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A Foreigner's Heart
Tony Schiavone is an adventurous young man who has struggled at friendships with girls and has suffered through a tumultuous relationship with his father. He is aching for something greater than his small Pennsylvania hometown can provide. As his high school graduation approaches, he wants to attend college, but his father has an argument for him at every turn. Finally, Tony decides to embark on a backpacking journey across Europe. Tony’s travels take him to the scenic northern shores of Ireland. It is there that he is introduced to the beautiful and captivating Meaghan O’Malley. Tony and Meaghan share an immediate interest and attraction toward one another, and even indulge in a few intimate moments together. But Meaghan carries a painful secret close to her heart that has been locked away from most who know her, and Tony is planning to continue with his journey. Can the two find a way to spend more time together, and to discover romance and love? Will Tony stop running from his past, and will Meaghan share the secret that is relentlessly tearing her soul apart?
Valletta’s (Crossfire) coming-of-age romance for young adults invites readers on a quasi-spiritual journey from a rural Pennsylvania hometown and on throughout Europe. Tony Schiavone, from the age of seventeen, has felt the compulsion to get out and see the world–and to escape his father (“I am the way I am because of him, but I’ve almost always hated him”). Two years after high school, with only $3,000 in his pocket, he wings away from his old life to London, setting sail on an epic hitchhiking trek across the continent, all the way to Turkey and Mount Ararat. His introspective adventure concludes in Ireland, where he meets a mysterious young woman whose mere presence brings him to life.

Tony’s travels expose him to cultural delights and spin him into the orbits of fellow voyagers and generous, gregarious locals. Valletta’s loving attention to detail brings Tony’s, destinations to life, and the people Tony encounters are true examples of humanity–from the woman who pays for his hotel stay one evening to the Irish gents with whom he shares a meal, a pint, and local tall tales of flying saucers (“While they were talkin’ the spaceman asked if it were true that the Irish believe in wife-swapping.”)

The novel functions more as a travelogue than a cohesive story, with little in the way of plot or narrative momentum. The dialogue at times is stilted, and readers will be left wondering about unresolved story points, such as Tony’s relationship with his father and the next steps in his relationship with Meaghan, the barkeep he meets in Donegal. On the positive, Valletta offers engaging details about his travels, from curious train bathrooms to camping in Irish rainstorms, and readers will be easily pulled into Tony’s musings on family dynamics, the ins and outs of depression, and the simple acts of human kindness that can transform lives.

Takeaway: This European travelogue follows one American’s journey toward romance.

Great for fans of: Kristin Newman’s What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding, Rob Spillman’s All Tomorrow’s Parties.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B
Marketing copy: B