Title: Unbreak My Heart
Author: Melissa Walker
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication Date: 2012
Price: $16.99 (hardcover) $9.99 (paperback)
Interest Age: 12 and up
Lexile Level: 690
Annotation: Clementine is heartbroken over events at school, but this summer vacation might heal her heart.
Plot Summary: All Clementine wants this summer is personal space to nurse her broken heart. During the school year, she fell hard for her best friend’s boyfriend and now she is a social pariah at school. So drifting away this summer on her parents sailboat with her family sounds pretty fantastic. When she meets James and his father at one of the stops and they become friendly, will he help heal her broken heart?
Critical Evaluation: Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker was definitely a great book to usher in summer. Set during the season, the story has travel elements as well as a potential summer romance – two things that I like to read about, especially during summer. Make no mistake though, this is not a light hearted novel on the fun times of summer – the heart of Walker’s book focuses on relationships, betrayals and most of all, forgiveness.
While the natural feeling is to hate Clem for going after her best friend’s boyfriend, Walker has written Clem as a pretty sympathetic character. She’s definitely flawed with her bratty and selfish moments. There were times when I wanted to shake her for the way she treats her family. However, her actions and emotions are realistic and natural given she’s a teenager with her heart broken and reeling from intense emotions. Walker’s use of flashbacks to showcase the events leading up to Clem and Amanda’s break in friendship lend to Clem’s sympathetic characterization. I definitely felt for Clem after what happened. Especially when it comes to light that she’s the one saddled with the majority of the blame, while The Boy gets off scot-free. Speaking of the characters, I love love love the secondary characters. Walker has definitely created a fun, likable crew of characters. For example, Clem’s parents. Too often when I read YA, the parents are either terrible, dead or never much on the page. This isn’t the case here. The positive relationship they have with their children is one that I would like to see more often in YA. I also adore the sibling relationship between Clem and Olive as well as the run ins with the older couple, Ruth and George.
To tell you the truth, I know nothing about boats and sailing so I cannot say if Walker’s portrayal of this world is realistic, but I can tell you that I enjoyed her illustrations of sailing life. The nautical aspects of the story add to the story and never slow the pacing. Additionally, Walker makes it fun with the puns Clem and company encounter throughout the trip. Overall, I enjoyed my time with this book. Walker has created a emotionally driven story with great characterization and a common theme that can be relatable to most teens.
Author Bio: Melissa Walker has worked as “ELLEgirl “Features Editor and “Seventeen “Prom Editor. She is the author of “Small Town Sinners,” the Violet on the Runway series, and “Lovestruck Summer.” Melissa manages the daily e-newsletter, iheartdaily.com and handles blogging for readergirlz.com. (via Ingram)
Tie to Curriculum Units: N/A
Booktalking Ideas: Summer, sailing, best friend breakup, family
Challenge Issues: This sweet love story is pretty vanilla, but if this were challenged I would mention that sometimes light hopeful love stories can be a balm to the harsher darker stories in YA literature. Additionally, Kirkus give it a positive review saying “Walker’s compassion and emotional insight, lauded in her well-received Small Town Sinners (2011), are strengths, as is the setting. From vessels named with groan-inducing puns like Sea Ya to the challenges of shipboard sanitation, she brings the insulated boating world to life with knowledgeable affection. A quietly absorbing journey.”