Friday, December 30, 2011
Looking for the Bright Side: Instructions for a Broken Heart
Instructions for a Broken Heart by Kim Culbertson
Sourcebooks Fire, 2011
I'm one of those typical Caucasian Americans who has a blissfully messy European background. Italian, Irish, German, English, Austrian, Polish, and on and on and on. That being said, I've always been a fan in learning about the countries of my ancestors, trying to visit them, and reading books that take place there. When I read the description for Kim Culbertson's Instructions for a Broken Heart, it sounded like it was right up my alley - the majority of the story takes place during a girl's spring break trip to Italy.
Unfortunately, that's also where my excitement ended, and it really does pain me to say that because I had such high hopes for this book and was praying that it would turn around somehow.
Jessa's troubles start in the first chapter when she walks in on her boyfriend making out with another girl from their high school's drama club, only days before the club is to leave for a tour of Italy. Not wanting to let a boy ruin her plans to see the country she's dreamed of her whole life, she decides to go on the trip even though it will mean having to watch the new couple be all over each other.
It's an awkward and unfortunate situation to be in to be sure. I can empathize with being in Italy with a broken heart and I know it's not fun. However, it's not enough of an excuse for the often bizarre events that happen, Jessa's self-centered and all around poor attitude, and the fact that despite the fact that the whole story takes place over the course of 10 days, I felt lost half the time. Names, places, and an endless supply of Broadway references that non-thespians won't understand piled up into a big emotional mess. While I expected there to be a bit of over-dramatic flair given the fact that this is a high school drama club, this was simply ridiculous.
The titular instructions for a broken heart are laid out by Jessa's friend Carissa who was unable to make the trip, so instead she lays out 20 tasks Jessa must complete while she's away. While her intentions may have been good (and I use that word incredibly loosely), the results are disastrous more often than not. And since I found the main character to be pretty one dimensional, it shouldn't come as a shock that I wasn't exactly blown away by the 'supporting cast' either. The inclusion of a tour group from another school only added to the confusion. Another aspect of the story that irked me was that Culbertson would build up to reveals only to have them be incredibly anticlimactic.
I could honestly keep going on about why this book just fell short for me (don't even get me started on the ending), but I think you catch the drift of what I'm saying. Were I a person in Jessa's shoes, maybe I'd be more sympathetic to her views and actions, but to me this story was so full of cliches and half-thought-out ideas that I can't say I'd recommend it.
Comments welcome and happy reading.
Kim Culbertson's Website