Reader's Choice Review #4: The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler

Publication Date: May 21, 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 352 (Hardcover)
Source: ARCycling
Recommended By: Jessie
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.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

This is my first Sarah Ockler book, but going into it I was well aware of how widely adored she is. And, after reading this book, I can honestly say that I understand why she is so greatly loved. This book had an amazing setting, a true romance, and struggles that broke your heart in two, all sprinkled with enough humor to lighten the mood.

However, I couldn't help but draw comparisons to Simone Elkeles's PERFECT CHEMISTRY. A guy and a girl who are sworn to hate each other for some reason or another. The guy is of some sort of Latin descent and uses his sexy language and amazing facial features to lure all unsuspecting women into his bed. And, as much as I loved Emilio, nobody can compare to Alex. However, while PERFECT CHEMISTRY focused solely on the racial divide between the two main character's neighborhoods, the driving force in this book is Jude's father, Papi, who is experiencing early on-set Alzheimer's at the age of fifty-two. 

This aspect of the story wrenched my gut open. I had watched several documentaries on this illness when I took a psychology class in high school and every single one ended with me tearing up. This rare disease is most often hereditary and every child of someone with it has a 50% chance of saying a long good-bye to themselves. It's scary and hard to stomach as a bystander. I can't even imagine how terrible it is to watch someone you love lose themselves while you stand by helplessly. Ockler really captured this aspect of the plot perfectly and I often found myself hurting alongside Jude and her family.

I also found Jude's familial ties to be great. While there are clearly struggles because of her father's predicament, this is the way a young adult family should be. There are no absentee parents and everyone loves each other. Despite the fact that there is a huge age gap between Jude and her three sisters, there's still this equal and amazing love between them all. All three of Jude's older sisters are strong secondary characters that enhance the plot in some way, especially Mari, nicknamed the Wrecking Ball for reasons you can easily infer for yourself. However, Jude refers to her older sisters as the Holy Trinity, and rightfully so. The three of them do have this bond that Jude isn't part of because of the age gap, so she obviously jumped at the first chance she got to be included in this bond...which just so happened to be the night where the girls swore never to allow a Vargas into their life again. Those Vargas boys, they're bad news. Two of the three elder sisters had their hearts severely broken at their hands while the other suffered by watching her sisters suffer. It's a curse, they declare!

And, with this in mind, Jude does everything in her power to not allow the hot guy with the sexy dimples that is fixing her father's motorcycle get to her. He's a Vargas, so he's forbidden! But Emilio may just be different. His eyes show through with sincerity and a genuineness that his brothers did not have and his dimples are simply adorable. He wants to understand Jude instead of running from her family issues the way everyone else is. He is, perhaps, one of the most honest and genuine guys I've come across in a while and I really loved that. He has his own way of dealing with his own demons and while some come to light, others don't. I felt like several questions regarding his lack of being forth coming weren't answered by the end of the book and that bugged me because I wanted to know more about this boy I so greatly enjoyed. I learned more about Jude than I did him, and while that is to be expected, I don't think I know enough about his familial past that caused so many issues for him and Jude to begin with.

I also really liked Jude's connection to her heritage as well. Jude's father was re-living his glory days from Argentina, which was magnificent. I felt like I temporarily traveled there when he was re-living his memories of his biker days there. And it showed through with the family's love of food and her mother's amazing cooking. I loved learning about her parents journey to America, how they used The Beatles to teach them English, and all the little things like that. I haven't come across a set of parents I've loved so much in a while. But, with their culture in mind, my one issue with the book was the lack of translating all of the Spanish. Most of the time it was easy to infer what was said, but there were a few instances where I had to pull up a translator because I had absolutely no clue what was going on. I wasn't a fan of those few occassions.

A small shout out to Jude's dog Pancake, who loves bunnies. In all seriousness, I laughed my ass off whenever she was narrating his thoughts in her head. It reminded me of how I used to act with my dog who unfortunately passed away at the end of July due to kidney failure two weeks before her fourteenth birthday. It also added a sprinkle of humor to this story that kept such a serious topic light-hearted.

In the end, this was a great book. The beginning was a little slow, but once I jumped over that hurdle I flew through this book easily. The ending is bittersweet because it's so easy to connect with Jude and Emilio. I will definitely be checking out Ockler's other books and I understand why it's almost a necessity for any contemporary lover to pick up one of her books at some point in their lives.

4 stars

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  1. Glad a reader's choice book turned out to be a winner for you! I haven't read Perfect Chemistry, so I probably wouldn't have been able to draw those comparison. I may have read this one in the future: sounds like the prefect mix of funny and serious :D

  2. I have yet to read any Ockler myself, but I have high hopes that I'll really end up enjoying this one. And I think the few things that seemed to bother you won't have much of an effect on me. I haven't read the Perfect Chemistry books, so there's no chance of me making that comparison. And I've studied the Spanish language quite a bit, so I shouldn't have much trouble understanding the phrases used. I think it can be frustrating when authors add phrases from a language I don't understand in a book, but at the same time I do think it's cool and definitely gives the book a distinct flavor. Great review!