Jude Hernandez has spent her entire life living in the wake of her three older sisters. Now that they've all gone the way of the wind, pursuing their own lives across the country, Jude feels it's only fair she have her turn. After all, she just graduated from high school. She has one single, solitary summer before it's off to college and more buckling down. She's always been the good girl, following her sisters' advice to the letter, certainly never getting tangled up with a Vargas boy the way two of her three older sibs did. That road only leads to ruin, they told her, in the voice of bitter, bitter experience. But it isn't to be. The easy, breezy summer or the surviving her teenage years Vargas-free. Because this summer is going to be dedicated to helping her sick dad. And the way Jude sees it, that means restoring his old vintage Harley. The one he rode when he was a carefree young man back in Argentina. The one that's been sitting in their storage unit collecting dust and grime for decades. And so she does her research. And she takes her dad down to the local mechanic shop in search of a man who can do the job. What she gets is Emilio Vargas. The youngest of the Vargas clan, and the last boy she wants to see during this summer of lost chances and long goodbyes. But the more time she spends with Emilio, the less like his older brothers he seems. As much as it makes her cringe to think it, Emilio might be different.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but I finished The Book of Broken Hearts mystified as to its appeal. I finished it feeling the same way I've felt finishing every Sarah Dessen book I've ever read. Which is to say, I read the last word, I close the book, and I think to myself, that's . . . it? I wanted to like it so much, to be swept away for a couple of hours in the lives of two kids struggling under more weight than their shoulders are ready to hold. And since this is my first Ockler book, I was sort of hoping to find a fresh, new (to me) voice in contemporary YA. Unfortunately, it felt as though she was simply checking off the boxes on a list of standard YA contemporary tropes. Hot boy? Check. Drama geek heroine? Check. Shallow best friends who are allergic to real family issues? Check. Dismayingly indistinguishable older siblings? Check. Heartwarming life lessons learned amid personal tragedy? Check, check, check. If the writing had been something special, things might have been different. If the secondary characterization had been more layered and compelling, things might have been different. And, yeah, Jude's relationship with her father is wrenching and touching and every other thing it should be. But the impact failed to land because I saw it all coming fifty miles back, you know? There was very little in the way of something new here, the realizations she came to lessened for lack of a deeper treatment. This may be a case of supreme mismatch between book and reader, as I have yet to see a sub-stellar review. So make of that what you will. As for me, I can't say as I'd recommend it. But if you're in the mood for contemporaries with some meat on their bones, allow me to steer you in the direction of Deb Caletti, Holly Goldberg Sloan, and Kirsty Eagar. And, of course, if you require a good swoon, Stephanie Perkins and Huntley Fitzpatrick have got your back.
The Book of Broken Hearts is due out May 21st.
Anna Reads - "Reading it, I kept feeling like Goldilocks: 'Ahhh, now this is JUST RIGHT.'"
Fueled by Fiction - "Although the story hits on some heavy themes of degenerative disease and familial relationships, it is also about accepting fate and being present in your life with a little help of a sweet boy who rides a motorcycle."
Midnight Book Girl - "I can't imagine anyone not liking this book!"
Pure Imagination - "It was heartwarming and I loved ever word of it."
Rather Be Reading - "I can’t wait to read it again and again."
Sassy Reads - "Chemistry. They had it."
This Blonde Reads - "If you enjoy books where a character has to choose where to go with her life then you’ll like this book."