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Instructions for a Broken Heart by Kim Culbertson

Rating: 2/5 Stars

Genre: Contemporary

Release Date: 5/1/2011

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About the Book: Three days before her drama club's trip to Italy, Jessa stumbles in on her boyfriend with Natalie aka "the boob job." Now taking off to the most romantic city in the world. Jessa has a front row seat to Natalie and Sean's relationship. To help her move on, her best friend Carissa has sent along twenty envelopes titled "Top Twenty Reasons He's a Slimy Jerk Bastard," that Jessa is supposed to open along her trip. Each envelope includes instructions that are supposed to help Jessa get over Sean and maybe find herself along the way.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: I had high hopes for this book. The premise sounded cute and reminded me of Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes or maybe even P.S. I Love You. Unfortunately, the book ultimately fell flat for me.

I know Jessa is heartbroken, but the book is so full of her angst and not being able to get over Sean, that it grows a bit old. Maybe I would have felt sorry for her, but instead I felt she was a flat character who was whiny, annoying and she never seems to notice she's in Italy! I would love to travel to Italy and instead of enjoying her trip, Jessa spends the trip wallowing in self pity. I just couldn't feel any sympathy for her. I also never knew exactly why she was in Italy. She was there with her drama club, but why? What reasons did they have for going to Italy and what was the point of the trip? I guess I wanted more backstory and more details.

All of the characters suffered from being underdeveloped and there were too many of them to keep track of. So many of the characters and the plotlines seemed to start and then go nowhere. Things were thrown in, mentioned briefly, but then never developed or touched on again. Jessa is supposed to bond with another girl on the trip who finds her boyfriend cheating, but this never goes anywhere and is only mentioned a couple of times. There's a mean chaperon from the group Jessa's school is paired with, but her storyline never seems to have a point. She comes in, complains, and then leaves. Other characters are introduced, barely spoken to, and then be part of a major plot device that happens because they showed up. This never worked for me because I felt like I never knew any of the characters and never cared enough about any of them. I also felt the plot wandered around so much it never found its groove to really make it work. There were so many moments that fade out and stop just when the action is about to start. Overall I thought the plot had too much that was trying to happen and ended up getting lost along the way.

Carissa's notes and letters could have been fun, only they ended up being cruel and rude. Most of her reasons ended up not having anything that really would be to help Jessa (at least I thought) but instead pointed out what a jerk Sean was. Then we find out secrets Carissa has been keeping from Jessa about Sean. Honestly, at this point, I thought Carissa was a horrible friend, but instead we're supposed to forgive her and cheer on the power of girl friendship instead.

I also had issues with the suggestions that maybe Jessa made Sean cheat on her and she brought it on herself because she's ambitious and "busy". Jessa believes this line and part of her thinks that she deserved to be cheated on because she couldn't be everything Sean wanted or make enough time for him. This just really bugged me, especially since Jessa never seems to come to any sort of self discovery, but instead seems down on herself the whole time. I never felt like she came out of the trip or the experience any stronger than before.

Of course, there's supposed to be a bit of romance with a boy she meets on the trip, but there was hardly any interaction with them, I just couldn't believe it. I never saw anything that would make Jessa interesting let alone attractive to him. He's hardly in the book and I just didn't believe any possible relationship developing with them. Really, I only kept reading because I had hopes it would get better and I wanted Jessa to end up with her best guy friend who was delivering her letters.

This book might work for readers who like contemporary novels with a exotic location, but it just wasn't for me.

Book Pairings: Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson, Four Things my Geeky-Jock-Of-A-Best Friend Must Do In Europe by Jane Harrington

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from ARC received from publisher for review


  1. Wow, good to know. It had such a promising cover.

  2. Oh, what a bummer. I loved the cover, title, and general premise of the book... But it does sounds like a let-down! That being said, I may have to give it a whirl anyway; there's just something I like about that cover :)

  3. GalleySmith asked about your well being on Twitter. You may want to throw up a post about how the south west Missouri storms affected things where you are.

  4. Oh, I thought this would be good. Boo.


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Hello! My name is Sarah and I am a Youth Services Manager who works with kids, tweens and teens. I love being asked about great books to read! I started my blog in 2008 as a way to keep track of what I've been reading and to use a reference tool for reader's advisory and it's grown into much more than I could have ever anticipated. In addition to book reviews, I also enjoy posting audiobook reviews, booklists and my adventures in being a librarian. 2017 Library Journal Mover and Shaker Committees: 2021 Newbery Committee 2018 Odyssey Committee 2016 Caldecott Award 2013 Michael L. Printz Committee- Fabulous Films Committee I have also served on the Cybils, Missouri State Library Association Readers Selection Lists, and as an Audies judge. Presentations :  I have offered various presentations at local, state and national libraries and conferences. Topics have included:  What's New in Children's & Teen Literature Engaging Teens in Reader's Advisory Gee