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?
Told in alternating chapters that chronicle the year that broke Clem’s heart and the summer that healed it, Unbreak My Heart is a wonderful dual love story that fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Susane Colasanti will flock to.
OPINION: 5 STARS
With a strong emotional atmosphere, and delving beautifully into a gray area of relationships, Unbreak My Heart is a solid romance built into a coming of age. Easily switching between the past and the present, and building Clem’s character steadily through both, this one takes common elements and threads them together in a new way. With a well described setting centered on the boat, and cutting off much of the usual methods of communication, Walker leaves her mark with this one.
Clem is a highly relatable character, a girl who is a mess at the start of the book with a rough view of herself. Broken up over losing her best friend after she fell for said friend’s boyfriend, but also hurting at losing the boy who she felt such a deep connection with, Clem’s broken heart and shattered feelings are beautifully showcased, and smoothly navigated. While simultaneously watching her fall apart and put herself back together, readers will have an all access pass to who Clem was before, is now, and is becoming. Clem has a strong family support system, even if she actively tries to push them away, and a little sister that is full of life and is in, truth, quite an inspiration. While her parents do push some, they also give her space, trying to let her work things out on her own while making it clear they are there. Admittedly, Clem is selfish and bratty at times, but when set against the horrible view she has of herself over what’s happened, it’s easy to look past and understand.
Notable about this book is the way Walker handles the almost particular situation that Clem found herself in with Ethan and Amanda. With strong feelings she can’t help tainting her judgment, and in truth, egged on by the boy who should only be giving that sort of attention to Amanda, it’s easy as a reader and a person to understand why Clem did what she did. There is an inherent emotional air to this, and while the natural reaction is to dislike Clem for seemingly going after her best friend’s boyfriend, Walker has explained things without excusing them in the most perfect way. Leaving readers with mixed feelings towards not only Clem but Amanda and Ethan as well in regards to this, and likely drawing up emotions from their own past, Unbreak My Heart has a rawness to it that shines.
Then there’s James, the boy who helps Clem sort through everything. Always with a smile, and a different sort of view on life, James is quietly charming and outwardly fun. Not necessarily the standard view of hot, but definitely cute, James is one of those guys who has such a strong personality that the other stuff just doesn’t matter as much. The building romance between James and Clem is sweet, with a friendship growing as much as stronger feelings.
This one has a steady pacing to it, and despite taking place entirely on a sailboat or in marinas, there are plenty of things going on. Focused heavily on Clem, and with stellar characterization, this is an emotionally driven book yet has a vividness to it that will keep readers engaged. With a strong voice, and smooth writing, Walker will keeps readers thinking of her book long after the pages are done.
Reading level: Ages 12 and up
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication Date: May 22, 2012