Book Review / Jennifer Hillier / Reviews with Spoilers

Jennifer Hillier | Jar of Hearts

The Book:

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier
Published June 2018 by Minotaur Books

Torrie’s Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Plot (Goodreads):

This is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who’s been searching for the truth all these years . . .

When she was sixteen years old, Angela Wong—one of the most popular girls in school—disappeared without a trace. Nobody ever suspected that her best friend, Georgina Shaw, now an executive and rising star at her Seattle pharmaceutical company, was involved in any way. Certainly not Kaiser Brody, who was close with both girls back in high school.

But fourteen years later, Angela Wong’s remains are discovered in the woods near Geo’s childhood home. And Kaiser—now a detective with Seattle PD—finally learns the truth: Angela was a victim of Calvin James. The same Calvin James who murdered at least three other women.

To the authorities, Calvin is a serial killer. But to Geo, he’s something else entirely. Back in high school, Calvin was Geo’s first love. Turbulent and often volatile, their relationship bordered on obsession from the moment they met right up until the night Angela was killed.

For fourteen years, Geo knew what happened to Angela and told no one. For fourteen years, she carried the secret of Angela’s death until Geo was arrested and sent to prison.

While everyone thinks they finally know the truth, there are dark secrets buried deep. And what happened that fateful night is more complex and more chilling than anyone really knows. Now the obsessive past catches up with the deadly present when new bodies begin to turn up, killed in the exact same manner as Angela Wong.

How far will someone go to bury her secrets and hide her grief? How long can you get away with a lie? How long can you live with it?

How did Jar of Hearts End?

Spoiler title
Book spoilers ahead–if you haven’t yet read Jar of Hearts, I suggest you turn back now.

Eventually we find out that the night of Angela’s disappearance, Angela and Geo went to Calvin’s place after the high school party. After Geo passes out drunk, Calvin rapes Angela. Geo wakes up while that happens. When Angela and Geo call Calvin out for the assault, Calvin strangles Angela. Calvin convinces Geo to not call the police. Calvin puts Angela’s body into his car, but once they’re in the car, Geo takes over and directs him on how to hide the body. When they are unable to bury the body in the woods, it is Geo’s idea to dismember Angela’s body. Calvin is unable to do it, so Geo is the one who does the dismembering. Calvin’s note in court that said “You’re Welcome” was likely referring to the fact that he took the blame for the dismemberment.

A few days after the murder, Calvin decides to leave, but first he says goodbye to Geo. He also rapes her at this time. She gets pregnant. She doesn’t tell Calvin or anyone else about her pregnancy, and she stays out of school in order to hide it. She gives the baby up for adoption to a young couple she selects. The baby is Dominic Kent. Unfortunately, the adoptive parents aren’t as perfect as they seemed in the interview with Geo. The father cheats on and leaves the mother. Eventually the father gives up legal custody of Dominic. The mother becomes an alcoholic and brings many different men home, some of which assault Dominic. His mother dies in a car accident drunk, and he is put into the foster care system. Dominic blames Geo for picking bad adoptive parents for him. Once Geo finds all this out (the blue letters in prison are from Dominic), she blames herself.

Dominic’s hatred of his biological mother and their lack of relationship is the reason that he commits the 4 murders around the time Geo is released from jail. He kills mothers and their biological children who were adopted by good parents, as he is jealous that they had good adoptive parents, and he wants to get Geo’s attention. Both children he kills are children of Calvin’s as well.

At the very end, Dominic comes to assault and attack Geo. Calvin shows up and stops him. Geo ends up shooting them both.

In the epilogue, Geo is pregnant with Kaiser’s child and they are living together.

Torrie’s Review

“Jar of Hearts” by Jennifer Hillier takes readers on a thrilling ride, yet it fell just short of my expectations. While the writing shines with its quality, the plot and character development leave room for improvement.

Hillier uses an all-too-common narrative structure, with the story unfolding through multiple timelines, shifting between the past and the present. The nonlinear narrative wasn’t the smoothest I’ve encountered recently, but it still managed to work. The writing style is sharp and keeps the pace brisk. The overall plot is enjoyable, offering plenty of twists and mysteries, unfortunately, most of which were obvious. Certain reveals feel too conspicuous, as if striving for shock value at the expense of subtlety. Disappointingly, a plot hole related to lipstick naming is left unresolved, leaving me puzzled and unsatisfied.

One positive aspect of the book is Hillier’s ability to craft distinct and easily distinguishable characters. The character list remains manageable, avoiding the issue of overwhelming readers. I appreciated that I could readily identify each character from their introduction, avoiding any confusion. Unfortunately, while Hillier was trying to highlight the shades of gray in her characters, she only did so with the female characters. The attempt to paint them as morally ambiguous feels forced and left a bad taste in my mouth.

“Jar of Hearts” offers a compelling thriller that keeps the pages turning, though it may not be for everyone. If you’re an avid mystery reader, it shouldn’t be at the top of your reading list. However, within this book lies a morally intricate narrative that will make you think. For me, it lands somewhere in the middle – a decent read but not a standout thriller.

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