Book Review: Defiant Heart By Marty Steere

***I received a free copy in exchange for a book review***

Two extraordinary characters. One unforgettable love story.

In the spring of 1941, young Jon Meyer’s family dies in a tragic accident, and he is sent to live in a small Indiana town. He arrives to find himself unwanted and shunned.

Mary Dahlgren is the mayor’s daughter. A pretty girl, she could have the pick of the boys in town, including Vernon King, the star of the vaunted high school basketball team. To the chagrin of her friends, though, Mary has always been more interested in books than boys. That is, until she meets Jon.

But Jon and Mary are kept apart through the efforts of Mary’s father, who perceives their relationship a threat to his political aspirations, and Vernon, to whom Jon is a rival for Mary’s affections. For months Jon is subjected to a painful ostracism. Then, just when the young man’s earnestness and perseverance begin to win over many of the townsfolk, and it appears that love may conquer all, tragedy strikes.

As the country is caught up in war, so too are the young lovers swept up in events beyond their control, leaving both fighting for their very lives. If, against the odds, they are to be together, each will need to find the strength, the courage and the resourcefulness that beat only in a defiant heart.

Layout 1I loved this 18 chapter book. My favorite line: While Jon’s meals with his grandmother continued to be awkward affairs, the overt hostility he had sensed when he first arrived in Jackson had faded over time, replaced by what Jon could only characterize as studied ambivalence.

As a reader, I felt so bad for Jon. At a young age, he lost his family in a car crash. Then, he had to leave the only place he knew as home to move to a new city with a grandmother who acted like she hated his guts. It made me curious why she acted shady towards him. I enjoyed the reveal–because he was part Jewish. In fact, most of the town had a problem with his ethnicity. This was a big deal because the setting was in the past around the time the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and a huge war was going on.

  • This story really touched me because I know what it’s like to be discriminated against due to skin color/ethnicity/race. So I knew what Jon was going through when it seemed like the small town of Jackson was against him. He was a nice kid, very respectful, wouldn’t hurt a fly–but only a select few cared. It was refreshing to hear about prejudices against the Jewish community (not that I condone racism–I absolutely DO NOT–people always hear about racism against African Americans, immigrants, Latinos, etc. so it was cool to hear another perspective). History is my least favorite subject–I can’t stand all the horrible things allowed in the country and abroad.

My favorite characters were Jon and Mary. Their relationship was so cute. It had its ups and downs–not because of anything they did wrong. Jon was very sweet to her, and Mary never stopped liking him. Unfortunately, they had to keep their relationship a secret, which made things hard. It broke my heart when there was a miscommunication between them at the beginning (he thought she didn’t like him anymore because she found out he was Jewish, and she thought he was over her).

I absolutely, positively hated Mary’s dad, the PE teacher, and Vernon. They had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. That’s a good sign that an author has a brilliant talent with characterization if he can evoke passion out of his readers. I loved all the conflict regarding them.  The dad reminded me of the character in “The General’s Daughter” with his ultimate betrayal. While Vernon and his friend attempted the unspeakable with Mary. As a reader, I really wanted them to get karma, so I wished there would have been a scene or a shout-out revealing if something really bad happened to them.

I did like that no matter what was thrown Jon’s way, he remained a positive person. Even his stint in the war didn’t cause him to hate life. I loved that Mary did what she could to find him. Their love journey reminded me of a Nicholas Sparks’s novel.

I RECOMMEND this book to read.

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby


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