Guard your heart by Sue Divin

genre: contemporary youth fiction

Iona and Aiden, two teenagers living in Derry, know exactly where the lines are drawn, even though the trouble is technically over. Aiden knows that he belongs to all the other Catholics in Bogside and Iona, she belongs to a family rooted in the Protestant police and religion. With her family histories and the current state of politics, there is no way these two people will become friends. Except, after a tragic night, they can’t help but be in each other’s orbit. And by then, it’s too late to forget.

I really liked this story of modern Northern Ireland: the way the children of those who suffered from The Troubles have had their own lives altered by their country’s history and politics. Both characters have very realistic challenges, although Aiden’s story felt a bit more expansive, and I appreciated how well this book illustrated how limited your options can be when living in a post-war environment, surrounded by nuclear fallout. Some of it was sadly upsetting, thinking about how these kids have all sorts of ideologies and hate pushing them to how, through no fault of their own, they have to work so much harder than anyone else to NOT see the world through hate-tinted glasses. .

It’s definitely a Romeo and Juliet-style romance story but with a solid foundation in reality: sometimes it’s really hard to have a relationship with someone who doesn’t come from the same side of a conflict as your family. I am glad I read this powerful story.

PS Shout out to the amazing staff at The Secret Bookshelf in Carrickfergus, UK! I had a lovely browse in your shop and this book was recommended to me, I even got a signed copy!

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