Interview with Lisa Luedeke, Author of Smashed

Lisa Luedeke is the author of Smashed, which releases today from Margaret K. McElderry Books.  Lisa stopped by the virtual offices to introduce herself and chat about her new book.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Lisa Luedeke] Yoga- loving

Mama-doting

Can’t get her face out of a book;

Loves her quiet, her woods, her lake,

Her family & friends,

Just give her that writing time

And all will be fine.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Smashed?

[Lisa Luedeke] Sure. It’s really a story about trying to fill a hole in your life, in your emotional life, and making the wrong choices as you try to do that. Katie’s dad, an alcoholic, abandoned her family when she was twelve, and her mother is never around. She’s basically on her own, with the help of a couple of good friends, and a mentor in her high school field hockey coach, but it’s not enough. After she gets involved with bad-boy Alec, Katie tries to get herself back on track, but one night she makes a mistake she can’t take back, and when lies follow to cover it up, things get out of control.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Lisa Luedeke] When I was seventeen, I was in a terrifying car accident. My best friend and I were asked by a teacher to go on a school errand. We were in my friend’s car and he was driving. It was a cold, wet, November day, and a slushy snow was building up on windy back road in Maine. My friend was a careful driver; we were only going 30 miles an hour—I remember looking at the speedometer. But as we were going around a corner, the slush took hold of the wheels of the car and pulled us into the other lane, just as a car was coming toward us. My friend tried to gain control of the car, to get us back on our side of the road, and we started to turn in the right direction. The last thing I remember was thinking we were going to miss that car by an inch…When I came to, there was blood splattered down the front of my sweater and I thought my friend might be dead.

We were both fine, but that moment wouldn’t leave me for many years. Writing about a difficult time can be cathartic, but I didn’t want to write about that accident. I have no interest in writing memoir. And that particular incident didn’t have the characteristics of a compelling story—it was simply bad luck, bad timing, bad weather.

So I began to do what-ifs…What if an accident was someone’s fault? What if the driver was drunk? And what if the passenger, who was hurt, was not a friend, but someone the driver didn’t even like? Someone she was trying to get away from? As I asked these questions, a situation emerged that interested me, and that’s what I need—a situation that is complex enough to keep me interested as a writer. Then I ask myself, who would find themselves in this particular situation? For me, characters emerge from conflict.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Katie?

[Lisa Luedeke] Self-reliant

Lonely

Tough

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Alec would never have in his pocket?

[Lisa Luedeke] A love note

Bubble gum

A coupon

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Katie’s single most prized possession?

[Lisa Luedeke] Her field hockey stick

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Lisa Luedeke] First, the natural world. I think and write best while I’m hiking or walking in the countryside near my home. When I’m out there, I problem solve my current story. Mull over whatever it is that I’m struggling with. Everything begins to get unstuck, to flow, and then a scene will come to me. If I like it, I rehearse it again and again in my mind, and when I get home I’m ready to write.

Robert Cormier & S.E Hinton’s YA books had a great influence on me, particularly The Chocolate War and The Outsiders. I wanted to write books that had the heart of Hinton’s books and the edge of Cormier’s. Cormier’s gone now, but he’s still one of the best writers in the YA field. Interestingly, neither of them wrote about girls (Cormier did in one book, but said he found it very difficult.) I knew I wanted to honestly portray girls’ lives in the pages of my books.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Lisa Luedeke] Ideally, a long walk to get a scene flowing—then a big mug of dark coffee and a quiet space. But I’m learning to write on airplanes!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What was the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Lisa Luedeke] Laurie Halse Anderson’s Chains. It’s an absolutely amazing historical novel about a slave girl from Rhode Island who’s sold to a family in New York City during the American Revolution. I loved the character with my whole heart, and the narrative is gripping—but I also learned a great deal about the revolution and slavery during that time period.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Lisa Luedeke] From my earliest memories, I loved to read. Everything. The Witch Who Wasn’t was an early favorite, though I can’t find it now; I think it’s out-of-print. Go Ask Alice was the book that turned me on to YA literature when I was ten.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Lisa Luedeke] Ashtanga yoga, hiking, skiing, swimming, reading, hanging out with friends & family.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Lisa Luedeke] Lisaluedeke.com

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lisa-Luedeke/224769940928276

lisa.lue@hotmail.com

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can order Smashed from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below. Available in print and digital

Win Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry!

