Review: Conditions of a Heart by Bethany Mangle

Conditions of a Heart by Bethany Mangle

Conditions of a Heart
Bethany Mangle
Margaret K. Mc Elderry Books
Published February 20, 2023

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About Conditions of a Heart

For fans of Talia Hibbert and Lynn Painter comes a funny and unflinchingly honest story about a teen who must come to terms with her disability and what it means for her identity, her love life, and her future.

Brynn Kwan is desperate for her high school persona to be real. That Brynn is head of the yearbook committee, the favorite for prom queen, and definitely not crumbling from a secret disability that’s rapidly wearing her down. If no one knows the truth about her condition, Brynn doesn’t have to worry about the pitying looks or accusations of being a faker that already destroyed her childhood friendships. She’s even willing to let go of her four-year relationship with her first love, Oliver, rather than reveal that a necessary surgery was the reason she ignored his existence for the entire summer.

But after Brynn tries to break up a fight at a pep rally and winds up barred from all her clubs and senior prom, she has nothing left to prop up her illusion of being just like everyone else. During a week-long suspension from school, she realizes that she doesn’t quite recognize the face in the mirror—and it’s not because of her black eye from the fight. With a healthy sister who simply doesn’t understand and a confused ex-boyfriend who won’t just take a hint and go away like a normal human being, Brynn begins to wonder if it’s possible to reinvent her world by being the person she thought no one herself.

Conditions of a Heart on Goodreads

My Review

One of the things that this book does so expertly is beginning in the middle. Brynn and Oliver have broken up. Brynn has crafted an entire pretend identity in which she isn’t disabled because she had some terrible experiences when the people around her knew about her health issues. We walk immediately into Brynn’s careful house-of-cards life with just enough time to understand what’s happening and why before the whole castle crumbles around her.

Another thing that I thought was really cool is Brynn’s relationship with her dad. He has the same condition she does, so he’s able to understand and empathize with her in a way that her mom and sister can’t, even though they want to help her.

Brynn has a really interesting character growth arc, too. At the beginning of the book, she’s convinced that keeping her medical diagnosis a secret will make her relationships with her peers less complicated and more stable. As the story progresses, though, she begins to see how many doors she closes by choosing to keep her disability secret (a choice that several characters are careful to point out is hers to make). It takes a lot for her to begin to imagine what a different life could look like, but once she does imagine it, she pushes up her sleeves and starts the work of trying to make that life happen.

All in all, I found this book to be a thoughtful, funny, and endearing story. I loved the romance elements, and the way the family and friend relationships impacted the story and grew through its telling. I think fans of EVERY TIME YOU GO AWAY by Abigail Johnson would really enjoy this one.

Conditions of a Heart on Bookshop

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Brynn has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. She’s biracial– white and Asian American. Her best friend is a lesbian and Latine.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used somewhat frequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl. References to sex.

Spiritual Content

Violent Content
A boy hits another boy and a girl. Some bullying and ableist comments.

Drug Content

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of CONDITIONS OF A HEART in exchange for my honest review. All opinions my own.

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

2 Responses to Review: Conditions of a Heart by Bethany Mangle

  1. Great review, Kasey! I’ll be sure to keep my eye out for this one. The character arc sounds strong. It’s interesting to see Margaret K. McElderry books publishing romance. I remember its SFF slant from my childhood.

    • Kasey says:

      Thanks so much. Oh wow– I hadn’t noticed the shift. Yes! I thought the character arc was really well done. I hope you enjoy it when you read it. 🙂

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