Instructions For A Second-Hand Heart

Instructions For A Second-Hand Heart by Tamsyn Murray

Jonny isn’t like “normal” teenagers. Every day he wakes up in hospital, kept alive by a machine. Every day he wonders if this is the day they’ll find a donor match for his heart. Every day he wonders if this is the day he’ll die.

Every day, Niamh fights with her “perfect” brother Leo. Every single day, Leo wins. Every day, Niamh dreams of a life without Leo. But all that changes on the day of the accident: the day EVERYTHING falls apart.

This is a story about facing the future no matter how frightening. This is a story about healing your heart, no matter how much it hurts.


Annabel Bassett- Sir Robert Woodard Academy

27th November 2017 at 5:54 pm

Annabel (SRWA):

I thought that the book: Instructions for a Second Hand-Heart was fantastic. I loved the characters and the way each chapter was wrote from their points of views. I also loved the story line and how both characters had similar lives. The book was very emotional: sometimes I found it humorous and other times I found it really sad. Overall I thought the novel was well written and was a great read.

Maria, Year 10 Mayfield School

27th November 2017 at 4:28 pm

Maria (Mayfield) Year 10:

It was a nice read. Although it started off with an interesting concept, I felt that as the story progressed, it became a rather clichéd plot. 5/10.

Jess, Year 10 (Causeway School)

24th November 2017 at 10:43 am

Jess (Causeway) Year 10:

A really emotional book right from the beginning to the very end. it has a sweet romance in it which is just adorable. So glad i read it.

Francesca, SRWA

8th November 2017 at 1:49 pm

Francesca (SRWA):

The story line in this is amazing and throughout I wanted to read on. It is about a boy called Jonny who is in hospital with a heart problem but when something happens to another family, Jonny’s life changes forever. This book made me cry at times but it is amazingly written.


7th November 2017 at 3:01 pm


I found the book hard to read at the start then when I got into it I found that it was a very heart aching book with excellent description


17th October 2017 at 7:37 pm

I really enjoyed reading this book. The dual narrative was very thoroughly thought out which was very much appreciated. The development of each character was thrilling to endure as I progressed through the book. The letter from Em was very heart felt and emotional. I would recommend this book to anyone, I absolutely loved it. 10/10!!!!!!!! (one of the best books I have ever read)

Sam (Ratton)

15th October 2017 at 4:16 pm

Sam (Ratton):

This book is so delicately written by Murray, with such a true sense of honesty, which shows that she did her research. This made her book as close to real as she possibly could.
This gorgeous book shatters your heart within the first few chapters. It pieces your heart back together, before smashing it apart again. It remodels it with such cautious precision before sending new cracks through it.
As a whole, this book was both heartwrenching and heartwarming. I couldn’t put it down, and so I give it a full 10/10.

Alexander Borthwick

12th October 2017 at 9:10 am


It started to make me cry as soon as Leo died (The brother of Niamh) and when Johnny and Niamh got together I started to tear up. I would definitely recommend it to 9+ as it is a great way to show hope and dreams and desires.

Maisie Townsend

12th October 2017 at 9:09 am


I loved reading Instructions For A Second-Hand Heart. It was a real page-turner and kept me on the edge of my seat with its sudden plot twists. The novel has 2 main characters, a girl named Niamh and a boy named Jonny. Niamh’s twin brother passes away whilst they were together racing on the beach, I find it sad because she feels to blame for her brothers death. The other character, Jonny has a heart condition and is kept alive by machines, then one day he receives a phone call saying they’ve found a heart for him. I really like how the author links the two stories into one almost. This book made me laugh, cry and overall have a greater understanding and appreciation for the life we are given. I would recommend it to all. 10/10

Ameleah and Emma

12th October 2017 at 9:04 am

Ameleah and Emma:

Very sad but heart-warming. Puts things in perspective, makes you feel appreciative about the things we have. You don’t know you love something until you let it go. Must Read. I cried a lot, but it was worth it. It starts off really well but there was a transition period of boring but then got out of it and ended well.

Francesca (Lingfield College)

11th October 2017 at 1:08 pm

Francesca (Lingfield):

I really enjoyed reading Instructions For A Second-Hand Heart because it deals with events that do actually happen to families. This book was very hooking and interesting. This book is one I would recommend to people aged 11-15. I could really engage with the characters especially Niamh. She was an intriguing girl and had a solid character throughout the book. I would rate this book 10/10 as it was definitely a new favourite.

Priya, Year 9, Roedean School

11th October 2017 at 11:59 am

Priya (Roedean) Year 9:

Instructions for a Second Hand Heart is told from two perspectives: Jonny, the boy without a heart who lives off a machine in hospital, and Niamh, the twin sister of a boy who has it all. Until one day a tragic accident occurs, which grants Jonny a heart, but leaves Niamh without a brother.

