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Instructions for a Broken Heart    by Kim Culbertson order for
Instructions for a Broken Heart
by Kim Culbertson
Order:  USA  Can
Sourcebooks, 2011 (2011)
Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

As in her debut novel, Songs for a Teenage Nomad, Kim Culbertson has once again crafted a realistic portrayal of teenage life with all of its ups and downs. Unlike her first novel, though, Instructions for a Broken Heart is more upbeat and hopeful throughout.

Just days before her drama academy's trip to Italy, Jessa Gardner catches her boyfriend Sean making out with the buxom Natalie in the costume barn. Devastated, Jessa blows off her many extracurriculars for the next few days, but she is bound and determined to let nothing stop her from enjoying Italy. She starts second-guessing her decision somewhere over the Atlantic, watching Sean and Natalie cuddle on the plane. Luckily, her friend Tyler has an envelope for her from her best friend Carissa. Inside the envelope are twenty smaller envelopes, each containing a reason Sean was a bad boyfriend, with an instruction for Jessa to follow to help herself get over him.

At first, while reluctant to do the un-Jessa-like tasks, she follows the directions with Tyler's careful prodding. Soon, though, Carissa's instructions get Jessa in trouble and she starts to realize she needs to handle some things in her own way. But she continues through the envelopes, learning more about Sean, herself, and Carissa than she may be able to handle.

Culbertson picked the perfect backdrop for this novel of healing and self-realization. Italy is a country made for love and reflection. Many of her descriptions put the reader right there with Jessa, both in the setting and in her emotional state. On the outside, Jessa is the typical over-achieving high school student, but as she goes through her friend's instructions, her true self is revealed in a way that helps the reader connect with her on a deeper level. This makes the story and Jessa stick with the reader long after the book is finished.

With Instructions for a Broken Heart, Kim Culbertson has now clearly shown that she understands the minds of teenagers. Keep a look out for this rising star of YA contemporaries.

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