May 11, 2011

Instructions for a Broken Heart by Kim Culbertson

Release Date: May 1, 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pages: 320
Review Source: Finished copy from publisher

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
Three days before her drama club's trip to Italy, Jessa Gardner discovers her boyfriend in the costume barn with another girl. Jessa is left with a care package from her best friend titled "Top Twenty Reasons He's a Slimy Jerk Bastard," instructing her to do one un-Jessa-like thing each day of the trip. At turns hilarious and heartwrenching, Instructions for a Broken Heart paints a magical Italy in which Jessa learns she must figure out life-and romance-for herself.

My Thoughts:
‘Instructions for a Broken Heart’ is a read that fell somewhere right in the middle for me. I didn’t love it, though I really liked certain aspects of it. I loved the descriptions of the Italian scenery and all the different monuments and places that Jessa and her classmates visited. I also thought the letters from Jessa’s best friend Carissa were a great plot device. The letters allowed Jessa to do things that were out of character for her, and while a lot of them ended up in catastrophe it was interesting to read about, and they helped Jessa grow.

One reason why I’m sort of on the fence about this book is that I was sort of ambivalent toward Jessa. I felt bad for her, but she had so many confusing emotions running through her that it made it hard to relate. She kept changing her mind about things, and she felt everything SO DEEPLY that at times her narrative voice seemed a bit melodramatic. I appreciated the base emotions that Jessa was expressing, though, and her good heart made it easy enough to root for her.

The secondary characters each had their moments as well. Carissa, with her putting all the letters together, appears to be a great best friend, but some of the letters’ content showed how this might not necessarily be the case. I was a bit confused about why this drama really needed to be part of the plot, because there was definitely enough going on already. Jessa’s other BFF Tyler was an awesome addition to the story as he was funny, sweet, and supportive until suddenly he’s not: his character transformation seemed a bit sudden, but for the most part he's a really enjoyable character. Then there’s Dylan Thomas who is smart and cute, but is too absent for much of the story.

This is a interesting (though predictable) story with a lot of good parts to it, and it was well written as well. I just feel like it’s missing a certain je ne sais quoi. I know that’s not very helpful, but despite the issues above I can’t exactly put my finger on what stopped me from absolutely loving it. If you enjoy travel stories or narratives with tasks outlined in letters then this is well worth a read. It has a good message to it about being yourself and embracing your emotions without being ruled by them.


Find Instructions for a Broken Heart by Kim Culbertson on Goodreads, Book Depository, &


  1. I just finished Huntress and had a pretty identical reaction to that one as you did this one. I liked it overall, but it was missing something for me that would make me want to pick it up and re-read it just to experience it all again. This one does sound like a cute story, but I think I'll wait on it since there are so many books I'm dying to read. Thanks Ashley!

  2. Thanks for the review. This one sounded like a cute read, but I've read a bunch of books that are just ok lately. So I'll probably wait a while longer to pick it up, too.

  3. Thanks for the review Ashley! I really like how the novel is set in Italy which is so different compared to other novels but it looks like the characters leave more to be desired, which is unfortunate...

  4. I was back and forth on this one too. I agree that Jessa was a bit melodramatic, but I though it seemed realistic for a teen going through her first real heartbreak. It was frustrating though.

  5. I always find it difficult to write a review when I'm on the fence, so I really appreciate what a great job you did of showing both sides of the coin! This sounds like a fun read -- but like you, the melodrama frustrates me sometimes. I'll have to think about this one. Thanks for this thoughtful, insightful review!


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment; I appreciate each one!


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