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Heart Sister

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After Emmitt's twin sister, Minnie, dies in an accident, his world goes sideways. He's lost his best friend and it feels like his family is falling apart without her. But Minnie was an organ donor and Emmitt soon receives an anonymous thank you letter from one of the transplant recipients. Inspiration strikes, and he decides to try and put his sister back together, in spirit. He's going to track down each organ recipient and film them to show his parents Minnie's selfless act and help them move on. But when each recipient falls short of his expectations and the star of his film, the girl who received his sister's heart, refuses to meet him, Emmitt has to turn to extreme measures to find her. What he doesn't know is that his "heart sister" is hiding an agonizing secret, one that could push Emmitt to the breaking point.

336 pages, Paperback

Published September 22, 2020

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About the author

Michael F. Stewart

16 books259 followers
Michael F. Stewart is an award-winning author of many books for young people in various genres, including Ray Vs. the Meaning of Life, Heart Sister, and the forthcoming The Momentous Expiration of Tremmy Sinclair. (Summer 2021). Michael lives in Ottawa.

To learn more about Michael and his next projects visit his website at www.michaelfstewart.com or connect via Twitter @MichaelFStewart.

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5 stars
53 (40%)
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39 (29%)
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32 (24%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 58 reviews
Profile Image for katie ❀.
120 reviews471 followers
November 24, 2020
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing an eARC of Heart Sister in exhcnage for an honest review.

“The power in the view from the mountaintop is from the climb.”

Heart Sister is an emotionally raw but hopeful story. It discovers powerful messages of the impact of healing through love, to be grateful for life, and that there is always light although everything seems dark. This book made me cry so much. I love books that make me cry, hence the 5 stars and a spot on my faves shelf yay.

This is the story of Emmitt Highland, who recently lost his twin sister, Minnie, to a car accident. He is devastated by her death, but he and his family receive news that Minnie had signed up to be an organ donor. Emmitt decides that the best way to help his parents heal and make Minnie whole once more is to track down every one of the organ recipients and create a film that captures the spirit of his sister.

Emmitt has a strong passion for film and virtual reality, and wants to honor his sister one last time. He has a fierce loyalty to his family and will not give up until he is successful. Emmitt’s idea to make a film of Minnie’s organ recipients demonstrates his willingness to bring people together to tell a story.

Although Minnie was already gone when the book started, she was brought to life through Emmitt’s film. She had depth and a unique outlook on life, so much that she was full of it, and breathed life into others, through taxidermy and by donating her body to others. Minnie was an amazing person, and her spirit had a major impact on the story. Minnie was such a bright person who had such an optimistic personality, and I felt like I really knew her even though she wasn't directly in the story. I was so sad that she died. I wished so many times that she was still alive while I read this *sobs*

The secondary characters were also so multi-dimensional, deeply-layered, and had complex personalities. It made it feel like I knew them inside and out. I loved how each person had their own unique story to tell, and how they conveyed it in their own way. Emmitt’s film was deeply important to them and was a tribute to life.

This book was a beautifully written story of grief and loss. It had the perfect combination of dark and light, and was full of life. The characters were well-developed and relatable, and I loved watching them learn and grow. Heart Sister is an intricately woven story that will resonate with you long after you read the last words.
Profile Image for Paula M.
547 reviews643 followers
August 17, 2020
"I will look for the beautiful in every ugly thing."

Heart Sister is a little difficult to review. Not because its a bad book, quite the opposite actually. I am afraid that I will not use the right words. Beautiful may be overused for this review, just to set your expectation. So let me try to share my thoughts and tell you the reason why you should have this book on your shelf.

The book has been compared to Five Feet Apart which I will not entirely agree with. Yes, they both touches the topic of organ donors but I believe they need to be categorized separately. In this story, our main protagonist, Emmitt, is dealing with the fact that her twin sister is gone. As anyone who suffered from loss, we have different ways to cope with grief. If Emmitts mother do it by sulking and letting herself be swallowed by grief and his father by being busy at work.. Emmitt cope by helping his parents and trying to piece his sister back by doing a meaningful film. Emmitt is probably one of the most heart breaking character I've ever read. 

"Maybe if I wasn’t doing the cooking, the laundry, the carrying on, I’d have enough will to show my heartbreak."

Imagine being 16 and already taking in the full responsibility of "fixing" your family. I had a very complicated relationship with Emmitt. I had to read several chapters before I can be fully engrossed by his thoughts. Its not because I wasn't enjoying his narration, but it was like reading a journal of someone instead of actually being with them on the journey. And this affected my rating of the book. But please don't let this stop you from picking up Heart Sister. Every character from this book is incredibly well-written. They're relatable in different ways, realistic and full of authentic voice. It was SO impressive how Michael Stewart managed to insert several character developments in Heart Sister. There's a lot of sub-plots, but all dealt and executed in a sensitive and believable manner.

Heart Sister is very readable, I was able to finish the book in one day! Michael Stewart writes in such a simple and yet impacting way. I am such a fan of the pace and how the story transitioned from one chapter to another. It can be a little tricky to comment about the plot of Heart Sister as it is, in some ways, based off reality. However, I believe we can still be empathic and at the same time be critical in a way that will help the author on how they can pen their upcoming stories. Just like what other reviewers have mentioned, Heart Sister contains some questionable actions from our MC and I'm not denying nor defending it. However, I believe we must put ourselves in our narrators shoes and really grasp the story as a whole. As far as the plot is concerned, I really have no qualms about it and just want to praise how raw and beautiful it is. 

