Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Break-Up Artist (ARC Book Review)

Thursday, May 1, 2014 12:45 AM with 10 comments
The Break-Up Artist

Author: Philip Siegel
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Number of Pages: 336
Release Date: April 29, 2014

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Some sixteen-year-olds babysit for extra cash. Some work at the Gap. Becca Williamson breaks up couples. 

After watching her sister get left at the altar, Becca knows the true damage that comes when people utter the dreaded L-word. For just $100 via paypal, she can trick and manipulate any couple into smithereens. With relationship zombies overrunning her school, and treating single girls like second class citizens, business is unfortunately booming. Even her best friend Val has resorted to outright lies to snag a boyfriend.

One night, she receives a mysterious offer to break up the homecoming king and queen, the one zombie couple to rule them all: Steve and Huxley. They are a JFK and Jackie O in training, masters of sweeping faux-mantic gestures, but if Becca can split them up, then school will be safe again for singletons. To succeed, she'll have to plan her most elaborate scheme to date and wiggle her way back into her former BFF Huxley’s life – not to mention start a few rumors, sabotage some cell phones, break into a car, and fend off the inappropriate feelings she’s having about Val’s new boyfriend. All while avoiding a past victim out to expose her true identity.

No one said being the Break-Up Artist was easy.

When I first read this synopsis it reminded me of an old chick-lit favorite called Your Big Break by Johanna Edwards which is about a woman who runs a successful "break-up business." That book is frothy fun and a YA version of it with that awesome Juno-ish cover was immediately appealing to me. It's been a couple of weeks since I've read this. The review is late due to a combination of my parents being in town, posting an unexpected review on the day I was going to post this one, and just a somewhat apathetic feeling about writing this particular review. I found The Break-Up Artist to be an ok book. Parts of it were just plain unrealistic while other parts were a surprisingly insightful look at teen girl psyche--especially for a male author. Leaving kind of a hodge-podge story that had me both rolling my eyes and nodding my head.

The Break-Up Artist follows a teen girl named Becca who, for $100 via PayPal, will break up any couple in her high school. Most of her clients seem to be girlfriends of the girl in the couple who is being discarded due to her friend's new relationship. In her high school, girls significantly outnumber guys which makes having a boyfriend a huge commodity and makes all the girls boy-crazy. Becca, herself, has never been in a relationship, but she has two major motivations for running such an unusual business: 1. her older sister, Diane, was left at the alter over a year ago and still hasn't recovered (thus making Becca believe that all relationships end in heartbreak for whatever reason), and 2. her middle school best friend, Huxley, ruthlessly ended their friendship when cool guy, Steve, became her boyfriend.

The Break-Up Artist starts off with a normal assignment. A girl hires Becca to break up her friend and her boyfriend because her friend has drastically changed in the relationship and has discarded her completely. Becca's tactic for breaking them up is ingeniously successful and paves the way for the main event. A man contacts Becca to break up the schools IT couple: Huxley and Steve (yes, her old friend). He claims to be an old family friend and gives his reason for wanting the two to break up as concern that Steve is throwing his future away. You see, Steve is a talented football player and has been given the opportunity to go to a great school on a football scholarship, but he is about to turn it down to go to the local college to stay close to Huxley during her senior year. Becca is unsure if she can take on a job this big. Steve and Huxley are constantly flaunting their love and their relationship is very public (to a ridiculous degree like Steve carries Huxley into the cafeteria and makes huge public gestures like declaring his love at school assemblies--barf), but she decides to take it when the man promises to triple her usual fee...and maybe a little for revenge.

In order to pull it off, she starts to befriend Huxley again by joining the school's dance crew that Huxley leads. In the midst of all this drama, Becca's new best friend, Val, who is especially boy-crazy, has started dating a new boy which causes her to spend less and less time with Becca.

Again, there were things I liked about this novel, and things that I didn't. I really liked the writing which is often snark-y and fun with some sentences had me cracking up.

"I don't think it's right to congratulate someone for having an ugly baby. 
It will only encourage her to have another one."

I liked Becca as a character--but some of her actions--especially when her own "relationship" starts to develop had me seeing red. I liked that she cared so much for her older sister, Diane, and felt protective of her even though she is the younger sister. Also, there really were some pretty insightful moments about girlhood in general that I found impressive.

What's the protocol between ex-girlfriends and friends of current girlfriends? I think
the rules state we're supposed to hate each other. Girls have to hate each other
whenever a guy is involved. That's the mandate or something.

