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Heart Transplant Hardcover – October 26, 2010

4.9 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Let’s be clear right up front. This book expects to be taken seriously. Imbued with the same deadly sober earnestness and hard-bitten sentimentality as Vachss’ Burke novels, the story has some serious shit to lay on you. A nameless child, an outcast by age nine, finds his mother and her hated boyfriend apparently shot to death, and we follow along as he ends up with Pops, a gruff but impossibly wise grandfather figure, who teaches him to damned well show some backbone. Presented in a unique 10-by-13-inch, wide-screen format, Heart Transplant is not a graphic novel per se but rather has images free-floating among passages of dialogue and prose. This chiaroscuro impressionism, as if the world were being viewed through a haze of charcoal and shadow, creates powerful and evocative visuals for a ham-handed reworking of an admittedly important message: stand up for yourself. Worth adding to a collection on the strength of its design and images, or for readers who really need the message hammered home. Grades 6-9. --Jesse Karp


"Somewhere between graphic novel and picture book, Heart Transplant is aimed at ... helping the victims and their parents, family and friends deal with [bullying] effectively." -Publishers Weekly

"A timeless story about bullying and redemption that will stick with you long after you've turned the last page--a must for any library serving teens." --Michelle Gorman, Columnist, Library Media Connection

"It seems that every year one graphic novel stands out in my mind from all the rest. This year it's Heart Transplant. Highly recommended for all school and public library YA collections." --iKids/Ingram Library Services

The New York Times included Heart Transplant as one of ten graphic books in its 2010 Holiday Gift Guide.


Joel A. Dvoskin, Ph.D., ABPP
Asst Clinical Professor, Univ. of Arizona Medical School
President, American Psychological Association's Law Society division
[T]his gripping story gives kids and grownups alike a road map to change, both for individual kids and more importantly, for the school as a community. ... This book should be required reading in every elementary school in America

Flora Colao, LCSW
Founder, Rape Crisis Program at St. Vincent's Hospital
Founder, S.A.F.E.'s Children's Program
Co-author, Your Children Should Know
Heart Transplant is a book that depicts how deeply hurt a child can be from neglectful and abusive relationships. However, it also shows the profound healing that can come from an empathetic and loving relationship. ... [It] makes it clear that defending what's important to us and protecting what we love begins at home.

Trey Bundy, Journalist, San Francisco Chronicle and The Bay Citizen
First Place, William Randolph Hearst Foundation Journalism Awards Program, 2008
Former treatment counselor for severely emotionally disturbed children
In more than a decade working with kids who came from tough places, I've never found anything that so directly identifies the cause of human dysfunction or the solution. Those who wish to understand the impact of bullying on a living being need to start here.

Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D.
Senior Fellow, The ChildTrauma Academy, Adjunct Professor, Dept. of Psychiatry, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University
Teachers and parents will find that Heart Transplant can be the perfect lens to focus meaningful dialogue about the origins of bullying and the pervasive nature of the exploitation of power in our society. The scope of important, inter-related themes that this work highlights is broad so this can be a tool for a classroom to be used for much more than merely addressing bullying.

Professor Joe R. Lansdale
Creator, Shen Chuan martial science This is a story about someone showing you the door to your own personal strength and character, and learning to believe that all you have to do is step on through.

Dave Marsh, Sirius XM radio host (Live from the Land of Hopes and Dreams,Sirius Left)
Author, music critic, editor of Rock & Rap Confidential
Heart Transplant is a necessity in a country that sometimes seems to be run by bullies at every level, from kindergarten to Capitol Hill. It fits the bill perfectly, with a simple and simply terrific story, wise and scholarly commentary that lets nobody off the hook, and the incandescent Rorschach of Frank Caruso's illustrations. If you're wondering not just why bullying happens, but what to do to about it, read Heart Transplant. It ranks alongside Andrew Vachss' Another Chance to Get It Right as a signpost on the road to a more fully human society.

David Hechler, Senior Reporter, Corporate Counsel and The American Lawyer
Author, The Battle and the Backlash: The Child Sexual Abuse War
Fellow for Children and the News at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism
Vachss and Caruso are nothing if not ambitious. Their clear goal is the eradication of bullying. But they re too smart to preach. They know the power of a story that's eye-opening, touching and wise. They also understand that a fight like this one requires hand-to-hand combat, grappling with hard realities. Their book is the equivalent of boot camp. --Various

John M. Seryak, M.Ed.
Author, Dear Teacher, If You Only Knew! (Adults Recovering From Child Sexual Abuse Speak to Educators)
Instructional Coach
Board member, Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation
Former Guardian ad litem
Vachss, Caruso, and Mucha ... a triple threat hitting it home with Heart Transplant on the evolving and mutating bullying phenomenon. Whether a parent, educator, legislator, counselor, or child advocate, all will benefit from walking the streets with Pop and Sean.

Deputy Chief Mike McNamara
Park Forest (IL) Police Department. Founder, Licensed For Life, a DUI-prevention program for teens
As a Police Officer for 30 years, I am asking you to please read Heart Transplant. Read the words of Andrew Vachss; read the words of Zak Mucha; study the artwork of Frank Caruso ... and learn the Truth.

