unbreak my heart

Monday, October 15, 2012 |
I knew I wanted to read Unbreak My Heart as soon as I saw the combination of sweet teen summer romance cover and bittersweet summary.  Plus, I’d heard great things about Melissa Walker’s writing.  Fellow readers tossed around words like ‘light romance’ and ‘perfect beach read.’  That didn’t really prepare me for the depth of emotion in Walker’s novel.  I really liked the book, but it was unexpected.  I’m glad I gave it a chance.

unbreak my heart by melissa walker book cover
Sophomore year broke Clementine Williams’ heart. She fell for her best friend’s boyfriend and long story short: he’s excused, but Clem is vilified and she heads into summer with zero social life. Enter her parents’ plan to spend the summer on their sailboat. Normally the idea of being stuck on a tiny boat with her parents and little sister would make Clem break out in hives, but floating away sounds pretty good right now. Then she meets James at one of their first stops along the river. He and his dad are sailing for the summer and he’s just the distraction Clem needs. Can he break down Clem’s walls and heal her broken heart? 

Told in alternating chapters that chronicle the year that broke Clem’s heart and the summer that healed it, Unbreak My Heart is a wonderful dual love story that fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Susane Colasanti will flock to.

Clementine is sailing with her family for an entire summer.  While most sixteen year-olds would resent the constant lack of privacy and the indignity of navy showers, Clem doesn’t mind floating into the unknown – because she wrecked her social life before embarking.  Clem fell for her best friend’s boyfriend, and the weight of guilt, grief and shame about her actions is casting a cloud over her life, not to mention the family trip.  When she meets James, who is also sailing the Great Loop, she starts to wonder if healing is part of the plan, and most importantly, if she deserves it.  Unbreak My Heart is a story of betrayal, redemption, loss and hope, set against the background of an idyllic summer of sailing.

In terms of characters, Clem is so very human that it stings.  Her first ‘big’ mistake hurts not only herself, but her best friend and entire friend group as well.  Add in to that a very real belief that she deserves her misery, and you’ve got the recipe for a angst and a broken heart with no healing in sight.  Lucky for her, she has a fantastic, cheesy family (unlike many other YA protagonists), including overeager little sister Olive, to help her remember who she is.  James, the boat boy, is almost too sweet for words; if I hadn’t met a couple of ‘James’ in my own journey, I’d say he was impossible.  Amanda and Ethan are part of Clem’s past, but as is the case in life, the past informs the present.  In all, it’s a emotional group, some making good choices, some bad, some in that gray area in between.

The writing itself alternates between sections from the past and present.  Initially this is works well as the reader is unraveling what happened in the past year, and Clem is working through her emotions about it in the present.  However, the middle chapters have such wildly disparate tones (swinging emotions from high to low in a space of pages, over and over) that this reader was tempted to skip the ‘past’ sections altogether.  It made for compelling reading, but the penalty was laughter one minute, and feeling on the verge of tears the next.

Unbreak My Heart is a book about the fallout from deception and self-deception, cheating, forgiveness, grief, self-discovery, spiced with a hint of summer romance and healthy family dynamics.  It is well-written, emotional, beautiful in parts, and very real.

Recommended for: fans of Donna Freitas and Lindsey Leavitt, those who like character-driven YA, and anyone who enjoys bitter/sweet romances in original settings.

Fine print: I received an e-ARC of this book for review via NetGalley, but I didn't read it in time. The copy I read came from the library (thanks Arlington County!).


Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Sounds good. I love the cover. And have secretly always wanted to name something Clementine. But it seems like a somber name.

sarabara081 @ Forever 17 Books said...

I really enjoyed this one when I read it over the summer. I also loved how human the author made Clementine. Great review! :)

~Sara @ Forever 17 Books

Liviania said...

Melissa Walker is so good. I still need to read this one, but she"s a great author.

Read. Write. Ramble. said...

This sounds like something I'd love! I'll definitely have to check it out. :D
-Rachel @ Read. Write. Ramble.

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