Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Book Review: The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler

image: Goodreads
The Book of Broken Hearts
Sarah Ockler
YA Contemporary
Published: 2013

This is the first book I've read by the author, and I'm happy to say I will read more of her books. If you're a fan of Sara Zarr or Jessi Kirby, or Sarah Dessen, this book is along those lines. The Goodreads description kind of oversells this as a romance--even the cover does. Family dynamics are the primary driver of the story with the romance more as a subplot. This was a welcome surprise to me, and not a hindrance at all.

I loved that Jude's family has Venezuelan roots, and how that culture bleeds into their family dynamic. Jude is the youngest of four girls, and she has eight years separating her from the youngest sister. Her protective, lively sisters have all left the house, but their influence runs deep. When Jude was a young girl, her sisters made her join a pact to swear off the Vargas brothers due to heartbreak. When Jude's Papi decides to fix up his vintage motorbike, they don't have much cash, so an apprentice at a local shop offers to help him out for cheap. You guessed it--it's the youngest Vargas boy.

While Jude keeps Emilio Vargas' identity a secret from her family, she mainly busy covering for her Papi when he forgets how to do simple tasks, or when he loses his temper at the drugstore. Emilio sees what's happening and Jude confides in him that her father has early onset Alzheimers. The story focuses heavily on Jude's relationship with her father, and the effect of his illness on her mother and sisters. It's handled beautifully by the author, and never feels too heavy. Emilio doesn't understand why Jude pushes him away, but her first allegiance is to her sisters, especially the one whose engagement with Emilio's older brother had been broken off years earlier.

All the tension and conflict work together for a wonderfully thoughtful story. This one is a little less swoon and a little more introspection, but in the best way possible. Also, bonus stars for cultural diversity.

I listened to the audiobook version of The Book of Broken Hearts which I would recommend.

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