Marc "Animal" MacYoung
Owner, No-Nonsense Self-Defense
Co-founder, Conflict Communications
Author, A Professional's Guide to Ending Violence Quickly: How Bouncers, Bodyguards, and Other Security Professionals Handle Ugly Situations
The darkness is a terrifying place, especially for a child. When you are lost in it, it seems that there is no way out. All directions look equally untrustworthy and perilous to the person in the depths. In Heart Transplant, Vachss cuts through the BS and shows what it's like for those lost in that darkness. He also shows what 'caregivers' need to understand in order to develop the trust to help those who are lost. This book is a must-read for both those who are lost and those who wish to help them find their way out of the darkness. --Various

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 100 pages
  • Publisher: Dark Horse Books; First Edition/First Printing edition (October 26, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595825754
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595825759
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 0.6 x 10.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,459,314 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
HEART TRANSPLANT is a uniquely conceived book --- impactful in its prose, visually stunning by virtue of the accompanying illustrations. It's not a straight novel or graphic novel or self-help book, yet elements of all three are combined into the final product. The result has been likened to the words-and-music of a song. The lyrics may be memorable in and of themselves; the tune may be memorable in and of itself --- together they unify to create something even MORE lasting. In this case it is a collaboration of words and illustrations brought together to create an enduring work that addresses one of the biggest problems in our world today: Bullying.

The storyline of HEART TRANSPLANT, as penned by Andrew Vachss, is the tale of Sean, one of the "invisible" children who are noticed only when someone seeks to abuse them in some way. As Sean puts it (in the first-person narrative): "Kids like me ... The only time anyone ever saw us was when they needed someone to make themselves look big. By making us look small."

As the story unfolds, Sean is rescued from this invisible, small-seeming existence when his "parents" (his mother is a fat, lazy, neglectful drunk and his "Daddy"-of-the-moment is a physically abusive lout mooching off her welfare checks and dabbling in petty crime) are murdered, and the boy is taken in by his grandfather. The crusty old Irishman --- Paddy, or "Pops" as Sean comes to call him --- quickly spots the lad's scars and insecurities. But he also recognizes Sean's intelligence and strong heart, something no one else ever took the time to notice.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's been a week since I've read Heart Transplant and I still am shaking my head. It's a timely and important addition to anti-bullying discussions...It's a groundbreaking graphic novel that packs a wallop.

Author Andrew Vachss, illustrator Frank Caruso, and commentary by Zak Mucha gang up with provocative text and suitably dark illustrations that convey the psychological complexity of the bully-victim-advocate triangle. There's nothing easy about being bullying, and Vachss' experience in maximum security prison for aggressive-violent youth offenders is evident in the book's tough dialog and storyline. The book's over-sized dimensions were needed to carry it off...and Vachss website lets you know that's only the tip of the iceberg. Caruso's illustrations are an intelligent mix of visualization and graphic technique, with hints of color punctuating bold black and white frames, insets and full page spreads. Eight pages of insightful commentary and resources by Zak Mucha, LCSW (licensed, clinical social worker) round out this hefty tome.

The book is something special, but where does it belong? Is it for adults or teens? High School? Middle School? What about the graphic violence and hard-nosed advice? Read it for yourself. Share it with others. Discuss. Decide for yourself. Nobody can do it for you (or should). That's what it's all about. Read more!
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Format: Hardcover
If you're reading these reviews, you're probably familiar with Andrew Vachss' work. His *sadly* prescient Burke novels feature characters who lost all their light and some of their blood in childhood. Their paths trace back to common ground. This time, Vachss and Licensed Clinical Social Worker Zak Mucha channel their message through the impressionist art of Frank Caruso.

Shawn is a fat, intelligent kid with a checked-out, drunken mother and a series of abusive men in the house. His torment in school helps maintain consistency across environments. We share his first-person view through Caruso's editorial cartoon-style artwork. The union of art and narrative is ingenious; images of people and places (and violence) all reflect how Shawn EXPERIENCES them. Caruso's art reminds me of a stripped-down Sam Kieth (The Maxx). Shawn rarely has a mouth until page 60, when he snaps in a moment of glory. I mean that - it is glorious.

Before this point, Shawn comes home to find that Mom and Whoever won't be his guardians anymore. An old man shows up and rescues Shawn, later rechristening the boy "Sean" out of Irish pride. From here, the book has more color and white space. Sean knows how blessed he is with "Pop", and literally fights to live up to it. (Pop isn't a convenient angel; his son was the last man with Shawn's mom.)

The ending hooks under your diaphragm and >WHAM< lifts you up about three inches. Sean doesn't see it coming, nor do we. In a moment, he comes to love characters he'd hated for years. It's the last brick in a castle full of light.

If you're a Shawn, I pray to God there's a Pop in your environment. If you're a Sean, you can BE the Pop some invisible beaten-down child needs. "Heart Transplant" offers some guideposts to that end.
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I felt like this book was written to me. Not for me, or even about me. TO me. The sensation is unnerving.

So was the book's accuracy, from the numerous bullying cliches laid out in detail, to the straightforward depiction of the root of the problem faced by Sean, the narrator, and others like him. Why doesn't he fight?

Certainly not cowardice. Or even lack of skill with his fists - those are just more cliches. What Sean was missing was the knowledge, and the belief, that he himself was worth fighting for. It's one of the many gifts he eventually receives from Pops, who sees the kid's horrendous circumstances and makes an on-the-spot decision to give a damn.

Ultimately, I wish the kid I used to be had been given this book. I don't know if it would have changed anything. But the depth of understanding, the message of belief - it would have meant something.
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