Title: The Museum of Heartbreak
Author: Meg Leder
Published: June 7, 2016
Length: 256 pages
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.
Thank you so much to Simon Pulse for sending me an ARC of The Museum of Heartbreak in exchange for an honest review – I began reading with no expectations, and ended up being surprised at how much I loved this book.
I love the packaging for this book. It’s absolutely adorable, and after reading the book and looking back at the cover, every single item that is portrayed that had initially meant nothing to me held significance and told a story. It was so fun to be able to go through the book and check back with the cover, and recognize some of the items there.
I really enjoyed Meg Leder’s sweet, honest, and conversational writing style throughout this book. I also found that the pacing was great – while I thought some things (*cough* relationships) lasted longer than I would have found necessary, I also thought it was all very realistic – especially in the context of the character it concerned.
At the beginning of this book (first 100 pages or so), I thought that Penelope was really childish, and thought that some parts of her language (… ‘frakking’) were annoying, and that she could be a really immature character in general. I forgave this pretty quickly, though, because I realized that 1) a lot of her overbearing characteristics are because of how socially anxious she is, and 2) there’s not really anything wrong with a character that can be childish, and be naive in their hopes and dreams – especially when, as it was the case with this book, the character ends up growing up and learning more about themselves and the world around them (if anything, her childish hope and love for life became quite endearing).
Eph, one of Penelope’s two best friends, was definitely my favorite character in this book – I loved everything about his character, even though he could be endlessly frustrating at times. <spoiler> He was such a lovable character who so clearly understood Penelope, that it was so easy for me to root for them to end up together </spoiler>.
I also loved Penelope’s parents, which is another thing that I really appreciated about this book that is often absent in YA novels – Penelope’s parents (and Eph’s parents) are very present in this book, and actually end up being part of an important plotline. Despite the fact that parents are usually a very important part of most teenager’s lives, they’re rarely present in a fair amount of YA books.
However, <spoiler> I actually had the most issues with Audrey, Penelope’s apparent best friend since childhood – more so than I had with Cherisse, the slightly stereotypically convenient ‘mean girl’ (although she was shown to have good characteristics – she just didn’t direct them towards Penelope). Cherisse isn’t too hard to dislike, considering how directly rude and inconsiderate she is towards Penelope. However, Audrey was meant to be Penelope’s best friend – and yet, she continued to stay friends with Cherisse no matter how much of a bitch she was to Penelope, and even stayed friends with Cherisse after she slept with Penelope’s boyfriend while they were still together – and Cherisse was fully aware of the fact that they were together. This was so frustrating and irritating to me – I don’t understand how Audrey could possibly still stay friends with someone who would do that to her own best friend </spoiler>.
I thought that there was so much happening in this book – but not at all in a bad way. This was a book about first love, but it was also about self discovery, friendship, finding new passions, creation, and letting “go of that wondrous time before you ever knew things could be broken”, as the synopsis states itself.
Penelope enters this book as an extremely naive character, with expectations for everything and everyone – she expects her and Audrey to always be Delphine and Vivian, a fictional pair of best friends from her favorite childhood book, and expects love to be like a fairy-tale, and how it is in the books. However, Penelope leaves very differently – she has witnessed and experienced too much to be the same girl she was at this book’s beginning, but she’s becomes someone who isn’t held back by the expectations she sets for herself and those around her – she grows into someone she’s excited to become. I loved being able to watch Penelope mature and grow throughout the 2 months in which this book takes place, although I was sad for her each time she felt disappointed by life not being the fairy tale she always though it would be. If anything, she reminded me of my little sister – optimistic and hopeful about love and life itself, always viewing it through a vibrant lense (however, this hope never went away. Which I thought was nice).
There was something else about this book that I really loved (and that I should really stop being so surprised about finding in contemporary) – it was unexpectedly poignant. There was so much love in between the pages of this book, and so much history created between Penelope, Eph, and Audrey that tugged on heartstrings. I could feel the nostalgia in the words that I read, and all the hurt and the hope and the fear and the love. Penelope beginning to find her place and learn the truth about love, that it is entirely different from what (and where) she had always expected it to be, was genuinely moving for me to read about, and it was easy for me to root for her once I stopped being annoyed with her (which, like I said, was shortlived).