By T.R. Stoddard
Amazon Digital Services, 2013
There is an appropriately named chatroom where depressed, troubled, and generally dark hearts can gather. Some come for company and support, others for cheap attention. Then there are those with far more sinister reasons.
There are a few emotional shifts and decisions that are abruptly announced and underexplored, told rather than shown. It’s a short book, even with a few over-long filler chats about books and art. There’d be plenty of room to build up the characters' changes of heart more deeply, but it isn’t used.
This one's difficult to discuss without spoilers. What time we do spend fully immersed in the characters’ minds, rather than observing plot developments from afar, is very effective and vivid, especially in the case of Kara, who owns the better half of the text. She lives in the uncannily well-rendered world of a depressed, lonely teenager surrounded only by cyber connections to equally confused, desperate people. The effect is deeply uncomfortable, of course, but that’s as it should be.
As neurotic and self-absorbed as Kara is, it’s hard to look away from her as it slowly becomes clear that she’s one of the hearts in the chatroom who could be fixed, given the right person to trust, while it remains firmly unclear whether any of the other people in her world actually want that for her.
The atmosphere of uncertainty is maintained as people’s motives start to surface and the gray matter starts hitting the fan. The darkest heart in the chatroom is quick to make it inescapably clear than no one is safe, making the word “Thriller” fit Dark Hearts more aptly than many books that are branded with it. It's a twisting thrill ride of a read.