Thanks to Harlequin Teen, I have a shiny new copy of Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry for one of you to win!  Here’s more information about the book, in case you haven’t heard about it yet.

About the book:

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can’t remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal.But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo’s world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.

Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she’ll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

You can learn more about author Katie McGarry by visiting her website.

Want to win a copy?  Good!  It’s as easy as filling out the widget below.  Extra entries for following.  US and Canadian mailing addresses only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Didn’t win? You can order a copy of Pushing the Limits from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below.

Review: Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins

 

Title: Spell Bound

Author: Rachel Hawkins

Publisher:  Disney Hyperion

Also available in digital:

Spell Bound (Digital)

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Hailed as “impossible to put down,” the Hex Hall series has both critics and teens cheering. With a winning combination of romance, action, magic and humor, this third volume will leave readers enchanted.
Just as Sophie Mercer has come to accept her extraordinary magical powers as a demon, the Prodigium Council strips them away. Now Sophie is defenseless, alone, and at the mercy of her sworn enemies—the Brannicks, a family of warrior women who hunt down the Prodigium.  Or at least that’s what Sophie thinks, until she makes a surprising discovery. The Brannicks know an epic war is coming, and they believe Sophie is the only one powerful enough to stop the world from ending. But without her magic, Sophie isn’t as confident.

Sophie’s bound for one hell of a ride—can she get her powers back before it’s too late?

Review:

I have been waiting with a great deal of anticipation for the final book in Rachel Hawkins’ Hex Hall series.  I found the first book rather predicable, but Demonglass kept me on the edge of my seat.  I hated the cliffhanger ending! How could you do that to me?  I was finally onboard with Sophie and her acidic personality, and then – WHAM!  We ran into a brick wall of “See you later!”  Ugh!

Anyway, a copy finally came in at the library, so I hustled over to pick it up.  On my lunch break.  Even though I couldn’t read it until after work.  I dove into the book as soon as I arrived home, and after that uncomfortable few moments of trying like heck to remember what happened in the previous book, and who all of the characters were, I was in!  There is such a loss of momentum when you have to wait for over a year to read the next book in a series, and most of the time, they don’t work as well for me.  When I am in the reading zone provided by a book, I am also in a particular frame of mind at that place in time.  Sometimes I don’t get it back.  Sometimes I no longer click with the protagonist.  Sometimes I discover, with dismay, that I don’t even like the protagonist anymore.  While she hasn’t changed in the year and a half since we last met, I have.  I am a different person, and there have been times when I have outgrown a series or cast of characters, and I am always bummed when that happens.

Don’t worry, though! That didn’t happen with Spell Bound.  While some of the plot points didn’t work for me, I still enjoyed Sophie’s occasionally grating personality.  Her coping mechanism is to get sarcastic, and I actually liked when she was blasting out snarky comments, or better yet, making unfiltered inner commentary about whatever person happened to be pissing her off.  I didn’t like the back and forth between Archer and her fiancée, Cal, but heck, I usually never like all of the romantic triangles cluttering up YA PNR these days.  It is the one trope that drives me batty, and the one that I find the least interesting.  The resolution to this one was a cop-out, with Sophie not making a decision so much as having it made for her.  I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, so I’ll just say UGH!  Sophie gets off guilt free, and I didn’t like that.  I felt that it belittled her emotional conflict and her feelings for both guys was also trivialized. 

Moving on, I love the action in the these books.  Sophie has to always be on her toes, ready to fight for her life.  She also has to be ready to fight for the lives of her friends, and now, her family.  In this supernatural war, there are many casualties.  Sophie is under so much stress to ensure the safety of her loved ones that I’m surprised she didn’t lose all of her hair from the stress.  Worse yet, she didn’t have her powers, because they had been locked away by the villains at the end of the last book!  Her father’s powers had been completely and forcibly ripped from his body.  Sophie was running on empty, and ouch!  it wasn’t easy for her to escape from all of the danger she repeatedly found herself in.  That is one of her traits that I admire most about her character; Sophie has an innate ability to think well under pressure.  While she may lack the common sense to keep her out of danger in the first place, once she’s in it, she is able to stay relatively calm, examine the situation from every angle, and find a way to get her out of trouble without getting killed.  That she is ready to sacrifice her life when the stakes get so high that I would have crumbled into a ball of black despair, is another reason why I enjoyed Sophie, and these books, so much.

