I read Michael F. Stewart‘s Heart Sister in an evening.

I found myself wanting to find out what length 16-year-old Emmitt would go through to find the people who received the gift of life from his twin sister Minnie, who signed her organ donation card shortly after she turned 16 and before she died. Emmitt’s family receives thank you notes from transplant recipients, thanking his family, who seems to have fallen apart since his sister’s death.

Emmitt “decides to put his sister back together again in spirit. He’s going to track down each organ recipient and film them to show his parents the result of Minnie’s selfless act and help them move on. But, one by one, the recipients fall short of his expectations. When the star of his film, the girl who received his sister’s heart, refuses to meet him, Emmitt has to turn to extreme measures to find her. What he doesn’t know is that his ‘heart sister’ is hiding an agonizing secret, one that could push Emmitt to the breaking point.”

Heart Sister is an interesting look at grief, organ donation and the importance of privacy, of which Emmitt breaks in his quest to find each person who received one of his sister’s organs. On one hand I understand Emmitt’s personal mission in order to feel a connection to his sister. On the other hand, his tactics were illegal, but more importantly were deceiving and unkind. I spent a lot of time worried about whether he was going to get caught – and trying to warn him of his choices.

Emmitt meets some interesting people in his search, many of who don’t meet his expectations, but all who surprise him in some way.

Emmitt was an interesting character – a young man trying to hold his family together when his own world is falling apart. I liked many of the secondary characters, particularly toward the end. And I liked the messages the book shared – about death and loss, grieving in your own way, helping others, organ donations and family – whatever that looks like.

I will be interviewing Michael F. Stewart for Book Time in September.

Heart Sister comes out Sept. 15 from Orca Book ($14.95).

Read my Q&A with the Ottawa-based author here.