bet to do it, by the way. In 2016, he tried his hand at something different and published a personal story, Pill Hill. Now, Bryan W. Dull is becoming known for being a literary voice of hope…with some scares mixed into it occasionally. He lives in Fort Wayne, IN with his wife and daughter, and plans on writing more stories that have something to say in this strange world that we live in.
How do I put into words about what I just read?......I have never in my whole entire seven years that I have been a reviewer, had an author make me absolutely speechless. It took me two hours to wrap my brain around what I just finished reading.
The characters within this story were amazing. The main character Emily was a powerful character. I took to her the moment I started reading. I couldn’t help but become connected to this character. Her feelings just seemed to pour out of the pages of this book and I couldn’t put it down and when I did, it was like constantly in the back of my head, just taunting me to come back and read more about this character and what she was going through.
The story-line is just pure…..genius!! There aren’t many authors that can completely blow your mind and make you speechless all at the same time. Well….this author did just that. He took a real life situation, put in fictional characters and literally made me not only cry but think about the very strong message behind this story and I still have the chills as I write this review. It’s not something you can take lightly nor can you forget. Because this COULD happen and it HAS happened and I am just completely blown away by this story. This has become my number one top read for this year and I highly recommend it.
CAUTION: Due to the graphic scenes in this story, reader discretion is advised.
I received this ARC to review, this book is not set to be published until October.
What did I read? I honestly have to ask that question. My rating dropped to a four star as I was getting lost going back and forth between the now and then. Example: So she is talking to someone named Paul and as she is talking she goes back to a memory. Yet, when the memory is done it's like she is in a different place so to speak. Like she wasn't really there talking to someone. I feel like this is really hard to explain correctly. If that makes sense. I have been sitting and trying to figure out how to write that out and that is about as close to what I can say. I was about 79% into the book and I started to ask myself why is Emily not being helped she is literally asking and begging for help. I mean she is talking to someone but she is skirting around everything, why is this psychologist not fully helping her. Then I get almost to the end and everything starts to make sense and the tears are falling down my face my hand is over my mouth and I understand. I understood Emily's guilt, it was one that was eating her up and she couldn't move on. This is when my rating went up to a five, because the author built this all up and put that finally piece in place which all made sense.
I loved Emily as a character she spoke her mind you could tell she really loved her children. As I read what she did in her classroom to help all students and not just one or two I was amazed at her. That is the teacher you want for your children. One who doesn't back down and thinks about them.
The way this author took something that is so tragic and wrote it but didn't make it about the shooter was amazing. I know I shouldn't probably use that word but I could agree with why the author wrote this story the way he did. It is not about the person who does something tragic it is about the victims and the families affected by something so heartless.
As an aide in the classroom and having children go to school my biggest fear is this. Can I do what Emily did, would I be in the same mind frame as Emily and be okay when it is all over? This is one that will have you in your feelings but for the sensitivity of this story line reader beware please.
I wish that there was a different rating system because I feel that this book deserves a little more than the 3 stars that I gave it.
I bounced around between 3 and 4 stars throughout the duration of my read but the ending was so moving and good that I think it redeemed itself in those final pages. I applaud the author for having the courage to address the concept of a school shooting and the ability to center the story around the victims rather than the shooter. Too often in our society does the killer take center stage and this in itself is the worst tragedy. Bryan not only approached the story with a unique point of view but was able to turn the tragedy around and end on a semi-positive note. As I said before, this can't be easily done...so, well done.
The story centers around a teacher that is, in all appearances, suffering a form of survivor's guilt after a tragic school shooting that left several of her students dead. Is she suffering a mental breakdown or is she being haunted by their ghosts? She goes to see a therapist in hopes of reaching that very answer herself.
I liked how the past and present were separated by chapters. I often get a little heated when authors disregard the reader's need to distinguish between time sequences. The only real complaints are 1. the children, at times, didn't seem like they were at their intelligence level...they came off as more grown up than they should have (I'm a school bus driver and parent...so yeah, I can say that I'm familiar) and 2. Not the author's fault AT ALL but the editing should have been better. This author deserved better.
So, in conclusion, 3 stars rounded up to at least 3.5. An original POV to a story that must have been brutal to write. It's definitely one that I would recommend.