All in all, Hex Hall was a fun series, and now that they are all out, I recommend that you give them a try.  Each book was better than the last, and all of the characters, especially Sophie and Elodie, are likeable.

Grade:  B+

Review copy obtained from my local library 

Review: 34 Pieces of You by Carmen Rodrigues

 

Title: 34 pieces of You

Author:  Carmen Rodrigues

Publisher:  Simon Pulse

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

A dark and moving novel—reminiscent of Thirteen Reasons Why—about the mystery surrounding a teenage girl’s fatal overdose.

There was something about Ellie…Something dangerous. Charismatic. Broken. Jake looked out for her. Sarah followed her lead. And Jess kept her distance—and kept watch.

     Now Ellie’s dead, and Jake, Sarah, and Jess are left to pick up the pieces. All they have are thirty-four clues she left behind. Thirty-four strips of paper hidden in a box beneath her bed. Thirty-four secrets of a brief and painful life.

     Jake, Sarah, and Jess all feel responsible for what happened to Ellie, and all three have secrets of their own. As they confront the past, they will discover not only the darkest truths about themselves, but also what Ellie herself had been hiding all along….

Review:

If I hadn’t received a review copy of 34 Pieces of You from the publisher, I never would have read this book, and that would have been a shame, because it is a moving and compelling read.  The subject matter didn’t appeal to me prior to receiving the ARC, and the thought of reading about a girl who overdoses, leaving her friends to grapple with their confusion and hurt, just seemed too depressing for me.  Which makes me wonder why I did pick it up, the same day it arrived in the mailbox.  Why did I start reading this, and why couldn’t I put it down?  What I found between the covers kept me turning the pages; there are so many flawed characters packed into this story, and there were so many opportunities for things to happen differently, but they didn’t.  Everyone is so caught up in themselves, that they all ignored the signals that Ellie was so clearly broadcasting.  Then again, in retrospect, everything is crystal clear, isn’t it?

I don’t want to give away any of the plot twists, so instead, let’s talk about the damaged protagonists in 34 Pieces of You.  It seems that everyone in this book is crying out for help or attention, and even when they get it, they stubbornly dig in their heels and refuse to accept it.  Ellie is so emotionally ravaged, unable to trust anyone, after she is the victim of abuse when she is a young girl. Her mother deals with this betrayal with alcohol.  Emotionally distant from her children, her coping method turns out to be one of avoidance.  Just don’t talk about it, and everything bad will go away.  Just ignore the bad things, and everything will be fine.  Ugh.  I found myself so angry and irritated with her mother.    By pretending not to see how self-destructive Ellie’s behavior was, she added to Ellie’s feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness. Even her own mother didn’t care enough to acknowledge that things weren’t right with her family.  It’s the realization that if only someone had done something, paid the slightest bit of attention to Ellie’s behavior, that makes this story, and the cascading repercussions, so tragic.  Ellie may have ultimately found some peace, but her friends and family were left reeling in the wake of her death, and ouch, not one of them emerged unscathed or unchanged.

Jake, Ellie’s older brother, is left with the most guilt, I think.  After being the rock for his mother and sister in the wake of his mother’s string of failed relationships, he finally is able to experience the enticing sense of freedom that comes with going off to college.  No longer the man of the family, he can finally do what he wants, when he wants, without all of the drama and pressure that he’s constantly under at home.  When Ellie calls him, begging him to come home to her, he is resentful.  Why can’t he just go to school and be left alone?  Why does he have to get sucked back into all of the drama? A moment of selfishness will haunt him for the rest of his life, and of all of lives affected by Ellie’s carelessness, Jake’s is the most compelling.  He can’t hide from his guilt, and like Ellie, he doesn’t have much of a support network to help him cope.  I wish Jake’s chapters had been longer and more in-depth.  I liked Jake, and felt that his POV was complex and multi-layered, because he was under so much pressure to be strong for everyone else. 