The story will wind through school rapidly, trickling down to the faculty no later
than sixth period. At lunch, every student will be making sideways glances at their 
table. Who will have to switch tables? Girls will look over their shoulders
during class to catch a glimpse of [her]. If she walks by a group of kids, and 
they get quiet, she'll know why. And she'll have to face that at least twenty times
a day. Most will blame her for the break-up; girls always receive the majority of the blame.
She'll be called a slut and prude in equal amounts; she'll be called a bitch for no reason.
Side rumors and completely false stories will wind through the halls. 

What I didn't love was the way the entire population of girls was depicted as being boy-crazy. Yes, I developed some major crushes in high school, but my high school life was mostly about my girlfriends. I hated how all the girls were in, like, competition with each other. Even Becca wasn't immune to some seriously bad girl-on-girl behavior which was so out of character from the girl we meet at the beginning of the story. Also, again, the over-the-top displays from Steve and Huxley seriously pushed the boundaries of believability in a contemporary novel.

Overall, I did enjoy The Break-Up Artist, but it isn't without is issues. In the back of the novel, the author states in the Q&A section that he is working on a follow-up novel. I'm curious to see what happens next to Becca (and don't worry--this is a complete story), but I'm not dying to get my hands on it. Recommended for those who like their characters sarcastic and who don't have problems suspending their belief for a pretty cute contemporary.

*I received an advanced reader's copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange of an honest review. All quotes have been taken from the ARC and may be changed before the final publication.*


  1. I'm not going to lie, I did love it and hate it at the same time. It was hilarious, and I loved the snark but oh God I wanted to strangle most of the characters. Mainly the girls. Okay all the girls. How freaking central having a boyfriend was, and how obsessed, I was seriously thinking it was going to turn paranormal or psycho or something, haha. But yeah, Steve and Huxley. Yeah, because that was realistic. Ugh. Basically I think I hated all the characters. Especially Ezra, don't get me started on Ezra.

    1. Ezra was the freaking worst. I was all over the place with this book. I wanted it to be more realistic, but I loved the snarky writing style. I'm glad I'm not the only one with mixed emotions. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Yeah, I agree with, like, all of this. I mean, the book wasn't BAD, but it lacked something to make it GOOD and memorable. (And I, like you, had a hard time writing the review. I tend to procrastinate writing reviews, but I read this one at the beginning of the year, I believe, and just wrote my review the other day--and it wasn't easy.) Also, I think a problem was the unrealisticness. Books can be unrealistic, but it has to be REALISTIC unrealisticness. Great review!

    1. Thanks, Rachel. We were definitely of like-minds when it comes to this one. I said it perfectly: It wasn't bad, but it definitely lacked something. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Hmmm doesn't sound like my type of book though I was considering reading it for the Debut Author Challenge. Perhaps I still will, but I'm not a fan of unrealistic books. It's more difficult for me to fully immerse myself in the story when it's not believable. Great review!

    1. Thanks, Courtney! It's hard for me to immerse myself in contemporaries that don't ring true, too. It isn't bad, and it's an easy enough read...Thanks for stopping by!

  4. I enjoyed it, but I didn't love it. I liked the fact that it was a different YA contemporary, which was refreshing. I found it hard to like Becca. I knew she was basically a good person, but she made some horrible decisions and she just didn't think about the consequences of what she was doing. And she was so hypocritical at times! I don't know, 65% guys and 35% girls…I can see that leading to competition and a bit of craziness. It was entertaining, but something was missing for me. I just didn't connect with any of the characters and I didn't especially like any of them. And I hated Ezra…just ugh! ~Pam

    1. Ezra was the worst! Seriously. I agree that this disparity in numbers would create competition, but it's like the girls in this book--besides Becca--never even THOUGHT about anything else. It was just too much. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Your reaction to this book is so mixed, and totally understandable from the sound of it. I thought it sounded cute and requested a copy, so now I'm even more keen to see how I feel.

    I do agree that not all girls are boy-crazy, and most can function without thinking about boys for periods of time!

    Mands @ The Bookish Manicurist

    1. Exactly! Listen, I was in LOVE with a senior when I was a sophomore and definitely thought about him more than I should have, BUT I was still a functioning human being that also thought about school and my friends and my family and my favorite TV shows and what have you. I hope you enjoy it. I'm excited to hear what you think!


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