Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Review: Unbreak My Heart

Melissa Walker
Bloomsbury USA
Clementine doesn't love the idea of spending the summer stuck with her parents and younger sister Olive on their sailboat, but it's better than the alternative of staying home as a social pariah. Ever since Clem fell for her best friend's boyfriend, she's been frozen out by her friends, especially her best friend, who's forgiven the boyfriend. Because of this, Clem's perpetually sad and feeling pretty anti-social despite her family's best efforts to cheer her up. And even when she meets the happy-go-lucky James (who's spending the summer sailing with his dad), it's hard for Clementine to let go of her past and her sadness enough to capture something that might be good.

The narrative of Melissa Walker's latest novel is split between Clem's summer of sailing with her family and meeting James, and the past school year when she found herself falling for Ethan, her best friend's boyfriend. And though this sort of back-and-forth storytelling doesn't always work, this book really pulls it off, managing to make both storylines interesting, engaging, and obviously connected. You need the backstory of what Clem did in order for her present situation to carry the same amount of weight.

The story is full of realistic, likable characters, especially within Clementine's family. Her younger sister, Olive, is relentless in her quest to cheer Clem up while James' happy attitude adds a lightness to the situation. That said, despite the cuteness of the characters and their interactions, I found myself wanting a bit more depth here. James' and Clem's relationship in particular is quirky and sweet, but also felt a bit lukewarm to me. In fact, I feel bad saying this, but I preferred Clem and Ethan, as I felt that Ethan was a better-developed character and the two of them just worked for me, despite how ill-advised they were.

Which brings me to the crux of this book: the (broken) relationship between Clem and her best friend. I'm such a sucker for books that tackle this particular topic and Walker handles it with the right amount of heartbreak. It's completely believable to me that Clem would be cut off from her family and essentially a brooding mess at the start of the story, not because of Ethan, but because she'd lost her best friend. While I wanted a bit of a resolution between Clem and her best friend, the rift was handled well and realistically, especially with the many drafts of a letter that Clem kept trying to write throughout the summer. For the most part this was a cute book, but every so often, with certain turns of phrase, it soared above "cute" or "entertaining" and right into "perfect."


  1. I agree with you about Clem and Olive and about Clem's relationships with both Ethan and James. Clem and Ethan definitely had the heat, and I always felt like Clem and James were sweet with no spark.

    Still a great summer read, though.

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