Sisters Sarah and Jessie also had complex relationships with Ellie, and each other, and as the story unfolds, they are both forced to realize that neither of them knew Ellie half as much as they thought they had.  All of the characters in this book are flawed, and at first, hard to like.  I couldn’t relate to any of them, but as one painful secret after another is revealed, I began to feel sympathy for each of them.  Events were so out of control, it was like everyone was riding a rollercoaster with broken brakes.  The more you fight against the impact at the end of the ride, the more you tense up and the more it’s going to hurt.  Despite all of the pain, the ending manages to capture a sense of hopefulness, and the realization that some how, some way, things might just turn out okay.  But only for the characters willing to set aside their fears to embrace the uncertain future waiting ahead of them.

Grade:  B+

In stores Sept 2012

Review copy provided by publisher

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Interview with Jacqueline Gardner, Author of Thoughtless

Jacqueline Gardner is the author of Thoughtless, a suspenseful YA novel with a heroine who can read minds.  Jacqueline stopped by the virtual offices to introduce herself and chat about her book.

[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Jacqueline Gardner] I’m a mellow, easy-going, sarcastic (at times), fitness nut with a cupcake obsession.

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about Thoughtless?

[Jacqueline Gardner] During a high school football game, Bridget accidentally stumbles upon a dead cheerleader in the janitor’s closet.  There’s a killer out there.  And worse, somehow the killer knows Bridget’s secret.  The one time she actually tries to embrace her talent, it’s useless.  Bridget can’t figure out who’s blackmailing her, who killed Stacey, and why she can’t hear her boyfriend’s thoughts!

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Jacqueline Gardner] Thoughtless started with a random thought that popped into my head one day.  What if I could have read my friend’s thoughts in high school?  From there I wrote a chapter with the characters in my head to see if they had chemistry, and they did!

[Manga Maniac Café] What was the most challenging aspect of writing Thoughtless?

[Jacqueline Gardner] Deciding how far to go when it came to hearing other people’s inner self talk.  I wanted it to play a comical part in the book but I also wanted to bring in a lot of honesty.  I did my best to find a happy medium of the two.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three words best describe Bridget?

[Jacqueline Gardner] Quiet, skeptical & sarcastic!

[Manga Maniac Café] What is Bridget’s single most prized possession?

[Jacqueline Gardner] Her BF Emma (although Emma is a person)!  Bridget realizes throughout the course of the book just how lucky she is to have an honest and loyal friend.  For a while, she takes Emma for granted.

[Manga Maniac Café] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Jacqueline Gardner] I’d say things I dream about and music.  I keep an idea journal next to my bed and I can’t write without my music.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Jacqueline Gardner] Music (anything but absolute silence), a notebook to doodle in, and gum.

[Manga Maniac Café] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Jacqueline Gardner] I just started the Barsoom series by Edgar Rice Burroughs.  It’s fantastic!

[Manga Maniac Café] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Jacqueline Gardner] The Witches by Roald Dahl

[Manga Maniac Café] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Jacqueline Gardner] I live in the Rockies so I love the outdoors – hiking, camping, biking.  I’m also an amateur cake decorator.

[Manga Maniac Café] How can readers connect with you?

[Jacqueline Gardner] website/blog: www.jacquelinegardner.com
twitter: @Writer_Jacque
facebook: www.facebook.com/authorjacquelinegardner
And I’m on Goodreads!

[Manga Maniac Café] Thank you!

You can order Thoughtless from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below.

[PR] VIZ Media Debuts New Shojo Manga Series JIU JIU

{ED. Wolf shapeshifters? Count me in!}

PRESS RELEASEFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

LEAP INTO THE FANTASY AND ROMANTIC INTRIGUE OF A TEENAGE GIRL’S DEEPENING BOND WITH TWO WOLF SHAPESHIFTERS, IN JIU JIU

High School Gets Complicated For A Girl From A Family of Demon Hunters In A New Shojo Series From VIZ Media

San Francisco, CA, June 19, 2012 – VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), the largest publisher, distributor and licensor of manga and anime in North America, unleashes the demon-hunting romantic fantasy of Touya Tobina’s shojo manga series, JIU JIU, on July 3rd. The new series will be published under the company’s Shojo Beat imprint, is rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens and will carry an MSRP of $9.99 U.S. / $12.99 CAN.

