Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Review: Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker (ARC)

Unbreak My Heart. by Melissa Walker. May 22, 2012. Bloomsbury. 240 pages. ISBN: 9781599905280

Clementine's summer, though spent on a sailboat with her family, is anything but carefree. As school ended, she had a major falling out with her best friend, Amanda, over a boy, leaving her friendless and heartbroken. Her younger sister and parents all try to help her heal, but it's not until she meets James, whose family is sailing the same route as Clem's, that she can even begin to see herself as anything but a terrible person.

Clementine's story alternates between present-day action on the family sailing trip and flashbacks to the formation and deterioration of her friendship with Amanda. This structure is used in a very specific way that builds suspense as the details of Clementine's mistakes and Amanda's anger fall into place. The author also uses wonderfully specific descriptions and moments to convey the closeness of Clementine's friendship with Amanda. For example, whenever Clementine seems sad, Amanda will ask her, "Do you want me to make you a smile?" This simple question takes on great significance as the story progresses, intensifying Clementine's feelings of loss.

Clementine's family is also really well-developed, especially her intuitive and empathetic younger sister, Olive, who tries her best to draw Clem out of her sadness. While I did think the sibling relationship was at times too perfect, there was something very endearing about Olive's persistence in helping her sister feel better. Also endearing is the way James bonds not just with Clem, but with Olive, too, giving the reader a sense of his kind and welcoming personality.

The real strength of this book is the way it focuses on multiple facets of Clem's life. Walker understands that teens have a lot going on in their lives, and that romance, friendship, and family often act together to influence a teen girl's decisions and emotions. This is not just a romance, though there is a romance, nor is it just a break-up novel, though there is a break-up. Rather, it's a novel about finding the strength to forgive oneself when things go wrong, and hanging onto hope for reconciliation, while also becoming prepared to move on either way.

Fans of Sarah Dessen and Deb Caletti will especially enjoy Unbreak My Heart. It speaks so well to the joy of falling in love, the pain of losing a friend, and the hope of starting over. The characters are strong and specific, the emotions raw and true, and the ending satisfying and therapeutic for any girl who has ever had her heart broken. For more break-up related books, check out my Themed Thursday post about breaking up.

Unbreak My Heart will be published on May 22, 2012.

I received a digital ARC of Unbreak My Heart from Bloomsbury via NetGalley.

For more about this book, visit Goodreads and Worldcat.

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