Monday, May 20, 2013

ARC Review: The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler

Title: The Book of Broken Hearts

Author: Sarah Ockler

Rating: 4 Stars

Release Date: May 21st, 2013

What's left to say about The Book of Broken Hearts? I feel as if all of Ockler's fans have already nit-picked this book apart and proved that it's perfect in every way that counts - and they're right. And yet, while I know for a fact that The Book of Broken Hearts is Ockler's best book by far, I enjoyed Bittersweet much more and there remains that slight troubling fact that there is always something about an Ockler novel that prevents me from giving it a full five stars. Which, admittedly, isn't a big deal but makes me feel really upset anyway.

Anyway, long story short, The Book of Broken Hearts is nothing short of incredible. Jude is spending the summer with her father, whose brain is slowly deteriorating from Alzheimer's. And yet, despite his declining memory, Jude's father remembers every moment spent on his motorcycle with a startling clarity. Inspired by her father's enthusiasm for his old bike and yearning to chase away his dark condition, Jude hires a mechanic to fix up her father's bike - and hopefully fix him in the process. Only, the mechanic winds up being Emilio Vargas, the younger brother of the two boys who broke the hearts of two of her three older sisters. Ever since Jude could remember, the Vargas boys have been off-limits and although Jude tells herself that Emilio is only around to help fix her father's bike, the charm of a Vargas boy is not lost on her. Jude intended to soak up the sun with her father this summer, but her father's condition may be far worse than she thought and before long, the condition of her own heart may be the worse for wear too.

The Book of Broken Hearts has a lot to love, but perhaps my primary reason for falling head-over-heels for this book is the very fact that Sarah Ockler explored the life of an immigrant family. One of the best aspects of this, though, is that it is never over-done. Instead, Jude's heritage feels natural and the brief glimpses into a past in Central America and the struggle of learning English in a new country is enough to cement the diversity this novel provides. Furthermore, Ockler perfectly proves the utter inevitability of morphing friendships. Jude is going through a difficult time in her life, but that doesn't always mean that the rest of her life doesn't change. While she is focused on her father, her friends grow and change into different people just as she does, and this is so beautifully conveyed through Ockler's writing. I seem to be constantly on the look out for books that push the boundaries of YA and deliver more, so I am thrilled that The Book of Broken Hearts satisfies my thirsts.

And yet, despite its originality, this book never breaks away from the standard necessities of any strong novel. For one, this novel is just heart-breaking. I guess that is only to be expected from the title, but I found myself surprised by the depth of emotion that was conveyed through small scenes as Jude watched her father slowly lose his memory. Moreover, the strong bond between these four sisters is even more bittersweet in a way. For one, Jude feels helpless as the youngest. In fact, she calls her three older sisters The Holy Trinity and obviously feels divided from them and their wisdom. Not only has she always heeded the advice of her older sisters, but for the first time, she feels as if their advice may not be the right course. Emilio is nothing like his heart-breaker older brothers and to push away his sincerity because of his family seems ridiculous to Jude - and rightly so. And yet, despite that evident conclusion, truly breaking away from her role as the baby sister and embracing a greater role of independence is difficult for Jude, which makes her journey all the more poignant. With The Book of Broken Hearts, Ockler truly strips away so many pillar-like foundations that Jude holds onto - her father's memory, her mother's dependability, the wisdom of her older sisters - and forces Jude to find herself amidst the confusion in her life. And this, this I love.

Emilio Vargas, however, is what I suspect most readers will love the most. While the swoon-worthy hero of Jandy Nelson's The Sky is Everywhere is notorious for his eyelashes (Bat. Bat. Bat.), Emilio will undoubtedly become notorious for those knee-weakening dimples. Wink. Wink. Although Emilio and I got off to a rough start, mostly because his teasing can come across as arrogant at times, he is easily one of the sweetest and most understanding male protagonists I've met. Ockler steers clear of the ridiculous "forbidden romance" route with this one and allows Emilio to prove himself worthy of Jude, which wins her over completely. Not only is her immensely caring of her father and her situation in life, but he never gives up on her either. And although I craved for more of a back story with Emilio, for more of his problems and his musings, and often even wondered why he found Jude so appealing when he himself was so perfect and patient and far too good for her, I did enjoy their romance immensely.

