The Museum of Heartbreak: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg LederPenelope Marx has never been kissed. She loves her family and her friends. She dreams of dinosaurs fleeing New York City. She longs for the day she will fall in love. She has no idea how many forms heartbreak can take for one girl.

Penelope’s best friend Audrey is more interested in hanging out with Cherisse–a girl whose sole purpose in life seems to be making Penelope miserable. Keats, the beautiful new boy in school, is absolutely perfect and painfully unattainable–at least at first. Then there’s Eph, Penelope’s other best friend, a boy who is either frustratingly endearing or endearingly frustrating. Pen is never quite sure.

In a year filled with changes and heartbreaks both small and large, Penelope will have to figure out how to move forward–especially when she knows exactly how fragile a heart can be in The Museum of Heartbreak (2016) by Meg Leder.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Museum of Heartbreak is a charming debut with a sincere and authentic heroine at its core. Nothing goes quite as expected for Penelope during her junior year of high school, forcing her to admit that sometimes change can be not only healthy but necessary.

Although she and her friends are privileged children of wealthy parents (Penelope’s family lives in a brownstone near her father’s job at the Museum of Natural History–a status mirrored by Audrey, Eph, and most of the students at their private school), Pen’s New York is still a glaringly authentic one from grimy thrift shop experiences to being yelled at on the subway platform.

Despite these moments of reality, The Museum of Heartbreak still maintains a strong sense of wonder and appreciation for the unique opportunities and experiences to be found in New York City.

Penelope is an introspective and authentic heroine who will appeal to fans of Jenny Han’s Lara Jean series. Like Lara Jean, Penelope wants to grow up and fall in love, but she also likes hanging out at home with her friends and chatting with her parents. While straddling the awkward space between childhood and adulthood–a transition that leaves her feeling unsettled and ill-prepared for whatever is supposed to come next–Penelope tries to make sense of her changing perceptions of her parents and closest her friends.

The Museum of Heartbreak is a story of first loves and second chances filled with characters who sometimes stumble even as they learn to try again. The Museum of Heartbreak is a story about stepping away from what’s comfortable and finding something even better. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira; Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett; Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake; Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum; So Much Closer by Susane Colasanti; Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg; To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han; The Truth Commission by Susan Juby; Everywhere You Want to Be by Christina June; It Sounded Better In My Head by Nina Kenwood; Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella; The Last Time We Were Us by Leah Konen; The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart; The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord; Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta; Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills; The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson; The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood; This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales; Bookish Boyfriends: A Date With Darcy by Tiffany Schmidt; Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith; P. S. I Like You by Kasie West; The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

*An advance copy of this title was acquired from the publisher for review consideration*

Starry Nights: A Review

Starry Nights by Daisy WhitneyJulien Garnier is a skilled draftsman even if his own works always lack that creative spark found in great art. But that’s usually okay. Working as a tour guide in the museum his mother runs means that Julien is never far away from the inspiration and beauty found in the works of Van Gogh, Monet and other old talents–especially other Impressionists.

When a peach falls out of a painting and Olympia’s cat wanders the museum, Julien thinks he must be dreaming. Then Degas’ dancers jete across the museum floor and Julien realizes that, impossible as it seems, what he is seeing is very, very real.

When a lost Renoir arrives at the museum, Julien can’t help but fall in love with the girl it depicts. He falls even harder when she walks out of the painting and introduces herself.

But Clio isn’t like the other art. Instead of a mere depiction, Clio is a real girl trapped inside the painting by a strange and powerful curse.

As Julien learns more about Clio and how he might be able to free her, other strange things begin affecting are throughout the museum. As the paintings twist and change, Julien and Clio must race to find a way to break the curse–even if it might tear them apart in Starry Nights (2013) by Daisy Whitney.

With its beautiful cover and intriguing premise, who wouldn’t be excited about Starry Nights? The book itself is physically beautiful with full color endpapers featuring some of the paintings mentioned in the story. The initial summary is also extremely appealing to any art enthusiast.

Although this book is adorably romantic with a decidedly French feeling conveyed in the setting, it never quite realizes its potential. Instead of becoming a resonant or memorable story, Starry Nights falls short in key moments where the characters and the events themselves could have gone further. Part of the problem here is definitely too much happening in too short a book.

