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YA Review: A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti

Title: A Heart in a Body in the World
Author: Deb Caletti
Year published: 2018
Category: Adult fiction
Pages: 368 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location: (my 2022 Google Reading map)USA (WA, ID, MT, SD, ND, MN, IL, IA, OH, PA, Washington, DC)

SummaryEach step on Annabelle’s 2,700 mile cross-country run brings her closer to facing a trauma from her past in National Book Award finalist Deb Caletti’s novel about the heart, all the ways it breaks, and its journey to healing. Because sometimes against our will, against all odds, we go forward.


Annabelle’s life wasn’t perfect, but it was full—full of friends, family, love. And a boy…whose attention Annabelle found flattering and unsettling all at once.

Until that attention intensified.


Annabelle is running. Running from the pain and the tragedy from the past year. With only Grandpa Ed and the journal she fills with words she can’t speak out loud, Annabelle runs from Seattle to Washington, DC, and toward a destination she doesn’t understand but is determined to reach. With every beat of her heart, every stride of her feet, Annabelle steps closer to healing—and the strength she discovers within herself to let love and hope back into her life.

Annabelle’s journey is the ultimate testament to the human heart, and how it goes on after being broken.

Review: I have had this book on my TBR shelf for years and picked it up a couple days ago thinking it would give me a bunch of states for the Literary Escapes challenge (which it did. She runs across the country after all). But what I got was so much more.

We don't learn what Annabelle is running from until very near the end, but we get glimpses of it as she thinks about the Taker (she won't name him), violence, fear, and events of the previous year. We know she suffers from PTSD, anxiety, and guilt. Lots of guilt. And within that guilt is the feeling that she has to be nice to people even if it is at her own peril (so very female).

The issues that Annabelle is grappling with are intense and important and Caletti handles them well, interspersing them with the actual run across the country, the people Annabelle meets, how she physically feels during the run, her relationship with her family members, and more.

I raced through this book without feeling rushed. Would Annabelle make it to Washington, DC? What would she accomplish by doing this run? Would anyone listen to her story? Would the run heal her? Although this story is born of terror and fear, there is hope. Hope for Annabelle, those around her, and the strangers along the way. The idea of collective healing is strong.

Challenges for which this counts:
  • Literary Escapes--ID, MT, SD, ND, IA, PA, Washington, DC

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