Wednesday, July 10, 2013

book review: the book of broken hearts by sarah ockler

Title:  The Book of Broken Hearts
Authors:  Sarah Ockler
Publisher: Simon Pulse

Synopsis: When all signs point to heartbreak, can love still be a rule of the road? A poignant and romantic novel from the author of Bittersweet and Twenty Boy Summer.

Jude has learned a lot from her older sisters, but the most important thing is this: The Vargas brothers are notorious heartbreakers. She’s seen the tears and disasters that dating a Vargas boy can cause, and she swore an oath—with candles and a contract and everything—to never have anything to do with one.

Now Jude is the only sister still living at home, and she’s spending the summer helping her ailing father restore his vintage motorcycle—which means hiring a mechanic to help out. Is it Jude’s fault he happens to be cute? And surprisingly sweet? And a Vargas?

Jude tells herself it’s strictly bike business with Emilio. Her sisters will never find out, and Jude can spot those flirty little Vargas tricks a mile away—no way would she fall for them. But Jude’s defenses are crumbling, and if history is destined to repeat itself, she’s speeding toward some serious heartbreak…unless her sisters were wrong?

Jude may have taken an oath, but she’s beginning to think that when it comes to love, some promises might be worth breaking.

I absolutely adore Sarah Ockler as an author. Writing about human relationships is often a hard thing to do, and from her previous books, Ockler has proven herself a heroine of difficult topics. This ability and success, paired with her imaginative story telling, is what I loved about The Book of Broken Hearts.
I gobbled all three-hundred fifty pages of this story up within a weekend. It was a quick read for me because it was that good and fluid. It's always a pleasure to read Ockler's writing because it can be so deep and yet so breathable simultaneously. You understand the characters' situations, want to spend time with them, and never want it to stop. This, in my opinion, is a must for contemporary literature. So often, the fourth wall (the connection of the book to the reader) isn't broken because of one reason or another, but Ockler can do this, and it's because her characters are so interesting; you want to know them, and so you make an effort to do so. This was the case with both Jude and Emilio. Unlike the protag in, for example, a Sarah Dessen book, Jude originated from a household with deep cultural roots, since her parents came to America from Argentina. Love interest Emilio originated with a strong sense of family with his Puerto Rican heritage as well. With the faintest scent of familiarity in these characters and a foreign vibe that could open up a culture not often highlighted in YA, Ockler did a fantastic job with characterization, and consequently the basic premise of the novel.

On its own merits, I felt The Book of Broken Hearts was pretty standard as far as plots go. The love interest, obstacle, parent problems, dealing with loss, growing up, learning an important lesson. Of course, the specific love interest, the specific obstacle, etc. are what make the story interesting. And in this case, Ockler really shook it up for YA readers that may be sick of the same characters and plots repackaged again and again. Two things stick out to me in Broken Hearts along these lines, and those are Jude's father struggling with Alzheimer's Disease (which is revealed pretty early, so no spoiler there), and the fact that the protagonist's family is from Argentina (which I've already mentioned). 

Alzheimer's is one illness that I haven't seen addressed too often in YA, if at all. Seeing the disease through Jude's eyes, the child of a patient, was a journey that certainly set this book apart from other contemporary YA titles, almost all of which seem to have a sick or missing father for some reason. Mental illness is something that is being addressed more and more often in literature, fortunately. I'm glad to see that Ockler paid attention to this and delivered the message in such a poignant way. 

The family being from Argentina (and thus speaking in bouts of Spanish at points) led to a flashback of high school language class for me, too. Luckily, I did remember most things, and it wasn't such a problem for me. I could see how it could potentially be off-putting for other readers that have no background, however; so know this:  you could pretty much use context clues to figure out what they're saying. I was also glad to see the family's culture so readily available in the book as well. I was craving empanadas the entire time! Yum! :) Actually, writing this, I still am, which reminds me... WARNING: DO NOT READ THIS BOOK ON AN EMPTY STOMACH! Seriously, you'll thank me later. It was like a flashback of my craving for cupcakes while reading Bittersweet. *Mouth watering.*

There are a couple things that had me thinking so-so about the book, though, which I was really surprised about because Ockler is usually air-tight with things. The first was a problem with the first couple chapters of the book in general. I don't know if anyone else had this problem, but it was SO. INCREDIBLY. CONFUSING. Yikes, I eventually got into the swing of things, but I wasn't sure if it was just me or if the book was the one that seemed a little scrambled. Did anyone else have this problem? And for those who haven't read it yet, totally know to stick with it; at around page 30, you'll get it.

I also definitely could've done without the parts when she talks about her hand-me-down clothes, especially because it isn't resolved in the end of the story. Maybe there was a specific purpose for Jude to be talking about them at certain points, but it just seemed out of place whenever those comments came up (if I'm right, it was only about twice, but it just seemed weird). The same thing goes for her theater life. After reading the book, I thought, I think about references to musicals all the time in my daily life... why didn't Jude if she was so theatre-y? Oh well.

Third, I could not stand that the book synopsis had me anticipating this sweeping love story, but the book is primarily and forever more about Jude's father and dealing with her sisters. At least, that's what I felt was the focus. The fact that the only reference to these huge parts of the story in the synopsis was "she's spending the summer helping her ailing father" was, in my opinion, a little bit misleading. AILING FATHER? That's it? That's what the story is all about. *Frustrated* Let's face it:  the story's not so much about Emilio as it is about Jude learning to let go of her past and, in some regards, her close hold to family.

Possibly due to this confusion or misleading marketing, the whole thing in general seemed to fall a little flat. At this point, I feel I'm being a bit picky, but at the end of the book, it was kind of one of those nose-scrunch things. Like it wasn't bad, but... The whole time, I felt like I was waiting for these amazing moments between Jude and Emilio, and they never really came. Instead of those amazing moments, Jude had a fight with her sister, and Emilio would comfort her. Or Emilio would help her with her dad after an episode. In the end, I'm not really sure why the publishers chose to use this synopsis. In conclusion, if you haven't read it yet, make sure you know that the plot of her "ailing father" takes precedence over everything else in the novel. 

Also, Pancake the dog was hilarious. He reminded me of Dug from Up!. :)

"Ockler delivers another thought-provoking and truthful novel filled with moments of humor and heartbreak."

After reflecting on it, my final verdict is as follows:  With The Book of Broken Hearts, Ockler delivers another thought-provoking and truthful novel filled with moments of humor and heartbreak, but (like the movie Dreamgirls) it's probably better the second time through due to a marketing mix-up. 

Soooo... that's all I have. Thoughts? Did you read it? Do you want to read it? Link me to your review or let me know in the comments below!

P.S. Let's discuss the fact that the German edition of this book, Verlieb dich nie in einen Vargas, translates into "Never Fall in Love With A Vargas." And the cover:  let's hear about the cover, too! :D

'Til next time!

1 comment:

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