Starry Nights is only 288 pages (hardcover) and Whitney packs a lot into those pages. The realms of believability (even in a story where art comes to life) are tested and stretched repeatedly as new dimensions are added to the story and the premise reshapes itself around this new information.

While the settings and the initial premise were delightful the story became mired in less enjoyable details including, sadly, a romantic pairing that was never quite as convincing as it needed to be for such a patently romantic book. Starry Nights will be a joy for art fans and readers looking for a superficially satisfying romance with some offbeat twists. Readers looking for a richer story or characters with more depth may have to look elsewhere.

Possible Pairings: Heist Society by Ally Carter, Graffitti Moon by Cath Crowley, The Rescue Artist: A True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece by Edward Dolnick, Bunheads by Sophie Flack, Temping Fate by Esther Friesner, Darker Still by Leanna Renne Hieber, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Confessions of a Not It Girl by Melissa Kantor, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2013*

Liked Wonderstruck? Why not visit the American Museum of Natural History with the author?

Brian Selznick’s latest book Wonderstruck touched on a lot of different subjects and visited several places, with one of the most prominent being the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

During the holidays I visited AMNH to see their origami tree.

Thanks to Mr. Selznick and Scholastic, you can visit the museum any time–with Brian Selznick!–to see the different museum exhibits that played important parts in Wonderstruck from the Wolf Diorama to the Ahnighito Meteorite.

The main page for the virtual field trip can be found here: http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/collection/vitural-field-trip-teaching-resources

If you just want to jump in feet first here’s the actual tour video: http://www.scholastic.com/teachbrianselznick/assets/video.htm

(Thank you to Alexandra Wladich at Scholastic for sharing this super fun resource with me back in December.)

Wonderstruck: A Review

Wonderstruck by Brian SelznickIn 1977 in Gunflint Lake, Minnesota Ben’s mother just died. Ben has to share a room with his annoying cousin who makes fun of him for being born deaf in one ear even though his old house–the cottage he shared with his mom–is right down the road. Ben is drawn back to the cottage as strongly as he is to the wolves that chase him in his dreams. When a clue about the father he’s never met points to New York City, Ben knows he has to follow it.

In 1927, Rose is suffocating at home with her father in Hoboken, New Jersey. All Rose wants is to be able to go out by herself, like the other kids, and to watch Lillian Mayhew in silent films. When Rose learns that sound is coming to the movies and that Lillian Mayhew is starring in a play right across the river in New York City, how can she stay away?

Will New York City reveal its secrets for Ben and Rose? Will either of them find what they’re searching for in Wonderstruck (2011) by Brian Selznick?

Find it on Bookshop.

Wonderstruck is Selznick’s second book told in words and pictures like his Caldecott winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret. In this book Ben’s story in words intertwines in surprising ways with Rose’s story told through pictures.

Although the format is still brilliant and the story is once again clever and utterly original Wonderstruck lacks some of the verve and guileless charm of Hugo Cabret. The story is messier with a more immediate sense of loss and details that never tie together quite as neatly as they did in Selznick’s earlier novel.*

New York’s American Museum of Natural History plays a prominent role in this story adding a nice to dimension to the story that will make it especially appealing for some readers** but Wonderstruck felt very busy as though it was tackling too much in one book.

That is not to say that Brian Selznick is not a genius. He is–that fact is beyond debate. He combines words and pictures in a new way reinventing the whole idea of printed stories and blurring the line between prose fiction and picture books. His books are also always filled with historical details and facts that are well documented in a bibliography at the end of the story. Wonderstruck is a particularly find pick for anyone with an interest in New York City or museums.

*I’m thinking particularly of Jamie’s behavior in the book. Also the fact that Ben never felt much of a loss after the lightning strike. Did anyone else find that odd?

**Like everyone who went to my grade school in 1993. Our building had asbestos so for a few months while it was being removed my entire school was bussed to the AMNH and we had classes there. We ate lunch under the whale every day. True story.

Possible Pairings: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler by E. L. Konigsburg, Holes by Louis Sachar, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli