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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
Heartsick by RJ Conte tells the story of Blessing Spivey, a missionary kid who is uprooted from her family home in Ensenada, Mexico to attend an exclusive (and expensive) small Christian Bible college in the United States. Her ultimate goal is to knock out two years of college in just one and obtain a degree in childhood education. Of course, her ultimate dream is to "...be married, have a family, and live in a typical suburb with a two-car garage and a picket fence..." On her first day at Living Fellowship, with her John Adams Bible College dormitory roommate, Sadie Bridgeman, by her side, Blessing is given a less-than-warm welcome by the other students after learning she is a dead-ringer for a girl named Tessa Lynn, a junior who had committed suicide the year before. Things become much more complicated when an attraction to Tessa's former boyfriend, Shale Westin, stirs emotions inside Blessing that - at first - don't mix easily with Shale's animosity toward her.
Heartsick by RJ Conte has a unique coming-of-age story line with a plot I haven't come across before. It deals with a catalogue of social issues, with an emphasis on suicide, and an ending that provides a heartbreaking finale (although this is made easier by way of the bittersweet epilogue). I sped my way through this book with a whole spectrum of emotions. Optimism at Blessing starting her journey to adulthood. Dejection at her early treatment. Hope as things begin to turn around. Love, because she felt it so purely. Sadness when all was revealed. Fear when the consequences were made clear. Anger and, again, sadness in the final chapter. And, finally, happiness for second chances (however they come about). This is a Christian romance and the faith of the characters is deeply embedded throughout. It's a clean story even with its dark overtones, and I'd highly recommend it for an edgier read within this popular genre.