Review: The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler

The Book of Broken Hearts coverThe Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon
Release Date: May 21st 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Series: n/a

Goodreads description:When all signs point to heartbreak, can love still be a rule of the road? A poignant and romantic novel from the author of Bittersweet and Twenty Boy Summer.

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

A few years ago I read Sarah Ockler’s Twenty Boy Summer. I went into it thinking it sounded sweet or cute but it ended up wrecking me. I don’t remember a lot about it, but I don’t remember not being fond of it. I went into The Book of Broken Hearts expecting sadness and while I don’t feel as negative about it as I did TBS, I still didn’t love it.

Jude would ideally be spending her time rehearsing for a play and hanging out with friends. Unfortunately, her life has drastically changed because her father has early onset Alzheimer’s. She spends her days helping him and hoping he doesn’t get worse or have an outburst. He forgets more all the time, but he remembers his youth and riding his motorcycle through South America. It’s means a lot to him, so Jude wants to help him get the bike fixed.

They seek help and are directed to one Emilio Vargas. Emilio is a few years older than Jude, knows about bikes, and he’s very charming. But the Vargas family is off limits to Jude, she swore an oath with her three older sisters never to be involved with a Vargas because of the pain two of them caused two of her older sisters. She needs Emilio to help with the bike, but she doesn’t know if she can keep the oath and stay away.

The Alzheimer’s part of the story is intense and sad. Jude loves her father and it hurts her to know that he’s drifting away. Papi also knows what’s happening, he knows memories are slipping away and it’s frustrating and scary. Jude has to handle so many negative effects of the disease by herself while her mom is at work. It’s difficult to deal with a ranting man digging through the trash and making scenes in public, but there’s also such an emotional toll. Her father and her world is falling apart. She’s at a turning point in her own life but she needs to be so strong for Papi and the whole family. Things like the post-it notes to help him remember and Papi referring to the disease as “El Demonio” (or the Demon) and seeing glimpses of how he is normally against what he’s becoming is gripping and heartbreaking. I loved Papi and I think his story and the effects of the disease are written very well. This is the part of the story that will stick with me.

“How could someone so whole and alive be shriveling up inside? My brain hurt to contemplate it, and I forced myself to stop, lest the demon sense my thoughts and try to prove its mettle.”

Family is important in this story. I loved reading about Jude’s relationship with her father and her mom is very food oriented, she kinda cooks her love into dishes and wants to feed anyone and everyone. I liked that Jude has a big family and wants to be close to everyone in it. However, I wasn’t fond of her sisters or the obligation she felt to an oath she took when she was twelve. Jude even refers to her sisters as “The Holy Trinity” which annoys me to no end. The sisters don’t seem to understand the toll the disease is taking on Jude. They’re letting her be responsible and take care of him but they still treat her like a child. It’s obvious that they all care for each other and all families are annoying in ways, but for some reason the sisters bugged me.

Jude seemed kind of immature to me. I’m not sure if it i magnified by the difficulty of handling her father and his illness, maybe she just seemed smaller because of everything she had to handle. She is incredibly strong and admirable in helping her father, and not doing it because she has to but because she loves him. What I didn’t like were things like the angel vs. devil thing in her thoughts: “Devil-Jude was totally giving me the thumbs-up, her smile glinting mischievously. She had a gold tooth, that’s why,” cue so much eye rolling.  It also annoyed me how much she “thinks” for her dog, I’m not sure how many “BUNNY” moments there were but it was too many for me. She is also so obsessed with what her sisters thought and what her sisters would do if they found out about Emilio. There was development, but by the time it happened I wasn’t as invested. I liked her relationship with her father but I didn’t connect with her.

Emilio is straightforward with Jude and very understanding about her father’s illness. He is flirty but he is also supportive. He is also honest, even in situations where it would be easier to just agree with Jude. He is definitely attracted to her, but he listens to her and is there for her in ways her friends (don’t get me started on her friends) weren’t. I enjoyed him and there was swooning! It was kind of weird to me that he is a mechanic but couldn’t drive a stick, but I guess that could happen? 

Some things I liked:

  • Jude’s family is Argentinean and Emilo’s family is Puerto Rican. Diversity!
  • Papi’s love of Westerns and how he quotes them.
  • A baking scene with Emilio’s mom
  • Mari, one of Jude’s sister, is in publishing and they talk about reading manuscripts.

3 star rating

While I didn’t love The Book of Broken Hearts, I know a lot of people did and a lot of people will enjoy it. I think most people that love contemps with strong families and a good romance will probably enjoy it. I don’t plan on rereading it but I am glad I read it, mainly for Jude’s relationship with her father but also EMILIOOOOOOO (okay sorry, had to).  I might have to tell myself to stay away from any other Sarah Ockler books. Nothing personal, I just don’t think they are for me!

Check out Sarah Ockler’s website and twitter!

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8 thoughts on “Review: The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler

  1. Sorry you didn’t love this one. I haven’t read it yet, but might still check it out. Like you said, sometimes you just don’t click with a character for whatever reason. Thanks for your honest review!

    • You should check it out, I really think most people that like contemps will like it! Yes, characters are kind of like people and sometimes you don’t like some as well as others! Thanks for visiting!

  2. Always disappointing when books don’t live up to your expectations. I’ve not read any by this author but have Twenty Boy Summer on hold at the library.

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