Unfurl the Jib: Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker

Clementine is forced to spend a summer on a boat with her family. This would be bad enough if it was any other summer, but to make it all worse, this is the summer after Clementine has lost all of her friends and had her heart broken into a million little pieces. Her life is hard enough having to listen to people sing “Oh my darling…” to her all the time, but Clem’s teenage woe is not enough to save her from a summer of quality family time. A vacation on a boat is not ideal for Clem, and a vacation with an angsty teenager isn’t exactly ideal for her family either, but it’s a summer for learning to make the best of things.

Melissa Walker’s Unbreak My Heart is a lovely summer read that mixes easy breezy vacation life and real life complexity beautifully by alternating chapters between past and present. Walker handles the difficulties of friendship, infidelity, and grieving well by presenting the grey areas of situations from unexpected viewpoints and pacing information such that the reader constantly has to recalibrate their opinions about characters.

That said, the family dynamics and unusual setting trumped the plotting for me. Clem’s family was completely relatable and very present in a way that is uncommon for YA, and I haven’t had such a good time vicariously floating down a river since Huck and Jim. Since actual sailing would probably make me extremely ill and possibly claustrophobic, I was perfectly content enjoying the trip through fiction. And I couldn’t keep myself from laughing hysterically every time someone said “unfurl the jib.” I still have no idea what that means, but it makes me laugh.

Contemp fans looking for a summer read will appreciate the authenticity of Unbreak My Heart and its unfamiliar approach to familiar topics.

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