I believe Heart Sister is that kind of book you HAVE to read at least once in your lifetime. Its emotional impact is something you can't afford to miss!
Profile Image for Alex Nonymous.
Author 18 books333 followers
July 17, 2020
Thanks to the publisher for providing an eARC of Heart Sister in exchange for an honest review.

This book tore me apart. I found myself tearing up over and over again but I'm not quite sure if this book is sad. Which is saying a lot considering it centers on a 16 year old boy who just lost his twin sister, but Heart Sister is just such a raw, emotional, hopeful story.

Emmitt's sister, Minnie, was so full of life that her favorite hobby was shoving bits and pieces of it into others. Minnie was a 16 year old taxidermist, wanting to breath life back into roadkill to give a renewed sense of life to the dead. It's only natural that she do the same after death. It isn't until she's declared brain dead that Emmitt and her family find out that Minnie signed up to be an organ donor.

Later, when dealing with an inconsolable mother and a father who won't even acknowledge Minnie's existence, Emmitt receives anonymous notes from two of Minnie's organ recipients and decides that the best way to honor Minnie and help his parents cope is to immortalize her like she did for the roadkill she turned into art. Being an aspiring filmmaker (and not, you know. A murderer with access to human corpses) Emmitt decides the best way to achieve this goal is to track down each organ recipient and create a movie about Minnie's life both before and after her death.

Full of heart, hope, and a healthy dose of teenage shenanigans, Heart Sister is a gorgeous story that's bound to stick with you for a long time.
Profile Image for Sherry Fundin.
1,769 reviews115 followers
July 14, 2020
I love the cover and it definitely relates to the book and means so much more after reading Heart Sister by Michael F Stewart. Michael speaks from the heart in this fabulous story of a young boy that searches for the people that received his sister’s organs.

The characters are fully developed, richly detailed and I love how Michael F Stewart shows them growing and changing. Emmitt steals the show. It’s not awful enough that he lost his sister, but he lost his twin sister.

The movie that Emmitt is making was a different take on the story than I expected, but a wonderful way to tell the tale. Anything more, you will want to learn for yourself.

My heart goes out to him. I love him. He is doing everything for his mother, to pull her out of her paralyzing depression, but so much happens and many lives are changed. His sister gave them life, he helps them live it.

The butterfly effect is an idea that is more commonly used in chaos theory. it shows that a small change can make much bigger changes happen; that one small incident can have a big impact in the future. The ripple in the pond….

I cannot say enough about this novel, which is inspired by Micheal F Stewart’s own life.

Heart Sister has it all…fun and games, grief and misery, laughs and tears..and the way Michael presented it was heartbreakingly and heartwarmingly wonderful.

Even though Heart Sister is aimed at middle grade, to me, Michael F Stewart’s novels are excellent for all ages. He sends a subtle message that I hear loud and clear.

I voluntarily reviewed an ARC of Heart Sister by Michael F Stewart.

See more at fundinmental
Profile Image for Kyra Bredenhof.
112 reviews6 followers
August 15, 2022
2.5 stars

This book was okay. I found the ending somewhat unsatisfying, the conversation a bit fake, and the plotline sort of generic. But the author did a good job of character development throughout the book - I found myself not really liking the protagonist for part of the book, but he did improve.

But yeah I probably wouldn't recommend.
62 reviews37 followers
August 23, 2020
*If you'd like to see my original review, please head to my Instagram, @crackedspines_*
Okay so after thinking about it a lot, I've decided to change my review for Heart Sister. I've dropped it by one star. This is not because my original post was a tour post; Xpresso Book Tours informs all reviewers that if they cannot honestly give a book a rating of 3 stars or higher, they can reach out to the company and get an excerpt to post instead. I gave it 3 stars because at that time, that was an honest rating for me. But the more I reflect on it, the less I can actually say that I enjoyed it. A big problem for me was Emmitt's character. Emmitt is, to be blunt, a self-centered asshole. He is an actual asshole. And the fact that he's grieving and his minuscule bit of growth at the end of the book doesn't redeem that. He does a lot of things that are not okay, ranging from vaguely rude to very selfish to extreme privacy violations and actual illegal actions.
Profile Image for Shivantika.
198 reviews1 follower
January 26, 2021
Oh my God.

Oh my God.

This is, hands down, the best standalone I've ever read, and is underrated as heck. It isn't very frequent that I've felt so close to a character as I've felt to Emmitt, and the grief him and his family faced was portrayed to beautifully, hurtfully well that I found myself crying at school multiple times while reading. Every time a memory with Minnie came up, I honestly just couldn't handle it.😅

Everyone should read this book, even if I have to put a major trigger warning for loss and trauma. And I mean MAJOR. There are so many ups and downs, and it really takes you on one emotional rollercoaster ride.

Most honestly. If you're good with this type of content, read it. Now. I even put a Trials of Apollo book on hold for this, and that's saying a lot.
Profile Image for Rajiv.
959 reviews64 followers
August 17, 2020


Get ready to have a box of tissues ready because this book will definitely make you cry. It is beautiful, funny, emotional, and a wonderful read!

