Book Review: "Instructions for a Broken Heart" by Kim Culbertson

Summary from When Jessa catches her boyfriend, Sean, making out with Natalie "the Boob Job" Stone three days before their drama club's departure to Italy, she completely freaks. Stuck with a front-row view of Sean and Natalie making out against the backdrop of a country that oozes romance, Jessa promises to follow all of the outrageous instructions in her best friend's care package and open her heart to new experiences. Enter cute Italian boy stage left.

Jessa had prepared to play the role of humiliated ex-girlfriend, but with Carissa directing her life from afar, it's finally time to take a shot at being a star.

Kim Culbertson's first book, Songs for a Teenage Nomad, made my Best Reads of 2010 so I was really looking forward to her next book. She writes in style that I really enjoy and gives insight to characters that most YA writers tend to skim over. I really enjoy how her books are more about what the characters are feeling as opposed to just things that happen to them. This story is about about teenage love, drama, friendship and everything in between mixed in with an armchair vacation to Italy.

Jessa's had the worse thing that could happen to a teen girl. She catches her boyfriend in the act of cheating with her right before they are set to go on a school trip to Italy together. You can't run away from the pain and hurt and have a good cry or recover when your ex-boyfriend is down the aisle with his new girlfriend. In order to help Jessa get through this time, her best friend Carissa has written instructions on what to do to get over Sean. Through these instructions, Jessa learns more about Sean, Carissa, and her own self.

I feel as if Carissa is at sort of a disadvantage in this story because we only get to know her character from the letters she's written Jessa as well as conversations other characters have about her. We don't get to her personally from her and she's not there to defend her actions or viewpoints. Sometimes it even seemed as if the things she was getting Jessa to do towards Sean are things that Carissa wanted to do herself but couldn't. I personally would have like to read a book from her point of view of the whole situation as well.

There's a scene that happens with Jessa and her teacher that thankfully does not go further than it does. I've seen this type of seen happen quite a bit in other YA books and while I know that it can happen, I really don't like it because of all the trouble it causes (among other issues). Things don't get too awkward between them afterward and it's almost forgotten about by the end of the book. One plot that I did wish have more closer involved "Cruella" because I didn't feel as if we got full justification of why she acted the way she did.

All the scenes involving the actual trip were fun to read and it made me feel like I really was traveling along with the group. Italy is one of the places that I would love to see before I die so every little bit I discover in stories is a joy to read. What I got most out of this book is remembering all the pain from past heartbreaks when I was in high school and college. It just made me remember that even though you feel like you're never going to heal your broken heart again, that eventually it will happen.

This is one of the reasons why I love contemporary YA fiction. I like realism in my books and authors like Culbertson make me feel as if I'm reading a real story about a teen girl who I can empathize with. Jessa doesn't always make the right decisions but she does everything with her heart. And I can totally relate to it. I am looking forward to see what Culbertson will put out next.

Instructions for a Broken Heart by Kim Culbertson is published by Sourcebooks Fire (2011)

This ARC was provided by the publisher


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