Title: Unbreak My Heart
Author: Melissa Walker
May Contain Spoilers
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.
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.
Review copy provided by publisher