Review: Kaleidoscope Hearts (Hearts #1) by Claire Contreras

23545800He was my older brother’s best friend.
He was never supposed to be mine.
I thought we would get it out of our system and move on.

One of us did.
One of us left.

Now he’s back, looking at me like he wants to devour me. And all those feelings I’d turned into anger are brewing into something else, something that terrifies me.
He broke my heart last time.
This time he’ll obliterate it.

This is a standalone. (From: Goodreads)

***Actual Rating: 4/5 Hopeful Stars***

”Sometimes one date is all we have.”

It’s not exaggerating to say that the book starts with a beautiful story and ends with a beautiful finale. Told from Estelle’s viewpoint, the story shows us several circumstances in life, love, friends and family and what she has endured after the painful heartbreak when she’s 18.

The thing about life is that you never know when it will show you something that touches you so deeply that you can’t help but be grateful for everything…even the bad.

It all begins with a heartbroken Estelle (Elle), who is left by her best friend-turns-secret-summer-fling, aka Oliver after spending a night together and later faces her much older fiancé’s sudden death. At a young age of 25, she’s a freelance artist/painter, and before Wyatt (her fiancé) had an accident while surfing, they lived together, opened a gallery together, and taught each other things about life together.

Life is short, and brutal, and painful, and it takes loved ones away from us as quickly as it brings them into our lives, but it’s also beautiful.

Therefore, one of her most famous artworks is the Kaleidoscope Heart, which is a 3D heart made with pieces of colorful broken glass so when you put it under the light, it’ll shine brightly with various colors. I really admire the brilliant idea of this “kaleidoscope heart” because it demonstrates a broken heart along with the essence of love/life itself.

The hearts I make are shattered, but whole. They’re kaleidoscopes that beam under the sun. They signify hope in love when you’ve lost it because, like love, you can look at a kaleidoscope a thousand different ways and find something new every time. Shattering or not, if you look carefully enough, you’ll find something beautiful in them, and all beautiful things are a little broken.

Doesn’t it make perfect sense? I appreciate that the author tries to bring out the different aspects of truth by unveiling it through layer and layer, like peeling an onion. For example, you wouldn’t know what Elle has been through simply by reading the first chapters; instead, you’ll have to finish the whole book to find it out because the author only gives you little information at a time. Likewise, you don’t know Oliver’s past or childhood memory from some of his flashbacks without having to connect what’s mentioned in the previous parts and the rest appearing later.

The alternative timeline from both Elle and Oliver’s life relishes the story and makes it even more enjoyable to read. Thus, reading this book is like weaving a scarf, with every chapter you flip through, you’re picking up loose threads and placing them neatly next to each other. By the end of the story, you’ll finally get the complete picture of Elle’s artistic life. Besides, it’s also the most beautiful thing in the world since it’s not perfect at all, it’s broken and whole at the same time instead.

The romance between Elle and Oliver is awkwardly swoon-worthy. I mean, even though he clearly breaks her heart when she’s 18 and he’s 21, Elle still has a group of frenzied butterflies in her stomach whenever he’s around. Hence, there are many “sex escapades” when she’s not sure how to deal with her breaking heart AND strong physical needs. Well, I admit it’s one of the very few NA sex scenes I’m comfortable with. I mean, it’s totally inappropriate for readers under 18, the arrangement of their intimacy is fair enough considering the flow of story.

Something happens to me when I’m around Oliver. It’s like the world vanishes around me. Everything can be falling apart, but in his arms, I’m whole.

Moreover, the other reason the book impresses me a lot is that it’s not merely about life and love, it’s also about second chances . Elle and Oliver made it very clear that they just want to have fun during their high school and college time because they weren’t ready to have someone else in their life yet. His top priority was to get into med school and become a pediatrician so he didn’t want to be responsible for any women he hooked up with. Similarly, Elle never decides to take any relationship seriously because what could she say? She was still young and wanted to live the life of the party!

”The difference is that it’s already broken, but I use the pieces to rebuild it. The difference is that the heart has a second chance, and maybe it’ll get broken again, but it’s already shattered, so maybe the fall won’t be as bad.”

What both of them didn’t know then is that they actually had feelings for each other. They felt it but the love was never spoken out loud and she kept waiting for him and he kept thinking about what-ifs of her. Honestly, it’s really hard to imagine what it’s like to live like they did. Especially when Oliver learned that Elle was engaged to someone much older than him. That’s truly heart-shattering for him. And the feeling was mutual for her as well.

So, when the God of Life crosses their paths seven years after that night, this time, Oliver stops wishing for those what-ifs to come true but starts taking action and makes them come to reality. During the process of his winning-her-back goal, Elle puts down her defensive wall and is generous enough to offer him a second chance. Eventually, she fully embraces him again. The best part is, they seal their vow and rebuild the broken hearts with the help of each other.

”What we have isn’t aligned with that part of my life. We live in a galaxy of our own,” I whisper, kissing his earlobe. I smile when his breath quickens. “Where the storms pass, and the light fades, and everything ceases to exist except for us.”

All in all, Kaleidoscope Hearts is such a touching story that makes me feel the characters’ struggles and yearnings for something they wish to have. It’s a beautiful story that makes me remember Elle’s first love and the exact moment when she realizes she’s in love.

The first boy I fell in love with used to regale me with stories about kings and queens and war and peace, and how he hoped to one day be somebody’s knight in shining armor. I lived vicariously through his late night adventures, watching the way he swung his hands animatedly as he told his stories and loving the way his green eyes twinkled when I laughed at his jokes.

It’s a beautiful story that makes me believe everything is possible and though the God of Life makes a joke on us, life still goes on and all we can do is hold our chins up and look forward. It’s also a beautiful story that makes my heart full because there are all sorts of possibilities in the unpredictable future and something good will come after the bad occur. Lastly, despite the fact that the ending is a little bit rushed, I highly recommend this book to everyone. You all deserve to take on the journey with Elle and Oliver!

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