I’ve reread this book a few times over the seven years since it came out (I actually think I read her other work before this was published, so I was familiar with her style beforehand). It’s the kind of book where you enjoy it and it raises more questions than it answers. The ending reveals a little of what’s been going on, but way more is left up to your imagination. In the hands of another author, this might grate or feel cheap, but Liz Suburbia manages to maintain that air of mystery without annoying you, which is not a small feat when simultaneously combined with a teenage coming of age type tale.
Sacred Heart follows Ben Schiller, who is going through a lot of typical teen angst (crushes, fighting with her sister). However, there are no adults in the town and only tweens and teens are left, running their own loose society. There are hints as to why all the adults have vanished, but the book mainly focuses on Ben’s relationship with her sister and her best friend. The teen feelings are very realistically done here, and she captures the casual cruelty and misunderstandings that spring up when you’re sixteen and care about someone immensely, but end up lashing out and hurting them. The power of the book is in its realistic blending of teenage life with a vague magical realism, leading to an air of mystery that keeps you engaged. The art is also really well done, with heavy black inks and a roundness to the line that’s very appealing.
I give it three stars because I do feel like there are places where it could be strengthened, but I’ll read it again in two years and enjoy it just as much. Recommended to anyone who likes teen angst and slight magical realism.
Warnings for: underage drinking, sex, murder, violence (fights), stigmata, casual anti-semitism, general crudity/cursing, teens being real jerks to each other. The book doesn’t hold back in terms of bad behavior and casual cruelty.