Marlowe is acutely aware that her life is possible because another person died. Her immediate problem is the sense of incompleteness and she believes that knowing about the donor of her heart will solve this. Although the donor’s family have expressed that they want no contact with her, Marlowe sets out to discover the identity of the donor and in some way express her gratitude for the gift she has received. Her desperation causes her to cross some ethical lines and allows the storyline to explore the perspectives of the donor’s grieving family with the contrasting perspective of the recipient’s family who are celebrating Marlowe’s second chance at life.
Another hurdle Marlowe faces is her return to school. Although she wants to remain invisible, her status has changed from the sick girl to the girl with someone else’s heart. She begins to form friendships and, as a result of these friendships, discover who she is. As she explores her identity, she also begins to challenge the control her mother has always exerted over her. She also realises that she has a lot more in common with her peers than she expected.
The dynamic in Marlowe’s family is interesting. Marlowe’s younger brother adores her, and copes with her illness by creating costumes for unusual characters and each day wearing a different full-body costume complete with face-paint and persona. Their mother, a single parent, is a passionate vegan and political activist who has just opened a vegan-organic-wellness store next to a butcher. The conflict between Marlowe’s family and the butcher and his young apprentice is an interesting sub-theme.
Tin Heart is an interesting story about the life of the recipient of a heart transplant coming to terms with the transplant and also discovering her identity as a transplant recipient, a healthy person and a young adult. It reveals both the uniqueness of Marlowe’s experience, and the similarities between her journey and that of her friends as they begin to establish their identities as adults.