The Anatomical Shape of a Heart

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
The Anatomical Shape of a Heart Book Poster Image
Solid teen romance with smart, artsy heroes.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

A glimpse of what it's like to be an artist who draws for anatomy textbooks. Mentions of anatomical drawings in works by da Vinci and Michelangelo, especially "The Creation of Adam" in the Sistine Chapel, and famous anatomical artist Max Brödel. "Distichiasis" defined. Brief explanation of golden apple of discord in Greek mythology. A clever solution for going somewhere with someone you don't know very well. Information about the San Francisco Art Institute and some of the famous artists associated with it. Some geography, climate, and landmarks of San Francisco and the Bay Area.

Positive Messages

Taking risks is always worthwhile because it makes you feel more alive. Everything we do in life affects someone else. Art shouldn't be practical; anatomical drawings can save lives by helping people become doctors, but there are other ways artists can save lives by affecting emotions.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Beatrix, 18 and a senior in high school, is an A student and talented artist. She thinks seriously about the future and what she wants to do with her life. At a party where teens are drinking, she prefers not to. She's loyal to and supportive of her older brother. She has a good relationship with her mother; her father is absent but trying to be part of his kids' lives. Love interest Jack is the perfect boyfriend, always knows just what Beatrix needs, and encourages Beatrix to get outside her safety zone.


A couple of mentions of kicking "in the balls" in imaginary circumstances. A dead body donated to science is described without gore but in some detail. A past incident involving a stabbing and suicide attempt mention blood.


Frank discussions about sex through teens talking among themselves and between mother and daughter. Pornography, walking in on a threesome, and reading about female orgasm mentioned. Teens kiss, make out, and eventually have sex with some descriptive details such as caressing nipples, stiffening, and trying interesting positions; the sex itself isn't directly narrated. Always using condoms is mentioned, and the mother provides condoms for both her son and daughter.


"S--t," "ass" and variations, "hell," "piss," "crap" and variations, "f--k," "damn," "balls," "d--kwad," "tits," "boobs," "bitch," "fag," "butt," and "whore."


A few clothing and food products establish character or location.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Older brother who's 20 uses a fake ID to get into bars and nightclubs and drinks to excess. Teens at a house party have a keg, something that smells of "alcoholic fruitiness," and Fernet with ginger ale. A teen says she's "too buzzed to stand." An adult has wine in bed. Champagne mentioned a couple of times. Scoring weed mentioned. A hospital patient talks about medications, including one that she "gets a buzz" from. A teen with schizophrenia chain-smokes, and it's mentioned that a high percentage of people with schizophrenia smoke. Beatrix mentions that at 18 she's able to buy cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Anatomical Shape of a Heart is a teen romance about a smart, artistic 18-year-old and the mysterious, slightly dangerous boy she meets one night taking the late bus home. There's kissing and making out with some detailed description, and teens have sex although it's not directly described. The importance of always using a condom is stressed. A past incident involving a stabbing and a suicide attempt mention blood, and a cadaver donated to science is described with some detail but no gore; otherwise there's no violence. Narrator Beatrix is a positive role model, but she goes against her mother's wishes in pursuit of an art project, sneaks around, and lies about what she's doing. Eventually the truth comes out, and Beatrix is grounded. Jack is the ideal boyfriend, loyal and supportive. He's a graffiti artist; we learn he has a strong, positive motive for it. There's lots of strong language, most often "s--t," "ass," and "crap."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byAm B September 7, 2017

Decent story, too sexy for 3* sex rating

I read this book after my 13 year old daughter did, and before I found the common sense media site/ratings. I am fine with my daughter(s) reading books that ha... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old February 29, 2016

Very differenet book!

This book was so different! Yes, the main characters fell in love. And, yes, there was a gay brother and an absent father. But the rest of the story was refresh... Continue reading

What's the story?

No one knows THE ANATOMICAL SHAPE OF A HEART better than Beatrix. She's always been fascinated by anatomy and wants to channel her artistic talent into illustrating anatomy for medical textbooks. She also knows that any hope she has of going to college hinges on winning an anatomical art competition for the $10,000 grand prize. On her way home late one night, she meets Jack at the bus stop, and sparks immediately fly between them. Jack has his own secrets, though, such as the identity of his "lady friend" he visits at the hospital regularly. As they spend more time together, Jack starts drawing Beatrix out of her comfort zone, encouraging her to take more risks in life. But how do you know if the risk will be worth it?

Is it any good?

Veteran author Jenn Bennett's YA debut introduces an engaging, quirky heroine whom teens will enjoy rooting for as she navigates the thrills and confusion of her first serious relationship. Romance fans will sigh right along with Beatrix at swoon-worthy Jack, and they'll easily relate to the ups and downs of her life on the verge of big changes. Author Bennett also touches on art and its place in society, and although this is not deeply explored, it will provide teens with food for thought.

The plot moves along well, and the sights and moods of San Francisco are ably evoked. It's a solidly written, enjoyable story but lacks a real spark or fine touch that could elevate it above the romance genre.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why romances have been so popular throughout history and still today. Why do we love them so much?

  • Beatrix claimed she had a good reason to sneak out. How could she have handled the situation differently? What would have happened if she'd asked her mom first?

  • Do you think Jack's graffiti is art or vandalism? What's the difference? How can you tell?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love romance

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