Book Review: Unbreak My Heart by Melissa C. Walker

2 Aug

Book cover for Unbreak My Heart by Melissa C. Walker

Title: Unbreak My Heart

Author: Melissa C. Walker

Genre: Contemporary YA

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Release date: May 22, 2012

Amazon | Goodreads

Source: NetGalley

Summary: Sophomore year broke Clementine Williams’ heart. She fell for her best friend’s boyfriend and long story short: he’s excused, but Clem is vilified and she heads into summer with zero social life. 

Enter her parents’ plan to spend the summer on their sailboat. Normally the idea of being stuck on a tiny boat with her parents and little sister would make Clem break out in hives, but floating away sounds pretty good right now. 

Then she meets James at one of their first stops along the river. He and his dad are sailing for the summer and he’s just the distraction Clem needs. Can he break down Clem’s walls and heal her broken heart?

I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before–I can’t remember where for the life of me, though–but I’ll say it again: There are so many super contemporaries out there this year! I’ve always loved a good contemp and I seem to be enjoying even more of them lately. Which is excellent. UNBREAK MY HEART by Melissa C. Walker is one of those really good books that has all kinds of juicy stuff: romance, family, drama, high school politics, cheating, and lots of gray area. Also, HOT GINGERS.

The one thing that UNBREAK MY HEART has in extra spades, though, is double standards. A heaping dose of them. See, UNBREAK MY HEART tells Clem’s story in two pieces woven together: the past school year, and the summer vacation she is on with her family in real time. The real time is where all the swoony, learning-about-yourself stuff happens; the flashbacks to the past school year tell the story of why Clem is so withdrawn, depressed, and feeling majorly critical of herself. This is where those double standards come in, friends, and it makes for one of those morally tricky situations that I’m a pretty big fan of.

Basically, during the school year, Clem gets super friendly with her best friend’s boyfriend, Ethan. Except, right off the bat, it’s pretty clear that Amanda, Clem’s bff, is just going after him because he’s the new hot guy at school, and that Clem and Ethan are the ones who REALLY hit it off. Palpably. Right away. But Amanda, for a number of reasons, gets the jump on him, and so Clem and Ethan are left to flirt OUTRAGEOUSLY and often, stoking their crush like crazy behind Amanda’s back. Never getting physical, but always sharing and growing their connection, which is pretty legit, if I’m being honest. I don’t think Melissa C. Walker ever meant for the reader to doubt that it was Clem and Ethan who probably SHOULD have been together, that’s how compatible they were. But also that it was Clem and Ethan who essentially missed their shot, and screwed up big time.

I don’t condone cheating–emotional or otherwise–but guys, I know this feeling that Clem was having. I’ve felt it before, and I can understand the two sides pulling at you: the instant connection and the butterflies and the way you almost know that the only thing keeping you apart is a couple minutes’ worth of bad timing; and the guilt and the anxiety of knowing that you are doing something wrong, even though you’re careful to never let it go there, and you never intend to keep it going. I understand not being able to resist those feelings because, hey, someone liking you A LOT and clicking with you and making you happy is NICE. Alas for Clem, those few minutes of bad timing can’t be undone, and Amanda eventually finds out about Clem and Ethan’s flirting that was always something more. Amanda cuts Clem off, and it’s not looking good.

At this point, Clem–who was a really great character, funny and conflicted–is basically a pariah at school and is feeling like a piece of crap human being. She’s incredibly down on herself. And before you guys go all, “well, she SHOULD be down on herself. She cheated with her best friend’s boyfriend!” I’d implore you to read UNBREAK MY HEART first. Because really, I found Clem to be an awesomely flawed character, who not only wants to make right the wrong that she did, but who wants people to understand that this mistake doesn’t make her a bad person. She’s easy to empathize with. ESPECIALLY when she realizes that Amanda an Ethan are still together. *SMASHES THINGS* I die when people do this shit, guys. When two people do something wrong together, which one of the two of them is the only one who’s wrong? TRICK QUESTION THEY ARE BOTH WRONG. I hated that Clem got crapped on and Ethan got one of the two girls he liked. BLAH DOUBLE STANDARDS.

BUT! Silver lining, y’all! Because UNBREAK MY HEART then takes a turn towards the awesome when we get to spend the summer on a BOAT (LOVE boats) on a river (HOLLA!) with Clem’s crazy, lovable family (YES PLEASE), where she meets a hot, music-loving, friendly GINGER (SWOONS) on another boat. Guys, James is instantly likable. He’s got some secrets, but Clem starts UNBREAK MY HEART down in the dumps, and James lives…in whatever the opposite is of the dumps. The polar opposite. He’s happy and full of life and he’s totally what Clem needs to pick herself up again. Well, he puts on a brave face some of the time, but still. Their relationship is sweet and fun and important to both of them. I LOVED it, and them together.

I feel like this review is all over the place. But that’s kind of appropriate, now that I think of it, because UNBREAK MY HEART has lots of emotions that are all over the place. You feel the slow swooniness of Clem and James, the electric instant connection between Clem and Ethan, the cold loneliness of Clem’s life after Ethan, bitterness, shame, frustration, love, butterflies, humor, happiness, EVERYTHING. Melissa C. Walker did a great job of creating not just a swirl of different emotions, but also the ambiguity of cheating, which I find pretty true to life. UNBREAK MY HEART was more than just a cute, swoony romance, and I appreciated the depth and the complexity of it. This was my first book by Melissa C. Walker, but it won’t be my last.

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4 Responses to “Book Review: Unbreak My Heart by Melissa C. Walker”

  1. Lisa August 2, 2012 at 2:51 pm #

    Lots of emotions that are all over the place.
    YES PLEASE.
    Also it sounds well done and not overwhelming.

    This is, hands down, my favorite review of this one! You rule.

  2. megtao August 3, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

    This reminds me a bit of the Ruby Oliver series with a summer twist. May need to check this one out before Fall is here, or maybe I’ll wait ’til winter and let it fight off the winter blues.

  3. Alexa Loves Books (@alexalovesbooks) August 4, 2012 at 11:38 pm #

    I absolutely agree with everything you said. Unbreak My Heart was awesome!

  4. April Books & Wine August 8, 2012 at 3:53 pm #

    Next read Lovestruck Summer!

    Seriously though, I just loved Clem and felt so awful for her and what she went through.
    And okay, I wanted to adopt Olive.

    AND THE BOATS AND THE SUMMER OMG DREAM LIFE.

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