Title: Instructions for a Broken Heart
Author: Kim Culbertson
Published: May 2011 by Sourcebooks Fire
My Rating: 4 stars
Tags: YA | Romance | Realistic
First Lines: The costume barn wasn't much to look at. Just an old, rusting shed out behind the theater. Years ago, some realtor guy in town had donated it.
Jessa's heart is broken just days before she leaves on a school trip to Italy. She caught her boyfriend, Sean, making out with another girl. To make matters worse, she has to watch her now ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend pair up because they're going to Italy, too. On the plane ride, Jessa's theater friend, Tyler, gives her a stack of envelopes that her best friend Carissa wrote. There are twenty envelopes, enough to read two a day, for the entire ten days that Jessa is touring Italy. Inside each envelope is a reason why Sean is a cheating jerk that doesn't deserve Jessa, along with an instruction for Jessa to do. Through using these envelopes and discovering new things about herself, Jessa is able to slowly mend her broken heart.
I'm a sucker for lists and staying organized, so I was instantly drawn into this book. I liked the idea that there were twenty different envelopes for Jessa to read and it worked as a system - two letters a day. The pace of the story was perfect and Jessa's grieving over Sean was very realistic. She would act like she was over him when he tried talking to her, when really she was craving to hug him. I liked Jessa's character and enjoyed watching Carissa's instructions take her out of her comfort zone. Whether it was announcing something in a public place or doing a bold move, Jessa did it. Even at times when she thought the envelopes were just plain stupid and wanted to throw them all away, she stuck through with them to the end and I thought that showed commitment.
There were a few side stories in the book that could have been developed better. I wish the random romances between characters that showed up near the end were described more. However, each character in the story had depth and substance. They were complex, and I grew so familiar with even the minor ones that only showed up in the story a few times. The writing in this novel was just breathtaking! I really liked the author's gorgeous, descriptive sentences. It was so poetic at times.
From page 130
The disco throbbed with techno music, mostly hits from the early nineties, tinny and hollow in the way that kind of techno pop could give the brain its own pulse. Tyler handed her a lukewarm soda, his head bobbing. The kids from the other group were decked out in full glamour gear. They gyrated and writhed on the dance floor, their bodies sending up a steamy haze in the smoky room.
I adored all of the theater references! The backstage stories, the songs from musicals mentioned, it was all so interesting to read about in a young adult book. High school theater is not given the appreciation it deserves, so I especially liked how stressed it was in this story. And now stating the obvious, the setting! Ahhh Italy, the perfect place to heal a broken heart right? Wrong. Jessa was completely surrounded by love and couples, yet she pushed through it. I liked reading about all of the many landmarks and different places that her theater group visited. It was so interesting and the author hit the nail on the head during the scene in the book where the students are so busy texting, that they're missing all of the beauty around them. Even though this was just a minor scene, it left a big impression on me. Humans are so busy nowadays with their fancy gadgets and high-tech gear, that sometimes we just need to stop, put it away, and look at the world with fresh, new eyes. And that's exactly what the students did.
I definitely recommend this book for those who like realistic chick-lit and books by Sarah Dessen. Jessa was a mess at the beginning of the book, and grew into an entirely new person by the end. Speaking of which, the ending I didn't see coming at all! There were two or three twists in the story, and I was literally smiling on the last page. Everything just worked out so perfectly, yet it wasn't cheesy or unrealistic! You'll just have to read the book to find out what I mean...
Cover Thoughts: I really like it! The colors are vibrant, the text is pretty, and I like the Italy backdrop.