Born into a family of “Hunters,” Takamichi’s destiny is to pursue and slay demons. When her twin brother is killed, she is saved from despair by a pair of Jiu Jiu – shape-shifting familiars – in the form of two wolf pups named Snow and Night. Now Takamichi is in high school and an active Hunter. Snow and Night can’t wait to attend school in their human form to "protect" her. But are they ready to go off leash…?

“JIU JIU is an intriguing new series that offers a strong combination of romantic drama, supernatural action, and humor centering on the deepening bonds between a girl and two wolf shapeshifters,” says Annette Roman, Editor. “Growing up in a family of demon hunters isn’t easy. Things become more complicated when the pair of cute wolf pups grow up into her bodyguards, learn to shift into (hot!) human form, and decide to follow their mistress to school. Don’t miss this new rhapsody of swords, fangs and romance from Shojo Beat this summer!”

Manga creator Touya Tobina is originally from Tokyo. In 2005, her series, Clean Freak Fully Equipped, won the Grand Prize in the 30th Hakusensha Athena Newcomers Awards. Her series Jiu Jiu originally debuted in Japan as a one-shot manga in the shojo magazine, Hana to Yume.

For more information on JIU JIU, or other shojo manga titles from VIZ Media, please visit ShojoBeat.com.

About VIZ Media, LLC

Headquartered in San Francisco, California, VIZ Media distributes, markets and licenses the best anime and manga titles direct from Japan.  Owned by three of Japan’s largest manga and animation companies, Shueisha Inc., Shogakukan Inc., and Shogakukan-Shueisha Productions, Co., Ltd., VIZ Media has the most extensive library of anime and manga for English speaking audiences in North America, the United Kingdom, Ireland and South Africa. With its popular monthly manga anthology SHONEN JUMP magazine and blockbuster properties like NARUTO, BLEACH and INUYASHA, VIZ Media offers cutting-edge action, romance and family friendly properties for anime, manga, science fiction and fantasy fans of all ages.  VIZ Media properties are available as graphic novels, DVDs, animated television series, feature films, downloadable and streaming video and a variety of consumer products.  Learn more about VIZ Media, anime and manga at www.VIZ.com.

Review: Hereafter by Tara Hudson

 

Title: Hereafter

Author: Tara Hudson

Publisher: HarperTeen

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Can there truly be love after death?

Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she’s dead. With no recollection of her past life—or her actual death—she’s trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but will him to live. Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive.

Amelia and Joshua grow ever closer as they begin to uncover the strange circumstances of her death and the secrets of the dark river that held her captive for so long. But even while they struggle to keep their bond hidden from the living world, a frightening spirit named Eli is doing everything in his power to destroy their newfound happiness and drag Amelia back into the ghost world . . . forever.

Thrilling and evocative, with moments of pure pleasure, Hereafter is a sensation you won’t want to miss.

Review:

I did not find this ghost story very compelling.  Amelia is a ghost with no recollection of her past.  All she knows is that she met a watery end in a river.  After she saves Joshua from drowning, she is astonished to discover that he can see her and hear her.  Even more amazing – she can touch him.  Can a ghost discover love with a living, breathing guy?

I love the premise of Hereafter, because I am a sucker for love stories where the odds are so firmly stacked against the protagonists that it seems impossible for them to ever get together.  It doesn’t get much harder to find a happy  ever after than for a ghost to fall in love with a living person.  Unfortunately, the narrative style just did not click for me.  Amelia’s endless and overly verbose inner dialog did not engage me in the story.  Amelia’s lack of memories didn’t work either, and I found that being firmly anchored to the present, with no chance of reflection on past events or mistakes, a plot device that didn’t work for me.  She did constantly relive her death, but because she kept running away from the memories, she never stopped to think about why she materialized in the exact same place every single time she had the nightmares about her death.  If she had only looked around herself, she would have discovered many key answers to the questions that were burning in her mind.

Joshua’s relatives are Seers, and they have exorcised lingering spirits for generations.  When his grandmother sees Amelia, she immediately wants Joshua to get rid of her. Permanently.  This would have been a great conflict if it hadn’t been pushed to the background midway through the book.  I am sure that the Seers will play a larger role in Arise, but I would have liked to see them meddle more with the protagonists this volume.

