Book Review: “Paper Heart” by Jennifer LeBlanc

I’m back with another book review, and this time it’s “Paper Heart” by Jennifer LeBlanc! I got the Advanced Reader Copy version from Voracious Readers Only in exchange for giving an honest review, so what I received will probably look a little different than what you get, should you pick up this collection.

Here’s the summary so you know what it’s about:

It is crinkled, torn and frayed, but it’s still a heart all the same…Paper Heart is a collection of poetry stemming from the places where light and darkness have shaped who Jennifer LeBlanc is as a writer. Written over years of introspection, love, pain, and hope, each poem is a placeholder for something that held her mind for either a bright moment or a dark hour.”

The author makes a note at the beginning to note all the trigger warnings for her poems: self-harm, alcoholism, abuse, rape, loss, suicide, anxiety, OCD, and depression. It’s nice to know beforehand what kind of subject matter I’m getting into as a reader, so bonus points for this.

This collection has a variety of poetry forms. Some are in freeform, and some are even acrostic like “Be You” for example. Some rhyme, some don’t. The variety of form in this collection makes sense with most of the poems. However, I noticed that a lot of the poetry really focuses on feeling as opposed to imagery. Not that there isn’t any imagery at play, of course, but what imagery is present in the poetry is there to evoke specific feelings. “Human Puffing Stick” and “Mother Monster” are effective in using smoking as a metaphor for depression and depicting the feelings of the narrator in an abusive relationship involving their mother respectively, for example.

As the collection progresses, we start going from love to difficulty-when-in-love sorts of topics, to failed relationships and all the poems that definitely needed the trigger warnings I mentioned earlier. Some poems, such as “Be You” and “Be Every Color of the Sun,” encourage the reader to love themselves and be themselves, even when others are shunning them for who they are. Other poems such as “Human Puffing Stick” deal with depression and “Mom” deals with an alcoholic mother. I felt, overall, that most of the poems achieved the feelings they were meant to evoke.

“Home Inside Of You” was one of my favourites in the collection. It’s a rather sentimental poem, with the narrator speaking to whoever they are addressing (the reader, perhaps?) as their ‘home.’ This is one of the shorter poems in this collection, but it’s one of those cute, romantic ones to read.

However, there are a couple poems that seemed like they could use some improvement in terms of form, or didn’t quite evoke the feelings I think they were meant to evoke. For example, “Obsidian Heart”’s use of bolding the last word for every two lines didn’t do much for me to evoke the feeling of a relationship falling out, even if it did clearly point out the rhyming going on. Also, “Mom” was not quite hitting its mark. I know what it’s about, but I don’t think its form of it being acrostic really helped bring that sad feeling about the subject matter across entirely.

Overall, I rate this 4 out of 5 stars!

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