Jonny is desperate to discover who his donor was, and after receiving the information that it was a boy not much older than him, he uses every resource he can to work out everything about the mystery dead boy. This search leads him to Niamh, who is trying to figure out her feelings after the loss of her brother, who she never really got along with while he was alive. A budding romance develops between her and Jonny, but Jonny is tangled up in a web of lies that he can’t seem to break out of. As he is discovering more and more about the former owner of his heart, he tries to be like him and develop some of his attributes, as he feels that the years he spent in hospital meant that he didn’t really know who he was yet.

Tamsyn Murray gives us a very true depiction of being a teenager in the 21st century, with technology being the gateway to anything, and even the pressure to smoke and drink. The hospital scenes can be incredibly touching and heart-wrenching, and the emotions the characters feel are incredibly clearly depicted.

The language is very emotive and exciting, and interesting enough so as you want to move on. The writer incorporates lots of modern day slang, making the book relatable to young people. The story is set in places in London that are recognisable and therefore also relatable.

Unlike the other four books in the top five that I’ve read so far, this is more on the light-hearted end of the spectrum, as the hardest parts to read (emotionally!) are at the beginning, whilst the rest of the book, although still heart warming, is less emotional in that way.

I enjoyed this book, and I would recommend it to anyone who’s into stories set in the modern day, or someone who’s interested in medicine, as I definitely learned something from reading this! I would give it a four-star rating, simply because I found it a bit uneventful at times as the bulk of the middle of the book is very ‘general’ and the character’s emotions are very repetitive in those parts of the book.

Abegail Morley

10th October 2017 at 2:43 pm

Ms Morley (Benenden):

Instructions for a Second-Hand Heart is a heart-warming tale of Niamh and Jonny, two people united by the same person. Jonny is an ill teenage boy, in desperate need of a new heart to save his life. Niamh is a teenage girl, sullen and constantly in the shadow of her twin brother Leo, who is successful at everything and anything he does. But when a terrible accident happens, Niamh realises just how important her brother really is to her…
I enjoyed this book for two main reasons. First of all, the story’s main moral is that, even the most unlikely of people can be close friends. After Leo’s heart is used to save Jonny, Jonny wants to find out more. His search for his donor leads him Niamh. Even though they have their differences, they still become close friends, closer than most friendships.
The other reason I enjoyed this story was because of the way the author has written it. Instructions for a Second-Hand Heart isn’t a particularly difficult book to read, however, the description and imagery is very strong.
Overall, I would recommend Instructions for a Second-Hand Heart to anyone who enjoys romance novels. This is a truly heart-warming tale, and you never know what will come next.

Khadijah uddin

6th October 2017 at 4:05 pm

Khadijah (Ratton):

The book is a very touching story that made me cry. I really liked how Jonny and Niamh get together even after Emily (Jonny’s friend) and Leo (Niamh’s brother) died. I feel like their deaths brought them together to form bond that turned into something more. It’s all about love, trust and everlasting friendship. I rate this book 9/10

Julia (Roedean)

16th September 2017 at 10:32 pm

Julia (Roedean):

I really enjoyed reading Instructions for a second hand heart. It is a story about a girl Niamh who has a perfect twin brother Leo, when one day a fatal accident happens to Leo which unfortunately leads to his death, Jonny is a boy who’s being kept alive by a machine and is in desperate need of a heart transplant. One day Jonny receives the call he’s been waiting for for months, a suitable match has been found; Leo’s heart. Jonny does some digging and finds out about his donor, which inevitably leads his to Niamh, Leo’s sister. I enjoyed watching how Jonny and Niamh’s friendship developed throughout the story. I rate this book a 10/10.

Molly (Roedean)

7th September 2017 at 8:29 am

Molly (Roedean):

This book is interesting because of the medical condition entwined into the storyline

Scarlett (Roedean)

16th July 2017 at 10:12 pm

Scarlett (Roedean):

I really enjoyed reading The Instructions for a Second-Hand Heart. It is a story of a girl, Niamh, whose twin brother dies when a dare goes horribly wrong and of a boy whose heart is no longer working and needs a machine to keep him alive. Niamh’s family agree to donate her brother’s heart. Niamh doesn’t know Jonny who the heart was used for. They meet and they fall in love. Niamh finds out the truth that her twin’s heart now is Jonny’s heart. Their relationship is put in danger and may be ruined forever. This a book about loyalty, love, laughterand longing. I recommend it for 12-14 year olds. I rate it a 9/10.

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