Sixteen year old Becca Williamson has a unique business plan. For a hundred bucks (paid via Pay Pal, of course), she will break up any high school couple. Becca’s services are rendered in anonymity and she’s very good at what she does.
But when Becca is approached by a new potential client, she has some misgivings. The couple in question are the king and queen bee of her high school and seemingly the perfect couple. Nearly inseparable, there’s the added twist that Huxley is her former best friend and head of the school dance squad. When she’s offered triple her fee if she can break the two up before Steve has to commit to a college, Becca accepts the challenge and begins a long game to sew the seeds of discontent between Huxley and Steve.
In order to do this, Becca goes undercover, joining the dance team and rekindling her friendship with Huxley. As Becca starts gathering the dirt on both sides to try and break them up, she begins to question her methods, business plan and whether she should continue as “The Break-Up Artist.”
Philip Siegel’s novel is an anti-thesis of all your typical young-adult romance novels. Becca is cynical and jaded when it comes to romance, thanks in large part to her older sister. The older sister has been living at home since her fiancee called off the wedding just hours before the ceremony and refuses to reconnect with her old friends, who have gone on with their lives, family and careers.
Over the course of the story, we see Becca’s conflict played out on the page. The party behind the break-up and their motives does come to light at the end and it’s interesting to watch as Becca is exposed as “The Break-Up Artist” and the consequences to her and her new found relationships — not only with Huxley, but also a burgeoning romance with the boyfriend of her best friend, Val.
The novel walks a fine line of having us understand Becca and her motivations without making her completely unsympathetic. There is humor in the pages and there is some well realized and authentic teen drama found on these pages. Siegel wisely makes all of the characters three-dimensional and there are times you’ll like them and times you won’t like them. But you’ll always have a clear understanding of what drives them and what motivates them.
A refreshingly different take on the teen angst novel, “The Break-Up Artist” almost screams out for a sequel. Not every thread is resolved and it would be interesting to visit Becca and her world again soon to see what develops next.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.