Emmitt is a wonderful character, and the perfect protagonist for the plot. While the story shows how he is trying to help others, we see that he also has unresolved feelings that he must face. Moreover, he does something so nice in each chapter that makes you root for him. Firstly, I loved how he supports Joey by calling and checking on him. Secondly, I smiled when Dappy brought the virtual reality world to the kids like Ivan. Thirdly, I thought it was brilliant how he brings everyone together by making an interview through virtual reality. Also, Dennis is adorable in the supporting role, and his cheerfulness rubbed off on me too. On a side note, I also liked Fatima and wished we had seen more of her.

Futhermore, the author also portrayed the family dynamics very well. The grief that the parents go through after losing Minnie felt raw and realistic. It is never easy for a parent to lose their child, and I thought the author did a beautiful job in portraying their loss. I also loved the concept of “positive distractions” and decided to implement the same whenever I am feeling down.

However, there are some very minor things which I felt could have been avoided. For instance, I liked Becca and Emmitt as friends and didn’t feel the need to build a romance between them. But I loved the story so much that I ignored these things.

Overall, in my opinion, this book was just perfect and I loved every moment of it.
Profile Image for Danielle McGregor.
265 reviews3 followers
January 23, 2023
I really enjoyed all the ‘sister’ and ‘brother’ elements of this story. The taxidermy stuff was too much for me. At one stage the dead sister’s friends delivered (to the grieving family) a taxidermic bird as a gift and representation of Emmitt’s dead twin and that was far too much for me.

The VR element might have been of interest to some, but again - not my area of interest. It sort of felt like the author was just trying to make Emmitt ‘different’ from the ‘normal’ 16 year old.

Afterwards I read that the author had indeed walked some part of the heart transplant journey with his family and it gave the story a beautiful sense of credibility.

At 3 stars it was a good book, just not really a good book for me.
Profile Image for Melissa T.
566 reviews30 followers
October 3, 2022
This was a an easy book to slip in and out of. The premise felt new, or at least new to me. I can't recall that i've read many books with quite the mix of subjects as this one.

I don't think I've read a book where one of the characters is interested in taxidermy or virtual reality, so both of those were interesting topics to read about in a YA novel.

I appreciated that the relationship between Emmitt and Becca is very subtle and doesn't have the feeling of instalove to it.

The one thing that I found quite disappointing is my lack of connection to the characters. I rated this as highly as I did because I felt it was a unique approach to difficult suject matter, but I felt a whole lot of nothing emotionally for the family and the grief they're going through. I can't quite put my finger on why, I just didn't.

Still enjoyed reading this overall, though.

*I won a copy of this book in a Librarything Giveaway*
47 reviews
January 9, 2021
Heart Sister talks about a guy named Emmitt who loses his twin sister. In the story, we can see different aspects to grieving. While Emmitt's mother had depression, his father isolated himself. Because of this, Emmitt goes on a journey trying to find his organ families. By including them in a VR video, he wishes to convey the message that Minnie lives on in these people.

In the book, one part that gave me mixed feelings was when I saw his mother going through depression. On one hand, I felt angry towards her, because of how irresponsible she was being. While her daughter had passed away, she completely forgot the fact that she still had another son who she had to take care of. On the other hand, I sympathized with her being heartbroken. Nothing can compare to the grief someone will feel after the death of a family member, not to mention that it was her daughter. It's surprising how, one day, you may be fine, and the next, you completely fall apart.

While that was the case of Emmitt's mother, his father became more isolated. Even though they still communicated using short messages, I think that his father was really distant. On the surface, his father tried to move on with life, but in reality, he was trying to ignore the fact that his kid had passed away so that it would hurt less. It was relieving to see Emmitt talking to his dad.

Lastly, the ending of the story. Turns out, making the video was a way that Emmitt tried to cope with his grief. It was not necessarily a plot twist, but it was a realization that, all this time, the video was not for his parents, but for himself. I really liked the message conveyed to the readers at the end of the book. "A donor's organs can save eight people. But you can't put them back together again to replace the person who was lost" (Stewart 302). Although Emmitt found these amazing new people who walked into his life, it doesn't mean that Minnie is back. Once he accepts this, he can finally start to heal. I like how the author ends the story by saying that they are starting to heal, and not completely healed yet. Because in reality, grieving is not something that happens in a day, it is a hard journey that takes a long, long time. The good thing is, we can see Emmitt and his family slowly starting to pick up with their lives. Slowly, they will heal, and Minnie will remain forever in their memories.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Rukaiya Mustafa.
25 reviews4 followers
August 15, 2020
What do I say? This book tore me up in every chapter. It’s been a long time since I’ve read such a beautiful book on siblings. The cover is creative and gives the sense of the story in one page. The title is perfect and I love how each and every aspect of the book fits perfectly together.

I picked up the book not knowing how this story will play out, but I was blown out of my senses. Emmit, our protagonist is a twin brother who loses his sister in an accident. What Minnie does is an exceptional gesture that points to her being selfless in this world where humanity is of utmost need. Organ donation isn’t something that we hear about that frequently, and the author has done a beautiful job at portraying it.

