Sunday, June 10, 2012

Unbreak My Heart

Unbreak My Heart
Melissa Walker
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's
ISBN 10: 1599905280
240 pages
Available on
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview.

I did not want this book to end. Not at all. In fact, Melissa Walker, I am not amused by your antics. You ended this book just when I really REALLY wanted to know what happened next. That is dirty play on your part, and I am going to cross my arms and pout at you for a long, long time.

Or until you tell me what you think happened next, at which point I will forgive you, because I am nothing if not easy to woo.

You will like this book too. I promise.

You will like Clementine Williams, even with her overwrought emotions and self-flagellation. She blames herself for everything that went wrong in her life, to the point that she believes she is unworthy of everything, from love to enjoying her summer. See, Clementine flirted with her best friend's boyfriend. Okay, maybe 'flirt' is the wrong word. She fell for him, and she encouraged him. When he stepped over the lines of propriety, she didn't stop him. Yes, she told him that they need to step back because Amanda would get upset, but when he said that he can have friends who are girls, she willingly grabbed at that lifeline like a passenger on the Titanic. And she never exactly tried to move his hand when it covered hers, or when it covered her thigh. You will like her even through that. Even through the three-hour instant messaging she engages in with Ethan The Cad (as I came to think of him). Even through the playlists he makes for her (and that she listens to repeatedly) and the one she creates for him. And then lies about.

You will like her.

You also will like Amanda, the best friend, who is sort of on the periphery here. Amanda reacts the way Clementine's mother says most women do: she blames the Other Woman and dumps her, not the boyfriend. But when you were sixteen, wouldn't you have done the same thing? Don't grown women do that NOW? Yes, they do. You know it's true.

As an aside: I tell my girl students all the time that I do not understand why it's always the other girl's fault. If the boy initiates the flirting - and let's be real clear here: Ethan initiates the flirting - then isn't he to blame? Is it really that girls are so desperate that they fear being alone or fear seeing the boy with another girl that they willingly forgive him and completely blame the girl? My fear is that it is as simple (and complex) as that.

But back to the story.

Clementine's family decides to spend the summer sailing down the Mississippi, and quicker than you can say, "Look, Huck! There's Jim!", Clementine meets another boy. James. He's tall, somewhat gangly, and red-headed. He also sees Clementine for who she is. He brings truth into a life that feels built on lies and deception.

Along the journey (both metaphorical and literal), Clementine reflects back on her relationships with Amanda and Ethan. She admits to jealousy over Ethan, and she cops to enjoying it when Ethan, under the cover of a blanket, puts his hand on her leg.

People know how to stop - they just stop. They stop holding their friends' boyfriends' hands under the blanket. It didn't have to happen, even if Ethan wanted it to. I could have taken my hand and moved myself around in a way that he couldn't really get to me, and he would have had to stare straight ahead at the movie even if he was upset or angry, because he shouldn't have been doing what he was doing! He shouldn't have been trying to touch my leg and hold my hand!

Aaaaaand she's back. It's Ethan's fault. But this is what a sixteen-year-old girl would do. She would vacillate between blaming Amanda, blaming Ethan and blaming herself. She knows she went too far, she knows she betrayed Amanda, but she's also unwilling to fatally fall on the sword. She's willing to nick herself and leave a scar.

Clementine is so intent on her sadness and loneliness that she fails to see that Amanda established the pattern for their friendship much earlier in her relationship with Ethan. When Amanda displays some of Ethan's boxers for a scavenger hunt, Clementine is shocked. "I felt a pang in my chest. Ethan had been at her house. He left his boxers there. Maybe they had been naked together. And she hadn't told me."

A painful lesson. Your best friend may know all your secrets, but do you know hers?

This is an addicting, wonderful, besotting book. You will love Clementine's family, especially her ten-year-old sister Olive. And you will love James. Most of all, you will love Melissa Walker's ability to get into the head of a teenage girl and accurately, realistically create her on paper. But you may not love Ethan.

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