What Could Have Been

Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby

Release Date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins | HarperTeen
Pages: 304 pages
Source & Format: Edelweiss; e-ARC
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Summary (from Goodreads)
When Quinn Sullivan meets the recipient of her boyfriend’s donated heart, the two form an unexpected connection.

After Quinn loses her boyfriend, Trent, in an accident their junior year, she reaches out to the recipients of his donated organs in hopes of picking up the pieces of her now-unrecognizable life. She hears back from some of them, but the person who received Trent’s heart has remained silent. The essence of a person, she has always believed, is in the heart. If she finds Trent’s, then maybe she can have peace once and for all.

Risking everything in order to finally lay her memories to rest, Quinn goes outside the system to track down nineteen-year-old Colton Thomas—a guy whose life has been forever changed by this priceless gift. But what starts as an accidental run-in quickly develops into more, sparking an undeniable attraction. She doesn't want to give in to it—especially since he has no idea how they're connected—but their time together has made Quinn feel alive again. No matter how hard she’s falling for Colton, each beat of his heart reminds her of all she’s lost…and all that remains at stake.

Thoughts on Things We Know by Heart
I read my first Jessi Kirby book two years ago and enjoyed it. While I didn't love everything about the story, I connected to the main character and loved the way the book explored the concept of choices. I wasn't rushing to read Kirby's backlist, but I was intrigued when I heard about Things We Know by Heart. I love the movie Return to Me, which has a very similar (though not identical) premise. So, I had high hopes for this book!

Based on the summary, I was expecting an emotional read. Quinn Sullivan loses her boyfriend in an accident their junior year. In her grief, she reaches out to the recipients of his donated organs. However, the person who received his heart never answers her... so she makes it her mission to track him down. But when she meets Colton Thomas, she feels guilty for the secret she keeps - and surprised by the connection she experiences.

While I was expecting a heavy and moving book, I felt incredibly disconnected from everything happening in Things We Know by Heart. I'm not quite sure where it all went wrong for me, but I know that a huge disconnect came in the form of Quinn. When a story is told in first person, it can often heighten my connection to the narrator. In this case, I felt completely detached from everything that was happening in the story.

Quinn was such a bland and unmemorable character. I honestly can't say much about her beyond the fact that she enjoys running and is mired in her grief. Quinn has completely shut down after losing her boyfriend, and she's cut herself off from the world. Although she's finally started to return to the land of the living, it comes in the form this personal mission to find the recipient of her boyfriend's heart. I knew this was the premise going into the book, but I didn't expect to have quite such a "OH HELL NO" reaction to it. Patient privacy laws exist for a reason, and Quinn crosses so many boundaries in her pursuit of Colton. And while I might be able to look past her frantic research, I couldn't get over her continued deception.

Their relationship progresses so quickly, but I was unable to really determine why they liked each other. The plot became so predictable and so boring that I was mentally checked out by the time I finished the book. The writing is pretty but shallow. The setting is nicely described, but it only serves as a reminder of the book's unfulfilled potential. I wish there'd been something - anything - that grabbed my attention and set it apart. In particular, I was hoping for more depth and character development!

When I made it to 90% and was still waiting for an important conversation between Quinn and Colton, I knew that even the ending was going to be unsatisfying. I think Things We Know by Heart will be more memorable for what it could have been than what it actually was. But it was a quick read and other readers have enjoyed it, so there's no reason not to try it if you've loved Kirby's past books and find the summary intriguing!


  1. As sad as it is to say, I get very excited when I see others with similar reactions to this one. I was really underwhelmed and it totally bummed me out. I couldn't connect, I was disengaged, and everything felt so bland and boring. I loved the premise but needed so much more depth! Especially in regards to Quinn and her feelings/interests.

  2. We've already discussed how I felt about Things We Know By Heart, but I just wanted to say that I felt very similarly. There were still elements I enjoyed (particularly the way Kirby handles settings, because she does that so brilliantly), but I didn't quite fall in love with this one either.

  3. I'm not reading your review because I'm reading this book right now! Loving it so far, but I knew that would happen since I love Jessi's writing. :)

  4. This sounds like such an interesting idea with so much potential. That it makes me sad to hear that it didn't live up to expectations. This is the first I've heard about this one, and I'm assuming after reading your thoughts it likely won't be one I see very often.


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