Feeling dejected at the loss of his twin, Emmit goes out of his way to piece his sister back together organ by organ. He knows that if he does this, and makes his movie, it’ll forever be known of Minnie’s kindness and selfless actions. He starts contacting the patients that have received Minnies organs and makes a beautiful film.

On the way, through him, I got to learn so much about the process of organ donorship and with that the life stories of every individual that gets Minnie’s organ. The difficult part was to connect with the person that had Minnie’s heart. Something that only a brother could achieve by hook or by crook. The means used by Emmit made me cry with joy at the determination that a brother holds for his sister.

The little glimpse we got of Minnie when she was alive also shows what an intelligent and wonderful person she was. I haven’t heard of any young girl such as Minnie be interested in taxidermy, the way she was. It’s was captivating to read about such a hobby.

Overall, I absolutely loved this book. The pain, the heartbreak, the drama, the love, the laughs, and the relationships have been written impeccably. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a tear-jerker, beautiful book on siblings!
Profile Image for TheGeekishBrunette.
1,139 reviews28 followers
September 30, 2020
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for this e-copy to review. All opinions are my own.

One thing I love about books from this publishing company is that usually the topic of the book is one that isn’t usually discussed. For this book, the subject is about being an organ donor and what that’s like as someone who lost a person who was a organ donor and someone who received an organ.

Emmitt is trying to hold on to his sister in any way he can. His mother cannot cope with what happened to her daugher. His father stays busy working and doesn’t want to talk about what happened. Every person deals with grief in a different way and this book does a great job of showing that.

This book is written in first-person and it comes from Emmitt. The way he finds his sister’s organs is quite questionable but it’s understandable to want to hold onto something. I did like the interactions between him and the receivers. There was definitely some good moments about alcoholism, changing/growing, and just getting a second chance at life. We don’t realize how lucky we are until our life is in jeopardy.\

I’m not going to lie, this book was a very emotional read. I had tears every now and then. I have never had to lose someone in this way but I have lost someone close to me and its easy to understand grief. This book will definitely punch you in the feels.

Overall, if you want an emotional read or just one that talks about organ donors then I’d recommend this book. It’s an important topic and one that isn’t talked about enough.
Profile Image for Lelia Taylor.
872 reviews16 followers
August 12, 2020
There’s very little one can do to ease the pain when a person you love passes away but how much harder must it be for a teen when that person is his twin. Emmitt is having a hard time dealing with this but he really worries that his mom can’t seem to recover even a bit. Perhaps finding and filming each person who received an organ from Minnie will help, maybe even make his dad speak Minnie’s name again.

Emmitt’s quest starts out well when he tracks down the man who got Minnie’s corneas and, as he continues on, I became more and more invested in what he was trying to do and the reactions of these lucky people, some not so positive as others. Can this bring Minnie back? No, of course not, but each “piece” he finds takes him closer to healing, to feeling as though it’s okay for him to still be living. That might be hard to do with a mother who wishes she’d never had Minnie…and, by extension, him.

This story is full to the brim with seemingly endless pain and, yet, Emmitt shows us that there is always reason for hope that all is not lost when death crushes those left behind. This is a boy with strength and a dream that he might be able to help his parents through their grief while coping with his own and the people he meets are just what he needs to understand how his sister’s generosity keeps her alive. Despite the sorrow that is at the crux of the story, Emmitt finds healing for himself and a lasting memorial for Minnie, the girl who created her own notion of life from her love of taxidermy.

As for the ethics of finding organ recipients and the methods Emmitt uses to do so, that’s a question that won’t ever be completely reconciled and each reader will reach their own conclusion. Emmitt is not always the nicest guy and neither are some of the recipients but, in the end, we’re all just people with hopes and dreams.
Profile Image for Megan.
697 reviews
December 31, 2020
Another great YA read. I’ve had a good streak lately.

Heart Sister is heart warming and heart breaking. It walks a fine line between not reading like a book for kids and not straying into material to old for teens. Emmitt has lost his twin sister and seeks out the recipients of her donor organs. What he finds is not what he expected but it might be what he needs.

The secondary characters are diverse and multi-faceted without taking over the story but it is Emmitt who really draws you in. He is struggling to help his family while drowning in his own grief. He forces the reader to consider how they might grieve and your heart breaks for the boy who has to parent his parents through grief.
Profile Image for Amy.
Author 2 books151 followers
October 15, 2020
Lovely novel that is one of those YA but appropriate for all.
When someone you love dies, you lose a piece of yourself (or at least that's my experience.) When Emmitt's twin sister dies, he tries to find her again by tracking down the recipients whose lives were changed by receiving a donor organ from her.
There is so much to love about this novel, from the personalities of the twins, through the insights gained in the hunt. Told with a deft hand, and skillful handling of a most difficult subject. Thank you LibraryThing and the publisher for sending me an ARC of this novel. Pandemic read.
109 reviews
August 13, 2020
Oh my heart. *sigh* There are stories that just break you emotionally, and then there is this story that slowly breaks you before piecing you back together. I realize that is what Emmett is trying to do in this story and I’m sure that is why it feels that way.

If you’re looking for a light read, this is not it. This is a profound story about grief, hope, love, and learning. Stewart does an excellent job balancing the seriousness of a broken family devastated by the loss of their daughter/sister with the funny macabre of taxidermy and literal clowns. It’s a rare talent to make me laugh and cry in the same page, but Stewart can.

