The Heart Does Not Grow Back by Fred Venturini

Now and again you pick a book, planning to maybe read a couple of pages, then check out what else you've loaded into your e-reader thing in the past few weeks as you impulsively buy anything that looks good on Amazon. My book pile grows larger every day and it's sometimes hard to commit to just one.

Then you get a book like this one and instead spend all night reading this one, perfect book until dawn.

I probably have a soft spot for books about kids growing up in small nowhere towns. That said, even the best of those end up doling out some melodrama sooner or later. I stayed with The Heart Does Not Grow Back because it didn't. While the events of the book are tragic, the book isn't a downer; it's too smart and it moves too fast for desperation to settle in. Don't get me wrong, this is a dark, dark book, but the way it's handled makes it more of a dark satire or even a black comedy.

Dale is a teenager when he realizes he has an extraordinary power: He can regenerate missing limbs as well a heal any wound at an extraordinary pace. Other than that, his life is pretty normal up the the point when a tragedy hits the small town, changing his life forever and leaving him a husk of his former self.

The ''catastrophe'' mentioned in the blurb serves as the catalyst for the later action. It's followed by a lull in the narrative that's I wasn't a big fan of, but I won't dock the author too many points; it serves as a springboard for what comes next. Any notion of Dale turning superhero are quickly squashed (and thank God for that). Instead, we're treated to the sad sack of a protagonist trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life and with his power, the two entwined. While Dale's constant angst does get a little tiring, it's never too much so; you end up rooting for the guy, even when he's holding on to a teenage crush for years or failing to look after himself and his best interests.

The end is pretty satisfying, equal parts cold hearted and smart. I almost wish for a sequel.

You should pick this up.

4 out of 5 Hearts