The Hearts We Sold
Published August 1, 2017
The Hearts We Sold had an interesting blurb, so I took a chance on it because I haven’t read a good demon book in a while. I was expecting a YA urban fantasy and hoped it would be entertaining, but this deceptively simple book really blew me away.
Dee Moreno attends a posh boarding school. Because her home life is awful, Dee found herself a scholarship and got a ticket out of her house. Then her scholarship is revoked because of budgetary issues, and a desperate Dee makes a deal with a demon so she can afford to stay in school.
Dee’s parents are both alcoholics. Her mother is kind, but ineffectual, and her father is a cruel jerk who belittles her attempts to get a good education. She avoids them as much as possible, but she occasionally has to go home, and every encounter with her parents makes it clear why she is desperate enough to make a deal with a demon.
The demon of Dee’s world aren’t scary, fire-breathing monsters. They’re human looking, albeit beautiful, and they mostly blend in, except that there’s something just a bit off about them. They’ve announced their existence to the world, and they say they mean no harm. Not everyone believes in their existence, despite the announcement, and there are lots of internet conspiracy theories floating around about what they really are. Rumors abound that people can trade a body part to demons in return for what they want most, and when Dee meets a teenager with a prosthetic arm, she learns that the rumors are true. She seeks out a demon, hoping for a solution to her financial issues.
But this demon, known as the Agathodaemon, is different than all the others. He agrees to a deal with Dee, but he doesn’t take an arm or a leg. He deals in hearts: you give him your heart for two years and serve him, and you get money or power or whatever you request in return. A desperate Dee agrees to the deal without much thought, and the demon pulls her heart out of her chest and gives her a heart made of yarn as a replacement.
Dee soon learns that she may have made a bad bargain. The demon has a crew of heartless teens, and he sends them into strange voids that open up to something, perhaps another dimension, to close them up. The true nature of the voids is a mystery to the team, but they do as they’re told because they all want their hearts back and because the voids are apparently a threat to both the demons and humanity. The voids are terrifying places, and going inside one to close it up comes with the risk of being trapped there forever.
Dee starts out as a very closed off character. While she’s at school, she has acquaintances but no close friends. She gets along with her roommate, Gremma, but they’re not close. Dee doesn’t want anyone to know how bad things are at home, and by not getting close to anyone, she avoids having to reveal much about her life. She is entirely focused on the future and making a life away from her family, and there’s no room for anything else.
But losing her heart has the unexpected affect of opening the now empty space in her chest to other people. She and Gremma grow closer, and she begins to develop feelings for another member of the crew, James, who is a talented artist. There’s none of the dreaded insta-love here; Dee’s connection to James is a slow-building one. Dee’s gradual thawing toward the possibility of friends and romance is a wonderful journey.
I really enjoyed the authors’ take on demons. They’re scary, but in a cold, sinister sort of way, not in a red-scaled, horned, demon beast of yore kind of way. I found the demons all the more frightening because they are so seemingly normal.
The book has a diverse cast of characters. Dee is half-Latino, Gremma is gay, and other members of the heartless crew are African-American and trans. They’re all fully realized characters, and the author did a good job of having a diverse group of characters who are more than just labels.
I highly recommend The Hearts We Sold. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
I received an ARC from Amazon Vine.