In The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James, author Ashley Herring Blake (Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World ) once again sensitively explores the intense emotions of adolescence.
In the aftermath of her heart transplant, 12-year-old Sunny decides to seize this second chance at life with gusto. But Sunny never could have imagined the adventures this new heart would afford her. First, there’s the reappearance of her missing biological mother, Lena, who left Sunny in the care of Lena’s friend Kate eight years earlier. But Lena exhibits little of the vigilant love that pours from Kate, and many of Sunny’s big questions about Lena remain unanswered. Then there’s the heartache lingering from Sunny’s former best friend’s betrayal. But this particular problem may be assuaged by the arrival of Quinn, a bright girl who cheerfully signs on as Sunny’s new BFF.
This leads to the third big issue in Sunny’s life: kissing. Sunny is keen to have her first kiss. The problem is, she doesn’t like any of the boys she knows. When she dreams of that first kiss, Sunny dreams of kissing a girl.
Sunny is deeply reflective on the pain of parental abandonment and the taboo surrounding same-sex attraction, and she expresses her thoughts through song lyrics that she scatters about town. Her journey of self-discovery is authentic, peppered with fear and daring, mistakes and triumphs. This is a lovely novel for young readers who are exploring their own sexual orientations, as it honestly examines both the social risks and the happy potential for self-acceptance and romance.