In this ode to all the things we gain and lose and gain again, seventeen-year-old Penelope Marx curates her own mini-museum to deal with all the heartbreaks of love, friendship, and growing up.
Welcome to the Museum of Heartbreak.
Well, actually, to Penelope Marx’s personal museum. The one she creates after coming face to face with the devastating, lonely-making butt-kicking phenomenon known as heartbreak.
Heartbreak comes in all forms: There’s Keats, the charmingly handsome new guy who couldn’t be more perfect for her. There’s possibly the worst person in the world, Cherisse, whose mission in life is to make Penelope miserable. There’s Penelope’s increasingly distant best friend Audrey. And then there’s Penelope’s other best friend, the equal-parts-infuriating-and-yet-somehow-amazing Eph, who has been all kinds of confusing lately.
But sometimes the biggest heartbreak of all is learning to let go of that wondrous time before you ever knew things could be broken.
Description taken from Goodreads. I received an advance copy of this book, to be released June 7th, 2016, via the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
It’s 2 in the morning, I just finished @megleder‘s book and I don’t even know what to do with myself right now
— Eli Madison (@elimadison2019) March 5, 2016
I mentioned in my review of The Distance from A to Z that I usually don’t enjoy contemporaries where the plot mostly centers around drama. On occasion, it works. Most of the time, it doesn’t. Not for me.
In The Museum of Heartbreak, it worked.
There were several reasons for this, the main ones being that I loved the main characters, and the drama was not so excessive that I grew tired while I was reading the book.
And oh, the main characters.
Eph was by far my favorite. More than just being that being that person who is just destined to end up as Penelope’s boyfriend, he seemed like an amazing friend. He was always there for Penelope 100%, even when she had a boyfriend who wasn’t him. He defended her, but he wasn’t afraid to tell her when she was being bratty or unreasonable. While I couldn’t really visualize him, I still loved him.
Other than the fact that Penelope feels like a 14 year old for most of the book, I enjoyed her character a lot too. She knows when she’s wrong, and she feels things deeply. She holds other people to high standards, but only because she holds herself to even higher standards. She goes through a lot of character growth, and she has to deal with the loss of the people she cares about most. That‘s really what this book is all about, and Penelope played the role of the main character perfectly.
Think of this like the true novel version of Daniel Handler’s Why We Broke Up, except instead of items that lead to the destruction of a relationship (and my heart), The Museum of Heartbreak is about a girl losing everyone that she truly loves, and then having to figure out what she wants to do about it. I really enjoyed the format of the novel itself and the little drawings that represented each item in the museum, and I loved the way that the museum idea tied in at the end.
The scenes were what really made me love this book. They’re cute, they’re funny and they’re the most memorable part of this story. My only real complaint about this book is that the themes are pretty unoriginal. In terms of heart-jerking impact, there’s nothing non YA fluffy contemporary about them. That makes things pretty predictable. It was the same thing with the supporting characters, who tended to fit into cardboard cut-outs (resident mean girl, charming player, etc.) However, like I said, the plot events and the main characters were there. The scenes were there, and they (along with the museum twist) make The Museum of Heartbreak worth reading.
If you’re looking for a quick contemporary with a little bit of drama thrown in, go for this one. You’ve got fantastic dialogue, best friends and elements of growing up. The writing is solid and the plot and main characters are well thought out. Would recommend to contemporary fans. Any chance I won’t be following Meg Leder’s novels in the future?
Image courtesy of Ephraim O’Connor himself.
pg count for the hardback: 256