Oh my god guys. Oh. My. God. This book, SLAYED MY HEART. It squidged and bruised and punched it, and then turned it into joy confetti. WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!?! Thank you universe for putting this little miracle of a book in my path.
I feel so lucky to have received an advanced reader copy of Only Love Can Break Your Heart from publishers because it is 100% the best book I have read all year, and I have a feeling a lot of people will be talking about it (in between uncontrollable sobbing). The thing is, it looks like such a sweet little unassuming book, BUT DON’T BE FOOLED. Inside is hidden treasure folks, shiny awesome desert treasure.
Sometimes a broken heart is all you need to set you free… Reiko loves the endless sky and electric colours of the Californian desert. It is a refuge from an increasingly claustrophobic life of family pressures and her own secrets. Then she meets Seth, a boy who shares a love of the desert and her yearning for a different kind of life. But Reiko and Seth both want something the other can’t give them. As summer ends, things begin to fall apart. But the end of love can sometimes be the beginning of you…
When I read Webber’s debut novel Wing Jones I was impressed. It was so polished I couldn’t believe that it was her first novel. However, Only Love Can Break Your Heart raises the bar to a whole other level, the few minor gripes I had about Webber’s first book have been wiped away. The writing is slick and smooth, and so unbelievably emotive. Webber’s writing shines as bright as the desert stars she depicts and is as hopeful as the morning sunrise over the rocky sand. It’s also got an almost dreamy/surreal quality to it – this book sucks you in and the rest of the world fades away. This is also helped by the short manageable chapters that make it difficult to put down, and when I did put it down, I still couldn’t stop thinking about the story. I honestly haven’t read a book that has made me feel this emotional in a long time!
Only Love Can Break Your Heart isn’t so much a love story, as a story about love in all its different forms. I also think the less you know going into this book the better so I may be a bit cryptic in this review in places!
This story is about love and grief.
As we enter the story, our wonderful protagonist Reiko (pronounced Ray-Koh) is struggling to process the unexpected death of her older sister. While the world continues on, and her family seems to be coping, Reiko is unable to let go. Her every step and breath aches. She is so vulnerable and fragile, and when no one is looking, she still confides in the ghost of her dead sister.
To cope, Reiko is determined to be the best she can be, she has to live her life for two people now. She must keep her grades up and go to university because her sister is unable to; she must be popular and hang out with the right people, be seen at all the parties, date the cutest boys, and be prom queen – because her sister has been robbed, stolen too soon. While Reiko’s character initially seems arrogant and self-centered, and she doesn’t always treat people well, we soon learn that this comes from a very deep place. Reiko is fighting against the person she feels she should be, and the person she really is – and I’m gonna be honest with y’all, while she’s figuring it out, she’s going to be a bit of a b***.
This story is about love and wanderlust.
When no one is looking in the dead of night, Reiko regularly sneaks out into the desert. She looks up at the stars and wonders at the beauty of nature. She rock climbs in the moonlight. In the desert, Reiko can be free and alone with her own thoughts. No pressure, no persona to keep up. But that all changes when one warm night she bumps into another lone soul in the desert’s wide expanse.
This is a story about romantic love. Why do we seek it? When is it real?
The romance in this story is so realistic and complex. When Reiko and Seth meet in the desert they seem to be kindred souls. Both feel lost and alone, both unable to be who they feel they want to be. They spend their time exploring, and they’re just cute enough to make the readers heart do that little squeezey flip flop thing. Yet there’s just something, some small niggle that doesn’t feel quite right, and that’s because Webber digs deeper – because do we ever truly know another person or what’s in their mind? When we fall in love or lust, do we fall for the actual person or for the idea of them? Or maybe because of how they make us feel? Maybe they can provide something we don’t have, or help us escape from something? Also, what do you do when one person in the relationship has more power than the other?
I loved watching this complex relationship develop, and in some ways, I wish we could also have a separate version of the book where we see Seth’s point of view because both these characters have their own story to tell. There is also a really poignant scene on consent which was sensitively done, and made me automatically reward the author with 10 bonus points!
This story is about love and family.
Throughout her grief, Reiko has spent a lot of time shutting her family out, and as the story progresses we slowly see them chipping at Reiko’s exterior and finding a way in. I’m kind of in love with Reiko’s family and how caring and considerate they are. I want to hang out with them because they are all kinds of ice cream with sprinkles and chocolate sauce on top. Reiko’s dad is Japanese and Reiko’s mum is American – they are both all kinds of awesome. I also need to squidge Reiko’s cute younger brother up in a bear hug because he was just so adorable and he was one of my favourite parts of the novel!
Most importantly, this story is about learning to love yourself.
Reiko goes on one heck of an emotional journey in this novel. She thinks she’s whole, she thinks she’s got everything figured out, but it is only when she falls to pieces and loses everything she previously thought was important that she understands who she really is, and no matter how many coming of age YA novels I read, there is something truly beautiful about that.
Overall, Only Love Can Break Your Heart is a stunningly emotionally charged tale of grief, family, strength and self-discovery with one of the most realistic romantic relationships I have ever read. This review feels so inadequate at expressing how exceptional this book was. But ultimately, I feel no number of words in a review could do this book justice! This is 100% the best book I’ve read so far this year and I want to shout about it to everyone!
Will you be seeking out a copy of Only Love Can Break Your Heart? What’s the most emotionally draining book you’ve read this year? Turns out, I kinda like having my heart stomped on by books so send me your recs!
Overall Impression: 5/5
Writing Style 5/5
Character Development 5/5
Would I recommend this book? YAAAASSSSSSSS!