Book: The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler, Listening Library, May 2013
Book Info: Borrowed Overdrive audiobook, Running time: 9 hrs, 56 mins. Read by: Zilah Mendoza. Also available in hardcover, 368 pages from Simon Pulse.
This is my second Sarah Ockler novel (Twenty Boy Summer) and her books are heavy on emotion, just the way I like them. Family, first love and the sister bond combine in The Book of Broken Hearts to tell a heart-wrenching story that’s easy to relate to.
Jude has three older sisters and is the last one living at home. It’s the summer between high school and college, and it’s a bittersweet time. Jude’s father is suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s, and regardless of what the doctor’s say she has a plan for healing his brain. Jude found her Papi’s vintage motorcycle in the garage and with the help of a mechanic they want to get it back in working order. This project is the only thing that’s getting through to Papi, and he’s enjoying remembering his time in a motorcycle gang. The only snag is that the mechanic, Emilio, is from the infamous Vargas family, and Jude made an oath to her sisters never to get involved with a Vargas because the older Vargas boys broke their hearts.
Jude is in a unique position, because she’s in a caregiver role for her father for the summer, but her sisters still hover and treat her like a kid. The summer before college is supposed to be fun and carefree, but circumstances have changed Jude’s priorities. Her sisters left her the book of broken hearts/burn book as a reminder of the wrongs done to them, but Jude hopes that this Vargas will be different.
Emilio is the forbidden love interest, but he’s really Jude’s rock during this uncertain time. Jude is conflicted though, since she’s “bound by blood, honor, and threat of dismemberment” not to associate with a Vargas, but Emilio is out to prove his worth.
Papi’s illness is touchingly accurate. Any one who has spent time with a parent or grandparent inflicted with Alzheimer’s will nod their head in recognition. Through the book, we see the effects of the illness on all the members of the family, and the toll it takes on the individual, as well. Jude is in over her head, but her devotion to her dad is admirable. Jude and Papi put all their hopes on the rehabilitation of the Harley-Davidson 1961 Duo-Glide, as if fixing the bike will make the disease change course.
I listened to the audiobook, read by Zilah Mendoza. Mendoza is perfect for the young voice of Jude, and is guarded, determined, and a little sassy. Jude’s family has Argentinian roots, and the Vargas family is from Puerto Rico, and Mendoza’s perfectly accented narration gives just the right flavor for the story. The audiobook does give the story something extra and stirs emotion.
The Book of Broken Hearts is heartfelt and sweet, and strikes a nice balance of happy/sad/romantic. The message of love, family and following your heart should resonate with a lot of readers.
The Book of Broken Hearts is a YA Fiction Cybils nominee.