Emmett struggles with how to move on after losing his twin. In his attempts to grieve her and help his mom with her depression he develops a plan to make a virtual reality video of Minnie with all the people’s lives she changed by being a donor. The anonymity of the organ donation foundation makes it a challenge but through a bit of luck and some extremely questionable research tactics, Emmett manages to find the recipients. In learning about their lives and struggles, he learns a lot about his own grief.

The portrayal of Emmett’s mother is heartbreaking and real. She is lost in her own grief and unable to process the loss of her child. The void in her eyes and her inability to function are prime motivators for Emmett’s attempt to put Minnie back together through her donors. Ultimately, the thing that brings the mother back to life is Emmett’s own grief spiral.

Each of the recipients have their own struggles and stories. In getting to know each of them, Emmett is challenged by his own ideas of who is deserving of saving and how Minnie would have reacted to a person struggling with their own mortality. Dennis was probably my favorite of the recipients as his renewed sense of living is a bright light to a somewhat dark story.

As cliche’ as it is, there is so much HEART in this story. Each character has a deeply personal story that is captured beautifully in their sometimes short interactions with Emmett. The way Minnie, and then Emmett, touched these peoples lives is a testament to how important organ donation can be to those who are ill. Emmett learns how the small act of registering to be a donor impacted the lives of all of these people and how very much that was exactly what Minnie would have wanted.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a fantastically written story about grief and growth, and loves to laugh about taxidermy.
2 reviews
October 3, 2021
One of the best books I've read to date. It was the perfect mix of wholesome and funny, would recommend for everyone.
Profile Image for Jim Gleason.
404 reviews1 follower
September 15, 2020
Let me say upfront, “I loved this book!” Let me put that into perspective. As a heart transplant recipient myself, heavily engaged in all things organ donation and organ transplant for 26 years with a hobby of reading and publishing reviews for over 150 transplant-related books including novels and biographical stories, I have a lot of experience with which to approach reading HEART SISTER. Add to that my being married to a ‘donor mom’ who honored her 13-year-old son’s wishes to be an organ donor when he was killed on his bike by a speeding motorist on a cell phone, especially for me this is a very unique publication in so many ways. First and foremost, the author, with a brother who has experienced a heart transplant, has used that personal family experience and much research to really get it right when it comes to the facts and insights of the organ donation and transplant process. I was duly impressed that he got it so right given the complex nature of the subject and the storyline itself. But more than that, given that each donor and recipient experience is unique, especially when it comes to the all-important emotional side of that life journey, the author uses a multitude of characters to capture the most common emotional challenges that come with the donor/recipient journey, each giving a very different perspective to that personal story. Again, based on my own life and the many others who have crossed my path and shared their lives, he gets it so right!
The story is summarized in the simple overview: “After his twin sister's death, a teenage filmmaker tries to track down the recipients of her organs in hopes that it will help his parents move on from the loss of their daughter.” I will not retell that story here. You must read it for yourself and I don’t want to take away any of the pleasure and surprise that you will find in your reading. The author is creative in his multilayered narrative, especially in telling the story behind and in front of the main storyline using a virtual reality element to expand the reader's engagement in the tale of many complex and different characters, both in ages and backgrounds. There’s mystery, anger, sadness, despair, love, friendship and rejection woven together that will keep the reader moving faster and faster through the 350+ pages of easy reading, driving to an unexpected ending (I hope I don’t spoil that for readers in revealing that part).
As for ages, this is a beautiful and engrossing book for young readers, appealing as it does to their generation’s lifestyles, but as I approach the end of my own eighth decade, I found it appealing to my own ‘young heart’ despite my years and history of transplant life and readings. Not only is it entertaining for all ages, but it will serve to promote reader decisions about registering as an organ donor when they too have to face the decision of donation, not of being an organ donor or not, for as another story I will never forget pointed out to me, it’s not a question of whether you will be an organ donor, you WILL be an organ donor, but rather whether you are going to ‘donate to the ground, or donate to save someone’s life by passing along your healthy organs’ when you no longer have use for them. That’s the real choice and an easy one to make form that perspective (or at least I hope it is).
How to end a story like this, that is the author’s challenge once he has us ‘hooked’ as Michael Stewart does here. In retrospect, his ending is (to my way of thinking at least) the perfect combination of location and relationship, and I will not say more so you can finish reading in your own way. For me with so much related live experience background, I confess I found myself in tears at that ‘perfect’ story ending. Don’t take my word for it, read it yourself and feel your unique emotions while you either make your decision to be an organ donor or reaffirm by sharing with your family, the decision once made so they can, as in the tough moments of this story, support your decision when you can no longer speak up.
Congratulations Michael, on this unique and beautiful way to honor your own brother’s gift of life. On a scale of 1 to 5 stars, I give Heart Sister my own (donated heart biased) enthusiastic ’10 stars’!
Profile Image for TheArtemisDuology.
189 reviews31 followers
July 23, 2020
A heartwarming and sorrowful tale, Heart Sister tells the story of Emmitt, a boy who has to put the pieces of his family back together after his sister's tragic death. Emmitt decides that the way to help his family is to meet all the people who got their organs because of Minnie's death, trying to make his sister whole once more. The story shares an important message of the struggles of loss and the extreme measures we sometimes go to find closure, but we can't always be satisfied with what we truly want. I think the novel gives a good lesson of being willing to find closure while also knowing you cannot find the perfect way to do so.

