Book Review: The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler

Jude’s older sisters have taught her a lot, but the thing she remembers most from them is the fact that the Vargas brothers are heartbreakers and should never be trusted.  But now Jude is the only sister living at home, and she’s helping her ailing father restore a vintage motorcycle.  She needs a mechanic to help out, and that mechanic happens to be a Vargas boy–and be seriously cute.  How does Jude reconcile her feelings for the vows she made her sisters, and how does she balance her increasingly complicated life?

Sarah Ockler’s latest offering is strong contemporary YA, focusing on a family saga of the finest quality.  This is a novel about family and fathers and daughters, and it delivers on many of its promises.  Jude is an authentic narrator, and her last summer at home before college is filled with learning about herself, about her father, and about what it means to become an adult.  Solid contemporary YA that’s perfect summer reading.

A poignant story, Ockler really shines when she allows Jude and Emilio Vargas to spar and get to know one another.  The charged attraction between the characters is palpable, and readers will eat it up.  Also noteworthy is Jude’s devotion to her family and especially to her father, whose declining health propels much of the story, making her quest to restore the motorcycle all the more important.

There are things here that don’t work, and I would be remiss to not point them out.  The story feels a little overlong at times, and Jude’s deteriorating friendship with her high school friends doesn’t feel fleshed out enough to warrant the page time it gets.  Also problematic is how hard it is to distinguish between all of Jude’s sisters.  These are minor things, though, and most readers will be willing to overlook them because so much of the rest of the novel is strong.

Jude’s family is Argentinian-American, and while this could easily become a way to prove how multicultural the story is, it never succumbs to this.  Ockler infuses her story with culture and authenticity, and it’s a resounding success.

Recommended.

Simon Pulse: 2013. Electronic galley accepted for review via Edelweiss.

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