A Heart in a Body in the World Book Review

A Heart in a Body in the World Book Review

Haddy W. Dardir, GW Staff Writer

 It’s been about a year since the tragic school shooting of 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that shook the nation. Both gun laws and the public’s attitude toward guns have changed tremendously in a year, with 69 new gun laws being voted for by both Democrats and Republicans and gun control articles constantly adorning front page news.

At a summer-reading party at the Westlake Porter Public Library in August, I won a game that involved shaking marbles in two connected bottles from the top bottle to the bottom one in a certain period of time. Instead of shaking it hard and quickly, I took the more efficient route by taking it slow, waiting for all the marbles to drop into their proper place before time ran out. For my reward, my selections were bookmarks, a couple of toys, and a book titled A Heart in a Body on the World by Deb Caletti. Due to how I wanted to read more books, especially after the summer-reading program from the library, I decided to choose the third option after reading online reviews and ratings. After finishing it a few months later, I wondered how such a simple game could reward me with such a heartbreaking, meaningful tale about adolescence, high school graduation, having fun with family and new friends, dealing with the death of loved ones, and changing the world to how it should be.

Caletti begins the novel with a slightly ambiguous turn of events. Annabelle Agnelli, the 17-year old protagonist who’s having her 18th birthday in a couple of days and graduating high school, abruptly “takes off like a lighting bolt” in the parking lot of Dick’s Drive-In, one of her favorite places to eat and hang out with her friends. After quoting a line from one of Coach Kwan’s office posters at school (“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”) in her head, she illustrates how people who have been through a lot emotionally feel like they could just run away from all the pain they’ve experienced. Annabelle literally does this, as she runs across the entire country from Seattle to Washington D.C due to being motivated by “the tragedy” that changed her life and haunted by the dangerous new kid that arrived during her senior year she calls “The Taker.”

-Chapters of the book often begin with facts having to do with hearts. These are often reflective of Annabelle’s situation while running, providing more evidence for the connection between hearts and emotions during the story and what hearts symbolize.

Sleeping and resting in her maternal Grandpa Ed’s RV, receiving support from her friends (who start a “Run For a Cause”campaign on GoFundMe), meeting new people, and confronting obstacles (often emotional) along her journey, Annabelle goes from feeling empty and weak to whole and ready for anything in 2,000 miles. Often having flashbacks that become more painful as the story progresses, in the end, Annabelle learns that she has to overcome and face the past so that she could set things right for the future.

Similar to the millions of young people who want to change the world because of hardships they’ve faced, Annabelle goes through bucketloads of emotional weight and guilt before realizing “things have to change” and sharing her ideas with the rest of the people. Advocates for gun control know that it’s going to take many steps to complete their journey towards no more gun-related tragedies in America, and A Heart In a Body in the World shows that endurance will be the ultimate factor in a person winning his/her case after a tragedy.