Some of the actions of this book are not exactly ethical, given that Emmitt breaks patient confidentiality in order to meet his organ siblings, but I understand why he does it even if it rubs me the wrong way. The author's note in the book also gives the story an extra layer of importance and makes it feel more personal. The writing style is digestible despite the heavy topic and I think it does a good job of portraying the different ways people grieve.

While the story is sweet and provokes the emotions it's trying to, I didn't find myself particularly attached to the characters. In the end, I felt more moved by Emmitt but he wasn't a character I was necessarily rooting for; I felt more like I was passively just watching what he was doing. He is by no means is a bad character, I just couldn't feel a strong attachment to him. I think part of this has to do is that we're being thrown into the aftermath of Minnie's death right away and Emmitt's search for his organ siblings. I feel as though a partial build-up would've helped me feel more connected to the twins.

The author utilizes 'quirky' characteristics on the siblings that both intrigued me and made me sort of shrug. I did enjoy the author's implementation of VR into Emmitt's interest and the unique "script" writing style at certain parts, yet I also questioned Minnie's interest in taxidermy. It doesn't take away from the story but using traits that are considered "too quirky" can sometimes make a character feel as though the author is trying too hard to make them "different." That being said, I do think it is executed in a way that makes her quirkiness important to the plot and doesn't make you cringe; I just have a personal reservation when it comes to traits that feel purposefully put in to make a person seem "strange." But Minnie's light shines in the book and the author is impactful in the way he makes her known only through the stories her family can tell; it makes me feel like the true outsider I am supposed to be (much like the organ recipients).

I was put off by the slight sub-plot of this strange romantic tension between Emmitt and one of his heart siblings. Obviously, the fact that they are referred to as siblings is what makes it suspect. Nothing really becomes of it (thankfully) but I believe we could've done without it, even if it's used to explain how little the heart sibling has lived.

The story is filled with heart (literally) and feels real. Minnie's impact is felt throughout the book and the author does a great job of showing the lengths a mourning brother will go to find closure and to fix what appears broken.

*Thank you Orca Book Publishers for the ARC*
Profile Image for Colleen.
322 reviews
January 16, 2022
It took me a few chapters to warm up to this audiobook listen. The subject matter: death of a teenage girl, a family trying to cope, organ donation was heavy. It was raw and emotional. The author did a great job of describing emotion and letting the reader feel it.


The narrator, Emmett, twin brother to Minnie, who died. Minnie, 16, dies tragically but because she registered for organ donation, donated 8 organs to grateful recipients. Minnie was into taxidermy and made scenes from the roadkill she found and “gave life”. Emmett’s parents: his father, a chef who creates things out of vegetables (rutabaga works, cauliflower sheep), can hardly say Minnie’s name, it hurts to say her name. His mother, suffers a deep depression and cannot function after the death of her daughter. Emmett meets the people who became his brothers and sisters. They are all unique characters: moth guy, got the eyes, alcoholic Joey became a liver brother, Enthusiastic, life-loving Dennis, a kidney and pancreas, the grumpy lady got another kidney, a runner/athlete the lungs, Becka became Emmett’s heart sister. I loved how each organ recipient had a different perspective on life, unique struggles. They were a wonderful “gang” of people. They felt very real.

The author had Emmett trying to find all the organ recipients. It was an adventure and a quest to help his mother find some closure after Minnie’s death. At first I found the taxidermy dioramas creepy but as the plot unfolded, I could see the symbolism. Emmett’s exploits trying to contact the recipients (especially Becca) were interesting. Favourite scene—hospital, naked Dennis dancing.

The author really explored some deep themes: dealing with deal—how it is unique to each person even though each person in the family loved Minnie deeply. There is no right way to grieve or timeline to grieving. Another theme: organ donation. The author made me think—does the organ donor family have any claim to the organ once it is gone. Does the recipient have to contact or be open to contact, the donor family? What makes a person worthy to receive an organ? Do they have to be a good person? Do they need to price their worthiness outside of medical criteria? I loved the theme of positive distraction—Emmett helped the kids in the paediatric ward through positive distraction. I loved the Canadian-ness of this book: descriptions of Toronto, the health care system, the organ donation foundation.

Even though this book may be intended for a young adult audience, I loved it. It made me think about organ donation and all the ethics that go along with it. There were many wonderful insights into the tragic world of grief. This book made me laugh and cry—sometimes in the same paragraph. The narration was great. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for something different from mainstream that is also great literature. Also, highly recommend registering for organ donation and talking about it with your family. It is truly the best gift you/your loved one can give. Life.

Profile Image for Cheryl (I Heart Fictional People).
196 reviews25 followers
August 10, 2020
Review originally posted on my blog: I Heart Fictional People


First of all, that cover is eye-catching. I just had to see what this book was about. And then I read the book blurb. OMG. I have never read anything like this. I was so excited to get the opportunity to read it.


