by Colleen Hoover
Spoiler Alert: Samson goes to jail.
Insight into Heart Bones
My favorite author, whose books I will read without fail, is Colleen Hoover. There was a time following a stint at summer camp—where I was first introduced to her stories—that her novels were virtually all I wanted to read. So much so that I’d managed to read seventeen out of the twenty-six books she’s published within her career in five months. I’d read all the big ones: It Ends with Us, November 9, Verity, and Ugly Love before delving into her less popular books. That is how I came across Heart Bones.
Spoiler-y Plot Summary
Heart Bones takes off from the start with the main character, Beyah Grim, discovering her mother’s body in their home following an overdose. Beyah is forced to call her dad, who’d recently skipped her graduation, and ask to stay with him until she leaves for college. She did this without telling him about her mother’s death or the volleyball scholarship she received, claiming that “he’d done nothing to help, and he shouldn’t get credit” for her success.
Upon arriving in Texas, without any clothes or belongings, her father drives her to the home he shares with his new wife. This home is far cry from the trailer she lived in with her mother, existing alongside beach homes where the upper class live. Later, Beyah discovers her neighbor to be Samson, a boy she’d met on the journey to her father’s home—whom she’d falsely accused of trying to pay for “services” when he was trying to be kind by offering her money.
Despite the differences in their wealth and background, which are later proven untrue, Samson and Beyah hit it off immediately. The pair bond over watching the sunrise, a love of the ocean, and damaged pasts that go unspoken for the majority of the book. Despite this, he is the only person Beyah speaks to about her mother’s death, her life in Kentucky, and her scholarship.
Due to their immediate connection, Beyah and Samson agree to date but only as a summer fling or “the shallow end.” Neither wants to become too attached, however, it doesn’t go as planned. Simultaneously, Beyah slowly becomes acclimated to her father, stepmom, and new stepsister—Sarah. Her relationship is slowly healing with her dad, though he is kept in the dark about her childhood and teen years for a very long time.
Later, Samson begins to open up and speak about an old man who used to visit their beach. The old man lived on a sailboat and was always kind to everyone before he went missing following a hurricane. Following his admission, Beyah and Samson find the man’s corpse down the beach by chance, buried beneath some sand. Samson is distraught and Beyah leaves him to his obvious grief.
Weeks pass and Beyah wants an explanation—for everything, including his life and the relationship he had with the old man. Samson continues to push off the conversation and, on the night before he intended to tell her about everything, he’s arrested. Police raid his home and accuse him of breaking in and entering. This is proven true when Beyah visits him the next day.
Samson comes clean about his past, revealing that he hadn’t grown up rich like she and everyone assumed, rather he lived a small life with his father…on a sailboat. The old man whose corpse they’d found days earlier was, in fact, his father whose death led him to a last resort: stealing. Samson had done many shady things in his past to survive when he only had himself to rely on. Beyah, understanding his struggles on a personal level is determined to help him.
However, she hits a roadblock when her father actively disapproves and prevents her from supporting him, claiming that he isn’t trustworthy. This leads to Beyah breaking down and proclaiming that he wouldn’t understand because he hasn’t dealt with the worst the world has to offer—not like her. In the aftermath, Beyah opens up to him about what her life was like before, including her mother’s addiction and subsequent death. With her past now out in the open, Beyah and her father are able to mend their relationship, but it is too late for Samson.
Samson, who is unwilling to let Beyah waste her potential on him by staying in Texas, cuts her off and forces her to go to college. Meanwhile, he is sentenced to six years in jail.
The book has a time jump and four years later, Beyah has studied to become a lawyer because of her past with Samson. She doesn’t want others to suffer because they didn’t have the resources to get help. In the end, Beyah waits outside the prison for Samson upon his early release; years have passed and her “heart bone” has healed but she still feels deeply for the first person who really gave her hope. She and Samson reunite and return to the beach and houses of their childhood, where an elderly friend of Samson has left him her house in her will.
Analysis: Should You Read It?
Overall, Heart Bones is a descriptive and engaging novel that delves into the healing of two traumatized teenagers. Both of these characters have gone through more than most people can imagine and that’s reflected in their attitude. Beyah and Samson both start as closed-off, cynical, and (Beyah especially) bitter individuals but they gradually begin to open up to become kinder and more trusting of the people around them. Together they’re able to branch into the world with a better world view and Samson is able to support Beyah in a way that no one has before.
This book has incredible storytelling, with characters that you want to give a big hug because they definitely need one. Colleen Hoover’s talent in writing stories that handle deeper issues in a realistic and loving way is truly incredible. I once heard someone describe her books as something that will “make you sad the entire way but have you smiling at the page by the end” and nothing has proven more true. While your heart may break a few hundred times, the ending she has given her characters, Beyah and Samson especially, will always be heartwarming.
My only true issue with this novel is that Beyah’s relationship with her dad felt somewhat rushed. While there are clear strides toward the betterment of their relationship throughout the novel, it feels as if, in some ways, their relationship improved overnight. After Beyah’s declaration about her past, the pair revert to a “normal” father-daughter relationship with very little awkwardness—despite not having a relationship for the majority of her life. This feeling is especially strong when paired with the time jump when we can only assume that they’ve had all the hard conversations they would need to about her childhood, his absence, and whatnot.
If you enjoy this book, I’d suggest reading any other book by Colleen Hoover—they’re all amazing!