Our Selective Collective book for May is “The Book of Broken Hearts” by Sarah Ockler, Candice’s pick of the month. Like May’s selection “The Summer I Became a Nerd,” Ockler’s novel is a poignant summer-set story that makes for a perfect school’s out read. This month it’s our turn to write the review (below), and Diana and I are thrilled, because we both found Ockler’s tale of father-daughter closeness, sibling micromanaging and finding your first love a joy to read. Many thanks to Simon Teen for sending us all copies for review purposes, and of course to Leah Rae Miller for answering our questions!
Jude has learned a lot from her older sisters, but the most important thing is this: The Vargas brothers are notorious heartbreakers. She’s seen the tears and disasters that dating a Vargas boy can cause, and she swore an oath—with candles and a contract and everything—to never have anything to do with one.
Now Jude is the only sister still living at home, and she’s spending the summer helping her ailing father restore his vintage motorcycle—which means hiring a mechanic to help out. Is it Jude’s fault he happens to be cute? And surprisingly sweet? And a Vargas?
Jude tells herself it’s strictly bike business with Emilio. Her sisters will never find out, and Jude can spot those flirty little Vargas tricks a mile away—no way would she fall for them. But Jude’s defenses are crumbling, and if history is destined to repeat itself, she’s speeding toward some serious heartbreak…unless her sisters were wrong?
Jude may have taken an oath, but she’s beginning to think that when it comes to love, some promises might be worth breaking.
Sarah Ockler beautifully weaves a story of how “baby of the family” Jude spends the summer after graduating from high school helping her father — who’s suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s — restore the one thing he can still fix in his life: his beloved vintage motorcycle. Jude, the youngest of four sisters who are incredibly close, isn’t just dealing with her father but also with her growing attachment to Emilio Vargas — the youngest of the gorgeous, heartbreaking Vargas brothers.
The story works on so many levels: there’s the central storyline about Jude’s relationship with her progressively more senile father (who at one point tries to buy an entire cart full of maxi pads and tampons, thinking all four of his daughters are still in the house); the journey toward self discovery as Jude gets out from under the sometimes overwhelming and overbearing influence of her older sisters; the undeniable romantic tension between Jude and Emilio — despite her sisters’ history with his brothers; and the pre-college reassessment of friendships that change and sometimes diminish under difficult circumstances.
On top of all that, Ockler also depicts two different Latino cultures in the book: Jude’s Argentinian and Emilio’s Puerto Rican. And instead of just short-cutting her way through Latino characters by mentioning caramel skin and the occasional Spanglish, Ockler really digs in, writing about food and history and pet names and culture. Ockler’s in-laws are from Argentina, and it shows: her portrayals were genuine and an important aspect of well-rounded characters. It’s exactly what those of us who treasure diversity in YA want from depictions of minorities in books (not to mention Ockler made us all want to eat empanadas and ensalada rusa).
Diana and I particularly responded to the sister relationships, because we’re 12 years apart. As the baby by more than a decade, I keenly understood Jude, specifically her complaint that she was the last to find out anything and her fear that her personality and interests were molded by her siblings. It isn’t until Jude looks at the Book of Broken Hearts and realizes she has to risk getting her heart broken to experience love that she can move forward. This touching, sweet tale will encourage readers to appreciate their families and to open their hearts to the adventures life has in store. Read it and hit the road!
Make sure to check out everyone else in the Selective Collective’s features!