The story, the plot. This story is heartbreakingly beautiful. This is just a boy who lost his twin sister, his best friend, and he’s grieving while also trying to help his parents move on. To do that, he is determined to find everyone who received her organs…to put her back together. Doesn’t that just break your heart but make you want to read it all at the same time? It was real, it was raw, it was emotional, it was just beautiful. I know I’m using that word multiple times, but that is the one word that comes to mind when I think of this book: beautiful.

The feels. Oh wow. I’m an emotional mess after that book. It’s a mixture of happy and sad tears. I read a lot of romance, and usually when I cry, it’s because of some tragic love story. But this. This was different. This isn’t a swoonworthy couple who find each other through all the obstacles life throws at them. This is what real people go through when they lose a loved one. I can’t imagine having to let someone I love go and donate their organs, and I can’t imagine how it would feel to receive such a gift like that. The emotional struggles in this book felt spot on. I cried during the first chapter, throughout the book, and I cried while reading the author’s acknowledgments. Just inspiring.

Realistic. What I worried about going into this book was that all the recipients of the organs were going to be these poster-perfect people with the same reactions to being contacted. But it was nothing like that. Each individual had a story. Each individual had their own struggles and pain. And when Emmitt came into contact with them, all of their reactions were different. And I absolutely loved this because this made it so much more real.


Nothing. Absolutely nothing. No complaints. This book was perfect.


My very first thought after I finished this book, after wiping the tears away, was that I HAVE to own a hard copy. I read a lot of ebooks, and most of the time, I’m content with having them on my Kindle. Not this one. I NEED to get myself a paperback copy to proudly display on my bookshelf. It was just too good of a story. I must have it. This book was brilliantly written. I can’t even put into words how impressed I am with this author. He has taken a story and forever embedded it into my soul. I absolutely loved it. Thank you, Michael F. Stewart for writing such an incredible story.

*I received an eBook copy of this book from the author via Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review*
Profile Image for Sara.
187 reviews25 followers
August 10, 2020
CHECK OUT MY STOP ON THE HEART SISTER TOUR! https://sarainbooklandblog.blogspot.c...

Heart Sister has been a really original read for me. From the moment I signed up for the tour, I know that the book was going to be about an intense subject, but I really couldn't imagine how the author was going to touch it.

As soon as I started the book, I couldn't ignore the Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close's vibe: there was a tragic death, a protagonist who survives this death and that goes on a mission to elaborate the loss.. and then Dennis, who's just as bizzarre as Oskar's grandfather. Those who didnt' read Safran Foer's book won't probably get the resemblance, but I felt it strongly, especially in the intense yet weird story they create.

The author's style is unique, the narration is dynamic and original; the characters are all unconventional and not once was I completely struck by some of the things they did - I mean, a father who shapes vegetables like meat? Or a sister that loves taxidermy? For both books, this aspect, while fascinating, didn't help me in creating a bond with the characters that often felt too surreal.

The protagonist, Emmit, was personally the one I got less. I was touched by his intentions, by all the care he took in saving others, but I felt like I knew those others better than I knew him. I didn't have enough details to picture him physically, or enough story about his individual personality, sister aside. Just like in Foer's book, you expect an insight into the protagonist's grief that never really comes, because Oskar, just as Emmit, is too focused on a mission to save their, and their family's sanity. But in this case, I would have loved to have more of Emmit's feelings on the pages, just like we have for Becca. She was personally my favourite character and I loved her storyline and how unexpected it turned. Even though we don't see as much of her as we do for Emmit, she succeeds in touching the reader deeply.

The themes touched by this book are certainly strong and I was really looking forward to read about organ donation for the first time. There are a lot of intense moments, the whole experience is explored from both point of views - that of the donor (or donor's family) and that of the recipient - but I liked it how the author managed to treat such a subject with delicacy and a lightness that feels really positive
while approaching such a theme.
Profile Image for Casia Pickering.
Author 19 books58 followers
August 14, 2020
I received a free copy via Xpresso Book Tours for an honest review. What follows is my opinion and mine alone. There was no compensation made for this review.

You know the videos, the ones circulating in your social media feed, a grieving family member leans to a stranger's chest, a stethoscope in their ears. They place the circle on the chest and listen. They listen to the heartbeat of their lost husband or son, mother or daughter, sister or brother. Tears start flowing from the organ recipient, the onlookers, the family, and you, the viewer. No one is dried eyed.

Reading this book was a bit like that. You see the process of grief and a young man trying to grapple and make sense of the loss of his twin. He tries to bring her to life in the best way he knows how: Film and Virtual Reality. In the process, he makes life-lasting connections and learns something about himself.

To say this book is a single-sitting read won't give it justice, even though it easily is. It isn't the length that makes it that way, it's the emotion weaved into the prose. You feel with Emmitt. You laugh with Emmitt. And you may even cry for Emmitt. I didn't want to put down this book. Not even for food and I love food.

Michael F. Stewart is a craftsman with his writing. Heart Sister is easily one of the best books I've read this year thus far. I was pulled into the narrative and I felt for the family. I wanted to help Emmitt find his organ siblings. The number of different people his sister helped through her donorship shows that every person is important. Every human being has the ability to be a hero and it isn't just the donor who are the heroes. The family that is willing to make that sacrifice is as well.

