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Friday, October 14, 2011

Review: Instructions for a Broken Heart by Kim Culbertson

I loved the premise of this novel, and I love travel (especially in Italy), so the premise of this story had me hooked from the get-go.

Three days before her drama club's trip to Italy, Jessa Gardner discovers her boyfriend in the costume barn with another girl. Jessa is left with a care package from her best friend titled "Top Twenty Reasons He's a Slimy Jerk Bastard," instructing her to do one un-Jessa-like thing each day of the trip. At turns hilarious and heartwrenching, Instructions for a Broken Heart paints a magical Italy in which Jessa learns she must figure out life-and romance-for herself.

The writing is wonderful and I got sucked into Jessa's world very quickly.  I loved all the details we got about the different Italian cities that Jessa's class traveled to.  As seen through Jessa's eyes, the Italian countryside has this almost magical glow that played with and impacted her moods.

While there were many times that I wanted to cry right along with Jessa (I mean, her ex keeps making out with the other girl, a/k/a"Boob Job" right in front of her after all, and she keeps following the instructions to the point of absurdity sometimes), the novel had many light moments too.  Jessa's drama club is balanced out by a companion class of rich kids who apparently came to Italy only for the fashion and ask inane questions all the time.

And Jessa isn't alone on the trip, interacting with many of her classmates in ways that enlightened her and that forced her to be a better person by the time it was over.  She also had a kick-butt best guy friend who watched out for her when she was hurting too bad to look after herself.  I thought he might end up as a potential love interest, but he stayed platonic, which was nice to see.  We don't have to have every boy-girl friendship develop into a love that lasts forever... (oh, who am I kidding -- I really like those stories).

The teachers on Jessa's trip are awesome too.  Great characters who play a meaningful role without being overbearing at all.  And they have the best One Rule ever: "don't be a jerk." We have a new credo in our family now because really, if you follow that one rule, you're pretty much going to stay out of trouble.

But really, the story is about Jessa. About how you have to mend a broken heart on your own. About how even "slimy jerk bastards" have their redeeming qualities, and the boyfriend-stealing vixens aren't as bad as you thought.  And how you have to keep your chin up if you're going to notice the good things just waiting for you to come along.  

A light and well-paced read, I give Instructions for a Broken Heart 3 out of 4 Greek Coins -- a URA* rating.
Fans of contemporary YA who enjoy reading a good emotional arc in their main characters will want to pick this one up.


Lydia Kang said...

I'm always looking for a good contemporary--thanks for the review. New follower here!

Matthew MacNish said...

Hi Jessie. I'm here from the Pay It Forward blogfest and I just wanted to say thanks so much for signing up!

M Pax said...

Love the Marlo Thomas - Mary Tyler Moore-esque book cover.

I'm here from PIF, too.

Heidi W said...

I'm a new follower. Nice to meet you!

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