The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler Review

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Title: The Book of Broken Hearts
Author: Sarah Ockler (Twitter)
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publish Date: May 21, 2013
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 352
Source: Personal Copy

Jude has learned a lot from her older sisters, but the most important thing is this: The Vargas brothers are notorious heartbreakers. She’s seen the tears and disasters that dating a Vargas boy can cause, and she swore an oath—with candles and a contract and everything—to never have anything to do with one.

Now Jude is the only sister still living at home, and she’s spending the summer helping her ailing father restore his vintage motorcycle—which means hiring a mechanic to help out. Is it Jude’s fault he happens to be cute? And surprisingly sweet? And a Vargas?

Jude tells herself it’s strictly bike business with Emilio. Her sisters will never find out, and Jude can spot those flirty little Vargas tricks a mile away—no way would she fall for them. But Jude’s defenses are crumbling, and if history is destined to repeat itself, she’s speeding toward some serious heartbreak…unless her sisters were wrong? Jude may have taken an oath, but she’s beginning to think that when it comes to love, some promises might be worth breaking.
It's Jude's final summer at home before college begins in the fall, and she's planning a summer of all the traditional fixings...but with a twist. Jude's the final of four daughters to leave the nest, which means that her summer will also be spent caring for and watching over her ailing father. As she watches her father slowly but surely begin to succumb to early-onset Alzheimer's, she finds just the ticket to bring a little spark back into their final summer together at home. Together, they'll repair her father's old motorcycle...but that means she must also interact with a Vargas boy, which means trouble. And, perhaps, just a little bit of love.

I've been on a bit of a contemporary bender as of late, but I tend to struggle with my selections, simply because I am extremely picky when it comes to the type and quality of the genre that I read. The Book of Broken Hearts was highly recommended to me by Ginger from GReads and, trusting her expertise on the genre, I decided to give it a whirl. It's not my first novel by author, Sarah Ockler, and I can wholeheartedly say it won't be my last. Where the cover might imply a sweet, simple story, we're presented with enormous challenges, pain and the desire to change. Evocative and emotional, The Book of Broken Hearts will shatter yours into a million pieces, all the while slowly but surely piecing it back together.

Before I can even start my review, I must simply state that this book is precariously close to the line of perfection, perhaps even toeing it. It embraces and embodies all the pain and challenges that come with a disease that is all-too familiar to many of us, and while we feel the deep and profound sense of loss that both Jude and her father feel, we also sense the connection that this debilitating disease is awakening. There is a delicate darkness to the subject matter of The Book of Broken Hearts because Jude's father's illness is always lurking stealthily in the background, waiting to strip away his last bit of dignity. However, through it, watching Jude build a beautiful and powerful relationship with her father was incredible. I worried a bit about the relationship aspect of the story, simply because I thought it would overpower the connection that Jude had with her father. Rather though, we see Jude's initial prejudices from years of scheming with her sisters against the Vargas brothers, and we see Emilio for far more than the girls thought he was. While her home life fought an uphill battle, Emilio was that proverbial lighthouse in the storm. He was sweet, kind, caring and patient, and we watch as his strength serves to bolster Jude's, giving her the strength she needs to survive her struggles. Emilio originally came off as cocky and, perhaps, a bit arrogant, but we see that beneath this teasing, he is a genuine, gentle guy who could melt your heart with his character, as well as his dimples. I felt as though I was utterly absorbed in the story, feeling every heartbreak, every laugh, every single bump in the road, and that, my friends, is what makes The Book of Broken Hearts work so very well.

I've always said that the books we love the most are the hardest ones to review, and I can guarantee I did not do this book justice. I do, however, hope lots of other readers will see my ramblings and give The Book of Broken Hearts a go. I give it a 5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy strong contemporary fiction.


  1. Yay! I was so excited and nervous at the same time when I saw this was your latest post. The first thing I did was to check out your rating. I'm so happy to see that you loved this, Melissa. I loved how this book wasn't about Emilio and Jude's relationship only but also Jude's relationship with her dad as well.
    And I completely agree with you! This bordered on perfection. When I tried looking for things I didn't like while writing my review for this, I didn't come across anything.
    Love the review, Melissa! :)

    1. I was so blown away by the depth of the story, Nick! I'm so glad I finally gave it a try! :)

  2. Wow, that's a positive recommendation. I didn't realize this only came out in May. I feel like it's been out for a long time. I need to read it.

  3. This is out already? Where have I BEEN? I need to get myself a copy stat!

    - Allie @ Little Birdie Books

  4. Oh Melissa, I am so happy you enjoyed this book. I had a feeling when I recommended it to you, that you would. I know with your contemps, you tend to like them with a bit more substance. This book popped up in my mind when you asked for rec's simply for that reason. I adore this story because it's not just about one issue, but a series of them, that ultimately come together in such a beautiful way. Great review!

  5. I am so so glad that you loved this as much as I did. Close to perfect is pretty much right on mark. I read this book through twice because I had no idea how to put it all into words when writing my review, and seeing how much you liked it and all the details you highlighted, I want to read it again.

    This wasn't my first Ockler book. I've read Twenty Boy Summer and also Bittersweet. But I would love to recommend Fixing Delilah to you. I just finished it a few weekends ago (after it sat on my bookshelf for almost 2 years) and I gobbled it up. It reminded me SO much of why I loved Book of Broken Hearts and the boy character is just as genuine (and a musician!)

    And YES to this: "I've always said that the books we love the most are the hardest ones to review..."

  6. YEAH!!!!! I loved this one too Melissa! I just wanted to wrap her dad up in a hug and not let him go - that scene in the convenient store where she has to sing to snap him out of it? *dies just thinking about it* I loved everything about this one and will definitely be reading anything and everything by Sarah Ockler in the future! Gorgeous review as always:)

  7. I really enjoyed this one too, Melissa! Especially Emilio and his dimples! The only thing I would've changed is the flashbacks with the sisters. I felt they were a bit long and I ended up skimming so of those bits because they didn't hold my interest. Lovely review! :)

  8. Yay, I'm so glad you loved this one, Melissa! I was so impressed by the romance and definitely the family dynamics with this. Not only did I really feel the affection between the sisters and their affection for their parents, but I also felt the culture so palpably as well. Wonderful review, dear!

  9. Wow! A 5? Really? *digs through Kindle list* I swear I have it on here somewhere -- looks like I really need to read it. I struggle choosing a contemp YA to read, too. I just expect and want so much out of them that I'm quick to DNF when they fall flat.

  10. I agree, this book is pretty close to perfect:) The family themes were my favorite: both Jude's relationship with her sisters and her ailing father. Emilio and her were icing on the cake (but it was really GREAT icing:) It's my first Ockler as well, and I have Twenty Boy Summer waiting one me now:) Beautiful review, Melissa!

  11. This book sounds like perfection to me! I definitely have been anticipating reading it for a while now, and your review has just made me want to get to it sooner. So glad that you were able to read and enjoy this one!

  12. I feel like I've read a ton of contemporaries recently - far more than I like to read at a time - but when I'm ready to read some more again, this will definitely be towards the top of my list! While reading your review along with every other review I've read of this book, I just found myself really seeing a story that I could enjoy. It does sound as though the cover does the book a disservice, but as long as people are still reading it anyway, I suppose it doesn't really matter. Lovely review!

  13. I think you did a great job highlighting the good of this book. Unfortunately it wasn't really the read for me but I'm glad to see that contemporary is treating you well right now.


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