Don’t fall in love with a Vargas. That’s the vow of the Hernandez sisters after two of Jude’s older sisters had their hearts broken by a Vargas brother. One got stood up at prom and another saw an engagement called off just weeks before the wedding. Each of the four Hernandez sisters swore and signed an oath that they wouldn’t get involved with a Vargas boy.
But when her father develops early onset Alzheimer’s, Jude wants to defy the doctor and experts by helping her father restore his Harley. And that means hiring a Emilio Vargas to work on the bike. Jude hopes she can keep his identity hidden from her sisters and parents, who may not react well to having Emilio spending time in their barn, working with their father and putting the old motorcycle back together. But as her father slowly disappears into his illness and parts of his life vanish from his memory, Jude finds herself isolated from her old friends and touched by Emilio’s sensitivity and connection not only to the Harley but to her father as well.
Could it be that Emilio is the apple that fell far away from the family tree? Or will he eventually revert to family type and break Jude’s heart?
Sarah Ockler’s The Book of Broken Hearts attempts to answer those questions. Listening to Jude’s struggle between her growing feelings for Emilio and her determined denial that the Alzheimer’s will claim her father’s memories drives a great deal of the first half of this novel. Jude’s quiet desperation to prove the experts wrong is as touching as it is heartbreaking. As a reader/listener, I quickly realized that Jude’s pinning her hopes that by restoring the Harley, she might restore her father was totally misguided but completely understandable. Add in that Jude’s old friends don’t quite know how to react to her father’s new condition and begin distancing themselves from her while Emilio is patient with her father and doesn’t flinch when her father has an episode and you’ve got a recipe for the good girl falling for the bad boy, who may not be as bad as he appears.
Ockler creates a fully realized, realistic world for her teenage romance. It’s interesting to hear that one of Jude’s sisters is a reader for a publishing house. This gives Ockler (via Jude) the chance to comment on how real life romance rarely involves supernatural elements or sparkly vampires. The occasional jabs at those areas of the young adult shelf are welcome.
But what really drives the story is our first person narrator Jude. Her conflict between what she sees as her loyalty to her family and her growing attraction to Emilio helps drive much of the novel. It’s not an easy road to romance for these two, but the obstacles (both real and imagined) feel realistic and earned. And while Ocker resolves some of the threads in Jude’s story, not everything is conveniently wrapped up by the time we get to the end of the final disc. This part of Jude’s journey is complete, but that doesn’t mean everything is neatly wrapped up with a bow.
Ockler’s story is an entertaining one. I listen to audio books while working out and I found this one worked as a good distraction from how hard I was working and, at times, I looked forward to my next work out so I could see how the story of Jude and her family would progress.