Book Review: How to Break a Boy

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How to Break a Boy was one of those books that I couldn't stop reading, but also wanted it to never end. I'll be honest I picked this up in the library 100% because of the cover, then I read the first paragraph, and it was a flawless hook. The writing is a rare balance between humor, imagery, action and angst.

I expected this story to be dramatic, and funny, and outrageous, but toward the last half of the story I began to feel and understand that this story was pulling me into an unexpected place.  

How to Break a Boy tells the story from the perspective of Olivia Clayton who is doing all she can to maintain a life she doesn’t really want in and small, southern town she can’t wait to leave. Olivia, or Liv, is a beautifully written, messy, complicated, and relatable character.  The narrative is given a sharp density by the depth that is developed in each individual.

I glance around the empty hallway. Wipe my face. Clean. Don’t let it hurt. Adapt and survive.
— How to Break a Boy; Page 154

I loved the relationship that exists in this story, but unlike so many other books it was not the driving force that kept me reading. It would have been so easy for Devore to use a romantic relationship to pull readers in but instead I was invested in the life, and heart, and growth of Olivia. Sure, #Ishipit but mostly I ship Olivia and her future, and potential, and success, and redemption.

People have compared this story to  Pretty Little Liars or Mean Girls, but don’t buy into those claims. Sure, I think Taylor Swift’s newest  album Reputation could be a perfect soundtrack for this book, but the story takes us far beyond petty drama or vicious comebacks.

Devore turns the mean, popular girl trope on its head as she insights empathy in her audience for even the darkest characters. I was drawn to Olivia and rooted for her, even as she said, did, and thought horrible things. The plot and each character grow in depth and complexities with each chapter.

How To Break a Boy creates, in its darkest corners and harshest lines, a mirror for the reader. Not only are the complex or unlikeable characters beautifully drawn, but they remind the reader of their own complexities, which, for me, was the element that took this story from good, to great, to fantastic.

Not only will you fall into this twisted web of troubled individuals, you will also be reminded of your own fears, failures, and complexities in a heart wrenching yet beautiful way. The emotional depth of this novel will have you turning the pages just as much, if not more, than the drama.

I watch him with disinterest, the door swinging shut behind them as they go. He hates me. Well, not me, I guess. More like a symbol of everything he thinks is wrong with this place—a living breathing reminder that sometimes, nastiness is rewarded.
To him, I’m not a person.
Fair enough. I still haven’t figured out how to be one.

— How to Break a Boy; Page 77

Rating: 5/5

Mood: That feeling when you’re casually listening to the radio in you car alone, and then a song comes on that reminds you of another time in your life and the feelings and nostalgia swirl together viscously until your crying and have to pull into the parking lot of an Arby's to collect yourself. (hypothetically of course, this isn’t a real example from my real life, I did not order a small jamocha shake and curly fries, what would make you think that?)

For fans of: Looking for Alaska, We Were Liars, Eleanor and Park.