This book had me on an emotional rollercoaster and frightened the next! This story is a about a teacher named Emily. Emily is going through a difficult time after losing her class to a school shooting. She feels like the town is distancing themselves from her and judging her because she couldn’t save the children. She already feels guilty enough about the whole situation without having the parents’ blaming looks everywhere she goes. She starts to see the children around town and in her house. They are getting closer and closer. They won’t leave her alone. She thinks she going crazy so she decides to see a shrink. Her shrink ,Paul , is here to help her talk about the events that happened and work through what she has been seeing. The story goes back and forth from before the shooting, present and what happened after the shooting as she talks with the shrink. The way this book is set up keeps you interested and invested in the story. I read this book in 2 days and probably would have finished in one day if life wasn’t in the way. That being said I gave this book 5/5 🌟 review! .
Bryan W. Dull new novel Small Hearts hits you like a punch in the best way possible. The characters all have you feeling so many emotions for them all at once and feeling completely empty at the same time. Its a constant whirlwind of conflicting emotions and makes you question what is real and what is not. Just like in real life you don't want to face the reality of world we live in. It was really hard to read but I needed to read it. This is a story that every person in the world needs to read. This is a story that a major publisher needs to release to the masses. I have read over 10,000 stories in my lifetime and nothing was as important or as big of an impact as this story. #smallhearts
Bryan Dull hits us with a real mind-bending creep fest in Small Hearts! Teacher Emily Sinclair is trying to pull her life back together after the loss of several of her students to a school shooting, a process complicated by the dark shadows that appear to be stalking her. Together with a psychiatrist, she attempts to piece together what is real. Dull builds the sinister vibe really well, and I really felt for Emily and her plight! If you love your horror interlaced with some deep moral issues, definitely come check out this haunt!
Whoa! I don’t give 5 stars lightly, as you know and this story gives me what I need, at least for me, heart, soul and some scare. This book touched all these emotions. Emily is a school teacher with special education children, she’s trying to bring them together to learn empathy and understanding. She loves her students. The unimaginable tragedy occurs, one that has happened in too many schools. A lone gunman shakes Emily’s life to the core. She’s haunted by memories and by ghosts and seeks answers, answers she didn’t realize about that fateful day. No spoilers, the ending just about wrecked me, the story is unbelievably sad but enlightening as well. There is good here as well as evil, we can’t let evil win. I highly recommend this story for its not only horrifying depiction of violent death, but it’s redemption. Read immediately!!
I was one of the lucky people to read this early, and I've gotta say... I LOVED it. The story is so real and heartbreaking, it's hard to put the book down. I kept catching myself wondering what was going on or what was going to happen next.
The author did a great job of taking on such a sensitive topic. Not only did he pay attention to the lives that matter most, but he also showed what it's like inside the mind of a trauma survivor. I definitely recommend!
Absolutely amazing!!!!! I have read this book twice so far, and will say that I will continue rereading it in the future. This book had me on the edge the whole time. Just when I thought I had it figured out, it took a turn. By the end, I had so many emotions running through me. Anger, sadness, and shock, etc.....It has been a while since I have been able to find a book to keep me on edge. A definite must read novel!
Small Hearts is a beautifully written novel about how tragedy, loss, and trauma affect the human psyche. With paranormal elements woven into the narrative, the reader is pulled in as the main character struggles to cope with her new reality. The nonlinear nature of the storytelling brilliantly increases the level of suspense, making this novel difficult to put down. As school shootings have become more frequent, the book serves as a commentary on this complex issue which once seemed an unimaginable horror. That being said, Small Hearts is also about making a difference by being persistent, fostering understanding of those different from ourselves, and connecting with others - the human experience.
** I received a free copy of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review**
Reading Small Hearts left me divided. I hold two vastly differing opinions on aspects of the book.
Small Hearts finds a teacher attempting to get her personal and professional life in order following a horrible tragedy. This was an intriguing, well written, insightful, and unique portion that filled the story with depth and understanding of a character's emotions. Empathy is in to short supply while she attempts to work through her feelings regarding the traumatic event. This book would have been a must read if this was the sole component of the book.