Eli, the evil ghost, came off as a creepy stalker.  He was one-dimensional, and very boring.  I found his aggressive behavior toward Amelia disturbing and his comeuppance lacking.  After your character has been painted to be so evil, I think you need a really memorable end.  I don’t think Eli’s was harsh enough, given his cruelty to Amelia.

I was looking forward to enjoying Hereafter, but the book just didn’t work for me.  Many other reviewers did enjoy it, so it was disappointing that I did not.

Grade: D+

Available in Print and Digital For a limited time, the eBook is only .99 and includes bonus materials!

Review copy purchased from Amazon

 

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Review: Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker

 

 

Title: Unbreak My Heart

Author:  Melissa Walker

Publisher: Bloomsbury

ISBN: 978-1599905280

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

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.

,

Review:

I read and enjoyed, with a few reservations, Melissa Walker’s Small Town Sinners.  The religious framework occasionally frustrated me, but Lacey’s coming of age was compelling.  I was curious to read Unbreak My Heart, to see if I would have similar reservations with this story about a high school student who betrays her BFF.  I did not.  I was immediately engaged in this book, and couldn’t put it down. This is a great summer read with compelling characters and rapid-fire pacing.

The book begins with a very sad, very depressed Clem.  She has made herself a social outcast, and worse, she has betrayed her best friend.  A school year of forbidden attraction and inappropriate flirting has alienated her from all of her friends.  She thinks that the world has ended, as she suffers from soul-shaking sighs of regret and beats herself up over selling out Amanda.  She is the star of her own pity-party, and this is one party that seems as though it is never going to end.

To make matters worse, she is going to be stuck on her parents’ sailboat with her younger sister all summer long.  The thought is enough to send her over the deep end.  All Clem wants to do is mope around and relive every lapse of judgment she exhibited the entire school year.  She doesn’t like herself, and she now believes that she deserves to be a universally despised.  Poor Clem!

Thankfully, Clem has a run-in with James and a basket of bananas early in the book, a scene that actually had me laughing out loud.  For all of Clem’s angsty dramatics, her younger sister, Olive, and the always smiling James, lighten the tone of the story and kept Unbreak My Heart from being a total downer.  Clem is a whiny baby-face for the first few chapters, but she is so pathetic that I couldn’t find it in myself to dislike her.  She already disliked herself enough for the both of us.  Seriously.

As the story unfolds, alternating between her summer prison term on the sail boat and her unwise but understandable behavior during the previous school year, Clem begins to accept that she isn’t perfect, and that she isn’t the sole cause of her year of indiscretion.  After all of the events are revealed, I found it difficult to blame her for anything.  She is never the instigator, and she is constantly stressing about her feelings for Ethan.

I loved the setting of this story.  Clem’s family is sailing part of the Great Loop for the summer.  Clem is disconnected from the internet, and even her cell phone can’t pick up a reliable signal.  Instead, she is stuck interacting with her family and the people they meet along their journey.   When I was younger, my parents had a small cabin cruiser.  I went with them to Cedar Point one year, and had one of the best family bonding experiences ever.  I got to know my younger brother better, and I still snicker when I remember the night he sat up, yelled, “Let’s ride it one more time!” and rolled over, still fast asleep.  Despite running out of gas in extremely choppy waters, being stuck in Toledo due to inclement weather, and the occasional frayed nerves, that really is a trip I will remember for the rest of my life.  As Clem got to know her family better, I felt assured that she, too, was making memories that would last her a lifetime.

While Clem’s family was a little too perfect, her flaws more than made up for their lack of them.  James was just what Clem needed, too.  He is a walking ray of sunshine, always ready with a smile and a laugh.  Despite her vow to stay away from boys, Clem can’t help but be drawn to him.  I liked James, too.  He’s open, kind, and fun to be around.  I never suspected that he had dark troubles of his own, but once they were revealed, I liked him even more.

Unbreak My Heart is a fast, satisfying read.  It’s a perfect addition to your beach bag book collection.  While  Clem was occasionally irritating as she struggled to forgive herself for betraying her BFF, but I just couldn’t find it in myself to dislike her for being such a drama queen.  As her summer drifted by, she discovered insights about herself and her friends that helped her cope with the decisions she made that altered her relationships forever.  I liked the Clem at the end of the book, and enjoyed seeing her mature.  I think you will, too.

Grade: B

Available in Digital and Print

Review copy provided by publisher

 

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