Wednesday, 30 April 2014
Review: The Break-Up Artist by Philip Siegel
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Format: Hardcover / eBook
Released: April 29th, 2014
Some sixteen-year-olds babysit for extra cash. Some work at the mall. Becca Williamson breaks up couples. Becca knows from experience the damage that love can do. After all, it was so-called love that turned Huxley from her childhood best friend into a social-world dictator, and love that left Becca's older sister devastated at the altar. Instead of sitting on the sidelines, Becca strikes back—for just one hundred dollars via PayPal, she will trick and manipulate any couple's relationship into smithereens. And with relationship zombies overrunning her school and treating single girls as if they're second-class citizens, business is unfortunately booming. Even Becca's best friend, Val, has resorted to outright lies to snag a boyfriend. One night, Becca receives a mysterious offer to break up the most popular couple in school: Huxley and the football team's star player, Steve. To succeed, she'll have to plan her most elaborate scheme to date—starting rumors, sabotaging cell phones, breaking into cars…not to mention sneaking back into Huxley's good graces. All while fending off the inappropriate feelings she may or may not be having for Val's new boyfriend. No one said being the Break-Up Artist would be easy.
The Break-Up Artist is Philip Siegel's first novel and is a great addition to the YA contemporary genre. I was initially excited to read it because of the premise; a girl breaking couples up for money isn't something I've come across before and it turned out to be a lot of fun to read about, even though things don't always go smoothly for Becca. I was also impressed with Siegel's writing - he's so good at writing from a female POV!
Sixteen-year-old Becca doesn't believe in love, love at first sight or anything remotely romantic. She's seen too much go wrong with her older sister, and she doesn't think it can really exist. Cynical to the extreme, Becca sets up her own little business which consists of breaking up couples for cash. People come to her and give her all the details and she then sets out to manipulate and trick her subjects until they end their relationship. She remains anonymous, and has a 100% track record. There's no-one she can't or won't try to break up, until she's tasked with breaking up Huxley and Steve, the most popular couple at Ashland High...
This book is one of my favourites set in a high school environment, and I really love the whole set-up. It's not just about Becca and her Break-Up business; it's also about family, forgiveness, friendship and finding yourself. Becca might work mostly alone when it comes to breaking up couples, but she has a supportive team of people around her who are always there for her and who might even know more than they're letting on. Becca grows as a person throughout the novel, learning from her mistakes along the way. She's far from perfect and is actually one of the most flawed characters I've encountered in YA recently, which is always refreshing. Teenagers are never perfect, and it's nice to see a realistic approach to that angle of characterisation.
What Becca does is morally wrong, of course, but I do get where she's coming from. Some relationships, especially in high school, are just for convenience and can actually mess with people's lives, decisions and futures. Also, teenagers can have a tendency to get carried away and forget about their friends, which is one of the things that irks Becca most, and propels her to start breaking up in the first place. The Break-Up Artist shows high school life from all sides, from obsessions with relationships to toxic friendships to deciding on a college that will change your whole life. It's a truthful exploration of senior year and the years that fall before it, and both the good and bad points that accompany it.
The Break-Up Artist is a book that I really enjoyed, and I'm happy to hear there's a sequel in the pipeline. Things at Ashland High are unfinished and, in some cases, only just beginning, so to go back and see what Becca, Huxley and their classmates are up to is definitely something to look forward to. Philip Siegel's debut YA novel is one to add to your wish lists and bookshelves, and I hope you like it as much as I did!