Title: The Museum of Heartbreak
Author: Meg Leder
UK Release Date: 7th June 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance
-> I received a copy of this book for free via the publisher; all thoughts are honest and my own.
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.
I had seen The Museum of Heartbreak floating around in loads of shops before I eventually got my hands on a copy – it seemed as if every time I went into a bookshop last summer, I would see it on the table in the middle – and so I was very happy to be able to grab it at the Scholastic Bloggers’ Book Feast. It didn’t quite up to expectations, especially when I featured it in a post-Valentine’s day blog post which I now don’t think it was suitable for, but was still a rather sweet book.
I think the main reason that I didn’t get on with this book as well as I’d hoped to was because I felt misled by the tagline and blurb. While it did focus on heartbreak as the main theme, seeing as it said ‘Maybe in real life there aren’t happy endings…’ on the cover, I really wasn’t expecting the ending that I got. On the whole, the entire impression that the book gave off was that it was documenting a story of heartbreak, in a similar style to Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman, and I guess I thought that the ending which followed should be along the idea of her heart being broken, but that she had found closure so ultimately she could move on. However, the heartbreak element was more something that happened along the way as part of a bigger romance. If you enjoy romances a lot, then obviously this would be great for you – I guess I was just disappointed as I’d been looking forward to some sort of anti-romance, which I didn’t get!
Even though I just spent the above paragraph saying there was probably a tad too much romance for what I thought would truly fit with the book, it wasn’t a bad romance at all. In fact, I did rather enjoy it! I’m not going to say too much as I don’t want to give any spoilers, but it was really cute, especially towards the end as things developed more. At the beginning of the novel, I wasn’t massively keen on the protagonist, Penelope, and I thought that many of her decisions were irrational, although you could sometimes understand where she was coming from. However, she underwent a lot of character development over the course of the story, and I was definitely much fonder of her by the end. I guess in a way it was nice that she got to have a happy ending!
While the idea of having the ‘Museum of Heartbreak’ didn’t pan out exactly how I was expecting, I do want to say that I think it was a really great idea for structuring the story. It was funny at the end when a certain character didn’t seem too impressed by it at first, as it definitely put things in perspective – no one would ordinarily care much about a KitKat wrapper. But through the way the story was told, and how each item was shown to be a step along the journey that took the reader to the end of the novel, you could really see the story taking shape. I’ve only read one book that’s done something comparable, so I would definitely say that it provides a unique approach to building a story, and I think it was really interesting on the whole.
Overall, I would say that this book was a little disappointing in some ways, but good in others. I grew to like the characters and the romance, and the idea was really unique, which I liked. On the other hand, it didn’t live up to expectation as I was hoping for some sort of anti-romance, it was a tad cliché, and the characters weren’t my favourites at first. I guess that on the whole my feelings are rather mixed, so if your interest has been piqued, I would recommend reading it to see how you feel about it yourself!