Then, there is a paranormal component that I found less than original and intriguing. Anytime this paranormal aspect became the focal point I found myself wanting the "real life" back that like so much.
Dull has me wanting more from him, and I will certainly give his next work a read.
A fantastic tale of tragedy that will also creep the hell out of you With characters you care about and a perfect twist ending this shouldn’t be missed Well narrated and The highest of recommendations I received a free review audiobook and voluntarily left this review
This isn't just a story about a school shooting or the teacher who lays her life on the line for her students....it's much more haunting than that.
Emily lost her class to a school shooting and feels a great deal of survivor's guilt. She's "seeing" her former students everywhere...but is she actually seeing ghosts or suffering from a severe hallucinogenic mental breakdown? She's just not sure what's real anymore, so she decides to see a therapist to hopefully get some answers and be able to move on. Emily is a compelling character that your heart will ache for; the unique look at these horrific events through her eyes and mind is truly heart wrenching.
The few stories I've read that have centered around shootings place a special emphasis on the shooter and his/her troubled past or mental break..... This one was different; this one chronicled the victims, their horrors, and their lasting after effects. I found parts of this story terrifying and heartbreaking, and other parts were will have you on the edge of your seat and trying to piece together the fragmented pieces as you bounce back and forth between the time leading up to the day of the shooting and the time period in the aftermath.
I gave this one 3.5 stars rounded up to 4 for Goodreads for a few reasons. The story was original, unique, engrossing, and quite the binger; however, I found that the fault was in the depictions of the children. The children, to me, just seemed a bit "off." I just felt that their behavior and dialogue didn't seem completely believable for elementary school children. Also, I found several editing errors in the actual text, which may not be any fault of the author, and I wouldn't usually mention that, but I found that they were rather distracting.
Overall, I this story is one that is certainly a product of the generation we live in...one in which we are desensitized to these types of mass tragedies. Emily's story and perspective are unique and compelling, and I would recommend anyone who can stomach the sensitive subject matter and graphic scenes to certainly give this one a try!
🖤 Sensitive subject matter ahead..... This isn't just a story about a school shooting or the teacher who lays her life on the line for her students....it's much more haunting than that. Emily lost her class to a school shooting and feels a great deal of survivor's guilt. She's "seeing" her former students everywhere...but is she actually seeing ghosts or suffering from a severe hallucinogenic mental breakdown? She's just not sure what's real anymore, so she decides to see a therapist to hopefully get some answers and be able to move on. Emily is a compelling character that your heart will ache for; the unique look at these horrific events through her eyes and mind is truly heart wrenching. The few stories I've read that have centered around shootings place a special emphasis on the shooter and his/her troubled past or mental break..... This one was different; this one chronicled the victims, their horrors, and their lasting after effects. I found parts of this story terrifying and heartbreaking, and other parts will have you on the edge of your seat and trying to piece together the fragmented pieces as you bounce back and forth between the time leading up to the day of the shooting and the time period in the aftermath. The story was original, unique, engrossing, and quite the binger; however, I found that the fault was in the depictions of the children. The children, to me, just seemed a bit "off." I just felt that their behavior and dialogue didn't seem completely believable for elementary school children. Also, I found several editing errors in the actual text, which may not be any fault of the author, and I wouldn't usually mention that, but I found that they were rather distracting. (Update- I think these only exist in the earlier edition.) Overall, this story is one that is certainly a product of the generation we live in...one in which we are desensitized to these types of mass tragedies. Emily's story and perspective are unique and compelling, and I would recommend anyone who can stomach the sensitive subject matter and graphic scenes to certainly give this one a try! 🖤🖤🖤💕/5- rounded up for Goodreads
I read the Kindle edition of this book and was so disappointed in the spelling and grammar errors, missing words, and problems with punctuation. Who edited this Kindle version??? Although the errors were troublesome, I found the story compelling. I figured out what was going on with Emily about halfway through the book. Reminded me a bit of The Sixth Sense. I gave it four stars because I had never read a story line that revolved around school shootings and found it an important topic to cover, especially for those left behind who feel guilt over what happened. Overall, a good read. Fix the issues with the Kindle edition.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.