Nevertheless, I found that despite the fact that Jude was a dynamic character, there remained a palpable distance. I couldn't always understand her on the level I wanted to and while I did really like her, at other times I felt as if her growth was almost prolonged in parts. Now, that's not to say that the plot of this story suffered - because it didn't - but it did feel as if the same idea needed to be repeated so many times before Jude understood what she needed to do with her life. Which is realistic, guaranteed, but this wasn't written in a way that truly enabled me to understand Jude. Additionally, a lot of this story is told in flashbacks, which both worked and didn't. For the most part, this transition was seamless but in some areas, it was wholly unnecessary. In my opinion, to end off a chapter with an event and begin the next one the next day and go back and recount what happened in the previous night's event is a little excessive. Still, despite these qualms, The Book of Broken Hearts is a solid read. Although I suspect Bittersweet is still my favorite of Ockler's work - not to mention the most light-hearted too - there is no denying that Ockler has grown immensely and her next novel promises to be even better than this one.


  1. i have to disagree and say that i enjoyed the book of broken hearts way more than bittersweet. However I loved twenty boys summer the most. This book was great, but I had a couple of issues. Still, I agree, there are a lot of things to love about the book, especially its uniqueness in addressing her dad's onset Alzheimer's as well as them being an immigrating family.

    great review,
    - Juhina @ Maji Bookshelf

  2. I haven't read any of Ockler's books so I guess I should read this one. This book sounds really good and interesting. I'm not sure about flashbacks though. But still I'll check this one out. Great review :)
    PS. I'm currently reading Out of this Place, you can only imagine how happy I was when they approved me on the NetGalley :)

  3. I actually ended up loving this more than Bittersweet, whereas Bittersweet I found more light hearted and fun, I enjoyed the direction that Ockler took with this novel, focusing on family and heritage. And also Emilio totally made this book for me too! ;) I'm glad that despite having some minor irks, you were still able to enjoy this Keertana. Gorgeous review! :)

  4. WOO HOO KEERTANA! I'm so glad you enjoyed this one too! I think I enjoyed Bittersweet more as well, but I loved this book. Any book that makes me laugh and cry from one page to the next is a winner. I think we both wanted more back story on Emilio though. Or maybe just more time with him and those dimples in general ;-)

  5. I've only read Bittersweet but I'm glad you liked this one overall! An immigrant family isn't something I often read bout in YA so I'm glad Sarah did it well.

  6. I enjoyed Bittersweet more than this one as well, Keertana. The flashbacks were a little much for me. Plus, I don't like the type of storytelling you mentioned in the last paragraph. Ending a scene in one chapter and then flashing back somewhere in the next bugs me. I quit one book because it did this EXCESSIVELY and drove me bananas. Great review, Keertana. :)

  7. Ahh, you too?! Good thing I pre-ordered this right after reading Jenny's review. Like you, I appreciate YA that pushes the boundaries just a little bit (not too much, mind you, or I get anxious) and I honestly didn't expect that from Ockler before reviews for this one started coming in. It takes a lot to make me want to read contemporary, but now I have both this AND Bittersweet on the way.
    Gorgeous review!

  8. I was going to read Bittersweet two weeks ago and it didn't happen kicking myself. I am reading nothing but great reviews for this one and usually you tend to be the dissenting voice, but this time you are in agreement so now I know I must read this! Thanks for another wonderful review!

  9. Keertana, I'm so glad you loved this book, even if it isn't your favorite by Ockler. There are so many elements in this story that's think I would love: the different take on an immigrated family, the main character finding herself, and the cute-simple boy. ;) Thank goodness you grew to love Emilio! I'm excited to read this one, thanks for the beautiful review! :)

  10. Sarah Ockler has this way of shattering my heart with her books because, you're right, there is such a complete truthfulness and sincerity in the pages. I haven't read this one, but it sounds absolutely beautiful and meaningful (an immigrant family?! sold.) Wonderful review, Keertana!

  11. The main reason I've decided that I want to read this book is because of its focus on an immigrant family. I really like all the other points you brought up here too - family ties, a romance that is more than simply a "forbidden romance." They all sound good, so I'm eager to see if I feel the same after seeing how they're executed in the actual book. I haven't read anything by Ockler, but I am making an effort to read some of the more well-known YA contemporary authors, and Ockler is definitely on that list. Wonderful review, Keertana!

  12. I agree, Jude's heritage and her relationship with her father are the best parts of this story. The cover made me think this book would be much more light and fun, so I agree that I was surprised (in a good way) at how heart-breaking it was. While I really liked Emilio, I did have a bit of trouble understanding him at first, and I wanted more of his character. Oh and I didn't think of it, but I agree with what you said about the number of flashbacks, I agree that the continuous recounting got a bit old. Now I need to read Bittersweet!

  13. Honestly, I really want to read this book but I won't for a while. For one, I tried Fixing Delilah and I wasn't as in to it as I had hoped to be. Twenty Boy Summer is still my favorite. While Jude shounds like a great character, I think I won't connect with her as much. Great review!

  14. And yet you have another wonderfully rated book that is right next to my bed for next reads. I'm looking forward to this one. Her Twenty Boy Summer is the first book I purchased on my Nook. :)



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