Book Title/Author: The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler
Publisher/Year: Simon Pulse May 2013
Genre: Contemporary YA – Realistic Teen Fiction
Other Books From Author: Twenty Boy Summer, Bittersweet, Fixing Delilah
I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear!
Jude watched through the years as her much older sisters had their hearts broken by the Vargas brothers and swore she’d never involve herself with a Vargas brother in a pact build on sisterhood. Her older sisters have long since been out of the house and Jude, now a high school graduate, is the only one in the house with her mom and dad and taking care of her dad who is slowly fading away because of an illness. She’s dedicated her whole summer to stay with her dad and help him. When she finds her dad’s old motorcycle from his glory days she sets out to hire a mechanic in hopes that this restoration will help her dad. The mechanic turns out to be the youngest Vargas brother and Jude knows she can’t give into his flirty smiles and good looks — things she knows led to the heartbreak of her sisters. She tries to fight her feelings but it becomes increasingly hard as she grapples with the sweet Vargas brother in front of her and the tear-stained history her sisters shared.
If you saw my top ten books of 2013 so far list, you know that The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler in fact made it on that list! So naturally, I loved it. I read most of it while at the pool and I’m so glad I had sunglasses on during some parts because some big ol’ crocodile tears were forming in my eyes. If you are a fan of contemporary YA — this book NEEDS to be on your list. I mean it. It’s heartfelt, has some amazing characters and deals beautifully with portraying a family in a really tough situation. OH and I will say that I’m not a big swooner over fictional characters but EMILIO…..that’s what I’M talking about.
At first glance, by reading the summary, you might think The Book of Broken Hearts is going to be overly depressing or sad because there is a hint of a sick parent in the book. You’d be wrong. Sure, there were some moments were I thought my heart was going to seize up from the emotion that just rocketed out of this novel but the balance of everything with Jude’s dad and the playful nature of Jude & Emilio’s relationship as well as Papi’s fiesty spirit was PERFECT. It was one of those bittersweet kind of novels for me but never once felt overly sad so if you run away from those types of novels — fear not! You’ll be laughing and swooning and occasionally tearing up with both sad and happy tears — a full range of emotions.
While I LOVED the romance in this novel so much, my favorite aspect of this novel was the focus on the family. This family was one of my FAVORITES hands down in a while. I loved Papi. So much. My heart broke for him as his mind got even more and more lost inside the disease. I LOVED Jude’s attempt to help in her own way and try to fix his beloved motorcycle. I could have listened to Papi tell stories forever about his motorcycle days. He was feisty and felt SO real to me — in his moments of clarity and his moments where the disease took over. I loved that sisterhood was a bit of a big topic in this novel and I could feel Jude’s disconnect because all of her sister’s were so much older than her. I also loved the way their culture was woven into the novel and I’d love to read more books featuring families from different cultures.
Sarah Ockler NAILED the ups and downs of having a sick parent and all the emotion that comes with that. I can’t even tell you. While my mom, as you know, had brain cancer rather than early on set dementia — a lot of my mom’s brain was affected and she slowly through the years lost all of her independence and eventually reverted back to the state of a child. These moments where we watch Papi struggle with these things were powerful and full of emotion but, even harder, was having to watch it through Jude’s eyes because it’s never natural to have to take care of a parent as if they are a child and still try to grapple with the fact that that person is your parent. So when I watch Jude have to help prevent a meltdown by her dad in a tampon aisle, I think back to my time of having to help my mom to the bathroom or explain to her for the 5th time in an hour that I was babysitting and didn’t sneak out to go to a party. This book wasn’t surfacey in this aspect and I really appreciated the depth in which we see how an illness like this affects the whole family. One of the most realistic books I’ve encountered in this way!
The playful nature of Jude and Emilio’s relationship, and of the immediate tension when she figures out who he is, was perfect! She KNOWS the Vargas boys are nothing but trouble and heartbreak, and she knows the pact she made with her sisters, but she starts to be interested in him anyways. I loved how he challenged her to be in the moment & that she needs to keep living and not feel guilty about it. That’s something that is so easy to do — feeling like you can’t keep living your life when someone you love is fighting to live. It’s a strange guilt that I could feel in Jude which made her really easy for me to connect to.
I wholeheartedly loved The Book of Broken Hearts. It’s the kind of book where the emotions I was feeling so vividly rocketed out of me to produce very physical reactions — happy and sad crying, some chuckles and clutching of my chest. It was a beautifully bittersweet story full of unforgettable characters, a sweet romance and pages that begged to be dogeared. I’ve read a lot of books that deal with families in the midst of a crisis like an ill parent but none have been as poignant or special to me as Jude and Papi’s story. It was undoubtedly such an authentic look, through the eyes of a teenager who has to watch her dad fade away, at how a tragedy like that affects the whole family.
Let’s Talk: Have you read this one?? Heard of it? If you’ve read it, did you enjoy it? Did you love Papi as much as I did? ONE OF MY FAVE FICTIONAL PARENTS EVER!