This is a book everyone should read. If you aren't an organ donor, it may change your mind. If you are, it only solidifies that one day you may end up helping someone and it doesn't mean that your family would be without you completely
Profile Image for Rebecca June.
105 reviews
August 11, 2020

"But I also envy people who have courage. I think envy tells us a lot about who we are and what is important to us. I envy the brave. In some ways, I'm still searching for my heart"
(p. 45)

Thank you to Michael F. Stewart, Orca Books, and Xpresso Tours for a free eARC of Heart Sister in exchange for an honest review. You can pre-order it now to read it as soon as it releases in September! This review was originally posted on my blog, June Reads Books.

I inhaled this book in 24 hours, and can honestly say it'll stick with me for a long time. Stewart writes an emotional journey where Emmitt learns how a single death can have a life giving ripple effect to many others. Emmitt is essentially forced to move on from his sister's death to take care of his parents, who are not coping. So he decides to make a movie about his sister and the lives she changed by being an organ donor in hopes to help his parents begin to heal. During his search, he finds an unlikely group of friends, breaks many rules, and has to radically change his expectations about grief. In his journey of healing, he is broken again.

Stewart writes such a captivating story about the fluid nature of grieving, and the amazing selflessness of being an organ donor. You will be in your emotions this whole book, but it's okay, because those emotions will latch you onto these characters for a full experience of story. After reading about these transplant patients, after feeling the joy and pain they feel in being given a second life at the expense of another, I hope you research becoming an organ donor yourself in order to fill others with life even in death, just like Minnie.
Profile Image for J. d'Merricksson.
Author 8 books44 followers
June 8, 2020
Heart Sister by Michael Stewart is a poignant testimony to the power of connection to heal, and that learning to let go is an intensely personal thing.

Emmit's sister Minnie died in a tragic accident. Her death gave life/ health to eight others. You see, Minnie was an organ donor. In an effort to help his mother heal, Emmit decides to create a virtual reality film of Minnie 'talking with' each of her organ recipients. But to do that, he needs to track them down and those names are kept confidential.

Emmit's idea was cute, and clever. I admired the creativity. His methods were another story. Patient information is classified for a reason, son! That, and the lengths he went in order to see his heart sister, creeped me out. Dude. Stalker much? There were plenty of times where he came off as pushy and selfish. I adored the little script and screenwriting notes that are interspersed through the chapters. It's great insight into Emmit's thinking and perception.

Out of all the recipients, I liked Danny the most. He just felt so open and genuine, and I felt bad for how Emmit mistreated him at times. Stewart did a marvelous job of breathing full life into Minnie. Despite only seeing her through Emmit's memories, or as a VR recording, Minnie has depth and personality. I want to get to know her. She's quirky, and sees the world in different ways. She practises taxidermy with cheek. Her room sounds creepy awesome. Minnie feels so real that it's easy to forget she's just an echo. Highly recommended!

***Many thanks to the author/ publisher for providing an egalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Profile Image for ReadingRy.
24 reviews
November 23, 2022
I've been slowly reading this book over the course of the last week and a bit. This is unlike me because usually I'll read a book in one sitting if I can help it. Now, I didn't take so long to read it because I didn't enjoy it, quite the opposite actually. I found myself tearing up (or outright crying (okay sobbing)) multiple times, both on the bus surrounded by strangers and in the break room while my manager sat across from me (LOOOOOL).

I am not going to lie, the first couple chapters I wasn't sure if I was going to like it or not, -though I was hooked either way- and by halfway through I didn't even care how it ended, I already loved it. This book explores the different natures of grief. It shows how you can search and search for pieces of the loved one you lost but you will never find their whole again. And it may not be easy or simple, but it is so normal to feel lost or confused or any other myriad of emotions after loss. I think it is especially compelling coming from a young person navigating grief, and the nature of the story, him searching out all those who received his sister's organs is incredibly unique and very easy to enjoy.

It is a contemplative and heartwarming book that talks about what it's like to lose yourself when you lose a loved one, and I could not recommend it more!

5 Favourite Things;
~Emmitt ending up enjoying being Dappy
~Emmitt's calls to Joey
~The diamonds they got from Minnie
~Minnie's reasoning for her dioramas

Profile Image for Heidi Lynn’s BookReviews.
1,042 reviews79 followers
August 9, 2020
First, I want to thank Michael F. Stewart and Xpresso Tours for providing me with this book so I may bring you this review.

Heart Sister by Michael F. Stewart is one the most interesting books I have read of 2020 (and I have read/reviewed 131 books to date). It is a book that will make you think, pull on your heart strings, and stick with you long after the book is finished.

Brilliant job on the graphics on the cover! It is so colorful and stands out as unlike all the rest that is out there. It makes you want to pick up the book to see what it is about. Kudos to the graphic designers on this book!

One thing I loved about this book was hit on a topic that many authors don't talk about. The first topic is Organ Donation. Sadly Emmett’s twin sister passed however she helped others get a second chance in life by donating her organs. Through this storyline we learn about the process, who is able to find out what about the donor, etc. I found it to be very educational and moving.

In all of my reading career I have never read about a teenage girl (or any character come to think of it) that enjoyed Taxidermy as a hobby. Again, the author educated us on this practice.

There is a huge part of Michael’s Brother Mark written in this book. He has been very blessed to have a heart sister of his own who has given him a great gift of a heart.

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