Remember how, a couple weeks ago, I said I’d post this review after the blog tour was over because it wasn’t going to get a suitable rating on the tour? The time has come! I was actually super disappointed that I didn’t like this book, because I really wanted to. But I’ll explain it all, I promise.
In Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things, Edie Price is new to Mansfield, Massachusetts after spending her entire life in Ithaca, New York. Mansfield is… different, especially for a girl like Edie. Edie, who was in foster care before moving in with her mother’s sister and family. Edie, who’s last interaction with her best friend in Ithaca was a complete disaster. Edie, who swears off crushes and boys and love and everything with the intent of just pushing through to graduation when she can get the heck out of Mansfield. But Mansfield, and her wealthy family there, have other plans for her. Plans that include boys! And shopping! And trying to be someone she isn’t! The only person Edie really feels comfortable with is Sebastian, a friend from her childhood when she used to visit her cousins in Mansfield. But Sebastian has a girlfriend, so he’s officially off-limits. Isn’t he? And then there’s bad-boy, womanizing Henry, who is the brother of Sebastian’s girlfriend.
Let’s just say that Edie’s time in Mansfield doesn’t go as planned.
3 Things I Loved
- Edie’s voice. The writing in this book was really relatable and stellar, truly. I’ll get more into why Edie’s thoughts themselves are problematic, but the writing itself was really easy to get into.
- Sebastian. Sebastian is a sweetheart, even though he’s misguided in much of the book. I so looked forward to the scenes with him in them though.
- Julia. Edie’s younger cousin Julia was also a sweetheart, also misguided, and also a totally innocent 16-year-old girl who is looking for acceptance. I wanted more of her, and less judgment from Edie, honestly.
OOF. Let’s start with that. I’m probably not even going to have time to really get into everything here, so let’s tackle the two intertwined issues I had with the book.
First, cheating is normalized. And while I understand that a lot of situations are nuanced, and I want to believe in forgiveness and all that, there are some things in the normalization in this book that are really gross. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Let’s start with Edie’s cousin Maria. Maria is “practically engaged” to this college guy who is kind of a doof. They’ve been together for years, they have all these plans, and it seems mismatched, but fine. But then Maria goes and makes out with Henry. And she admits that she likes Henry and that her boyfriend is boring, so Edie tells her she has to choose. And she basically says no, and her boyfriend forgives her because she’s hot, and that’s that.
A caveat – I understand that this is a Mansfield Park retelling, and I’ve never read Mansfield Park. So perhaps this bullshit was in that book too. But what the eff. Maria is EIGHTEEN YEARS OLD. It’s not like she’s trapped. I have no idea why this is written as so normal?? I really hated it.
So now let’s get back to Edie for a second.
Edie has this big crush on Sebastian that basically everyone knows about. And Sebastian has the “it” girl as his girlfriend. Cool cool cool. But Edie like… keeps trying to get with Sebastian anyway, keeps trying to get him to admit that he has feelings for her, all the while also thinking that she’s not as good as Sebastian’s girlfriend, so she doesn’t deserve him anyway?? I’m CONFUSED. It seems so unnecessary. Is this what Mansfield Park is like? If so, I hate it already.
So, the second issue I had with the book is how Edie’s headspace is discussed – her inner dialogue, I should say. When Edie left Ithaca, one of the last things that happened was that her best friend Shonda’s boyfriend kissed her while Shonda was using a McDonald’s bathroom. Shonda didn’t speak to her again, and Edie moves to Mansfield without any closure. There’s a LOT to unpack here, but I’m going to break down the problems as best I can.
- Shonda is blaming Edie when she should be blaming her own scuzzy boyfriend.
- Edie internalizes that blame and even emails Shonda APOLOGIZING for something she didn’t fucking do.
I know this happens. I’ve seen it happen. It’s easier to blame the innocent third party than it is to blame the person who is supposed to love you for stepping outside the relationship. BUT LISTEN. This is a YOUNG ADULT book. Is this a lesson we want in a 2019 YOUNG ADULT BOOK???
No. It’s not.
I’m going to say this once, and then I’m going to move on. If your best friend’s boyfriend makes a move on you, IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT. That’s it. That’s the whole lesson here. It doesn’t matter if you thought it might be coming. It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing or how you’re smelling or what you’re doing. IF A BOY MAKES A MOVE ON YOU, IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT.
Now, you can encourage it, if you’re into it too, that’s a separate issue. Edie, based on the words on the page, WASN’T INTO IT. And yet, the book says it was still her fault and she still lost her friend over it. I HATE THIS SOOOOOOO MUCH.
I said these issues are intertwined, because they are. Because Edie internalizes what Shonda is saying to and about her, she approaches Sebastian in a certain way, automatically feeling like the girl who wrecks relationships, even if she doesn’t explicitly say that. And that’s just… fucked up. BUT. How she ends up acting with Sebastian IS on her to an extent, although HE ACTS TOO. So it’s still not entirely her fault.
Okay, I’m done now, I promise.
A reminder of the rating scale:
- Red = DNF, I hated everything
- Orange = Ugh, no thank you
- Yellow = I mean, I’ve read worse, but there were problems
- Green = This was good!
- Blue = Oh my gosh, I loved this book!
- Purple = This is the unicorn of books and I will be rereading it until the binding falls apart and EVERYONE should be reading it!
Ha, and here we are, the moment of truth, and the reason I couldn’t post this during the blog promotional tour. This book had problems, enough that the excellent writing and voice couldn’t make it better for me. I haven’t given a rating this low in a while, but here we go! I’m giving Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things an ORANGE rating. If you’ve made it to this point in the 1100+ word review of this book, you should already know why I feel that way!
Thank you to the publisher, Fantastic Flying Book Club blog tours, and NetGalley for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Was I too honest this time? Maybe. But that’s what I’m here for, truly.
Happy reading (and happy new year)!