Reviews /

My Heart and Other Breakables

Authored by Alex Barclay
Published by HarperCollins Children's Books

Tagged , , , , ,

My Heart and Other Breakables is a fun novel written in teenage-diary form with plenty of laughs but also some moving reflections on grief.

15-year-old Ellery’s mother, a successful novelist, died last year. Now her grandparents and her aunt take it in turns to fly across from the US to her home in Ireland to look after her. Ellery’s mother never told her who her father was, but together with her bookish best friend, Meg, Ellery starts to investigate and whittles the possible suspects down to a shortlist of three authors with whom her mother may have had contact during June 2004, the ‘M.O.C‘ (month of conception.) Ellery then embarks on a series of globetrotting adventures to track down her father.

There is plenty to enjoy in this novel, and it will appeal to lots of younger secondary readers. Alex Barclay has crafted a witty and engaging narrative voice that feels authentically teenaged. The liberal use of upper case, italics, bold and different typefaces may divide readers, but generally I felt that it brought out the humour of the novel effectively. At 463 pages, this novel has plenty of space to develop rounded and lovable characters, and also for some entertaining digressions (such as an amusing introduction to the concept of ‘craic‘ for the non-Irish). There are also some great one-liners (e.g. ‘My fears, like Meg’s make-up bag, were without foundation.‘) At the same time, we get a powerful sense of how Ellery’s intense feelings of grief coexist with these moments of laughter; the entry for Mother’s Day is particularly effective, reading simply ‘I can’t even.

The plot has some fairly obvious resemblances to Mamma Mia but Barclay finds a fresh angle on this by having her heroine travel the world rather than summoning her prospective dads to the same place at the same time. Ellery’s solo jet-setting lifestyle does require some serious suspension of disbelief but also allows for some great comic set-pieces poking fun at the foibles and pretensions of famous authors from different genres. There is also an unexpected but deeply satisfying plot twist which offers a neat resolution to this story.

I think this book would most likely appeal to readers a few years younger than Ellery, and the content and style are entirely accessible to the full KS3 age range; equally, older readers looking for an undemanding but rewarding read would also appreciate it. It would be a valuable addition to any secondary library.