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Cures for Heartbreak Hardcover – February 13, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 9 Up—Black humor, pitch-perfect detail, and compelling characters make this a terrific read, despite the pain that permeates every superbly written page. Ninth-grader Mia has just lost her mother to cancer, and now her father is hospitalized with heart trouble. The story follows her first through bleak days at the hospital, then as she copes with her grief for her mother, her father's new girlfriend, and her sometimes disastrous attempts to find love. Interwoven throughout the book are Mia's musings over her family's history and the continuing tragic impact of the Holocaust. The novel's vivid New York City setting is almost another character, with vibrant descriptions of subway rides, shopping trips, and local color. Mia's early experience with loss influences everything about her life, from her bond with her father and older sister to her troubles with school and relationships. As she struggles to make sense of her mother's death and her father's illness, she also sees humor in everyday situations, and her irreverent commentary brings the story to life. Mia's romance with Sasha, a young man whose leukemia is in remission, is especially moving. A touching afterword reveals just how closely the novel follows the author's actual experiences.—Miranda Doyle, San Francisco Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* "I was ashamed of my family for having such bad luck." In the same year, teenage Mia's mother dies of cancer and her father has a heart attack. In stand-alone chapters (versions of some have been published in magazines), Raab gives Mia a distinctive voice, leavening her heartbreak with surprising humor and dark absurdity. Rabb is an exceptionally gifted writer who draws subtle connections between abstract history and intimate lives, particularly in scenes contrasting the dry school coverage of the Holocaust with Mia's Jewish family's personal history--"the kind of history that seeps in slowly and colors everything, like a quiet, daily kind of war." In Mia, Rabb creates a remarkable character whose ordinary teen experiences--crushes, friendships, sexual fumblings, mortification over her family's behavior--seem all the more authentic set within the larger tragedies. With almost unbearable poignancy, Mia talks about how to grow up, survive loss and family history, and heal her heart: "If grief had a permanence, then didn't also love?" Readers will cherish this powerful debut. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (February 13, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385734026
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385734028
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,892,013 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Robinson on February 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Cures for Heartbreak is about how 15-year-old Mia Pearlman copes with her mother's sudden death from melanoma, and her father's subsequent hospitalization for heart problems. Which might make you think that it's a sad or depressing book. But it isn't. Cures for Heartbreak is funny and compelling, with a heady mix of the philosophical and the absurd. Sure, it's about Mia's grief, and guilt, and the hole that her mother's absence leaves in her life. But it's also about her quest to fall in love, her father's unexpected means of coping, and her sister's escape into academia. It's about finding a best friend, wearing too much makeup, and eating vast quantities of junk food. The lighter aspects of the story provide leavening for the darker subjects.

Margo Rabb's writing is both eloquent and moving. She drops clever observations and brilliant turns of phrase like little gifts for the reader. But at the same time, she's not afraid to write about what really matters. You can tell, even without the explanatory afterword, that she actually experienced the emotions that she describes. There's a level of emotional honesty here that can't be faked. Here is an example that shows Mia's grief:

"I couldn't stop crying. I knew it was the wrong time to cry publicly now, so late for my mother's death, so prematurely for my father's. What no one ever tells you is that people don't die all at once, but again and again in waves, before their deaths and after. ... I kept crying until my sister put her arms around me, my fallen eyelashes folded inside a crumpled tissue, and said "Come on," and took me to the cafeteria to eat.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Kelly Herold on February 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Margo Rabb's "Cures for Heartbreak" is one compelling, wise book for the teen aged reader.

Ninth-grader Mia lives in Queens with her mother, father (who owns a shoe-repair shop), and older, cantankerous sister, Alex. Mia and Alex attend the Bronx High School of Science, where Alex excels as a scientific genius.

One day, mom heads to the ER with a stomachache. 12 days later she's dead. Diagnosis? Melanoma with liver metathesis. Things happen in a blur as Mia finds herself shopping for a dress, with her frugal and decidedly unfeminine sister, for her mother's funeral. Mia, a confused, yet touching narrator, says:

"I stared at the hem of my $119 dress and thought about the one night I'd left the hospital to go home and instead of getting on the 4 train at 33rd Street, I walked all the way to the Barnes & Noble on 54th. I kept walking and when I got there I scanned the shelves of the grief section, the Death & Dying shelves, for a book that would comfort me, that would say exactly the right thing. I'm not sure what I'd been looking for, exactly. Maybe something like What to Do When Your Mother Dies from Melanoma, Which They Thought Was a Stomachache at First. How to Cope When You're Left Alone with Your Father and Sister, Who Drive You Nuts. How to Survive a Funeral, Especially One Hosted by a Disconcertingly Happy Funeral Director and an Upwardly Mobile Rabbi Who Drives a BMW. I didn't find a book I wanted to buy. All that had made me feel better was the walk." (14-15)

The beauty and authenticity of "Cures for Heartbreak" lie in the fact that there are no cures. Mia tries dressing in her mother's clothes, wearing too much makeup, fighting with her sister, reading romance novels, becoming a hypochondriac, and falling in love.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Teen Reads on June 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover
No matter what issue you might be reading about in a YA book --- pregnancy, drugs, depression --- the one point that comes up time and again is this: there are no easy answers. Ever. There are viewpoints, there are arguments, but few come without hard-earned discussion and none can ever hold the final word. To put it plainly, life is never that simple. And, arguably, the most complex of these issues, a concept that is no stranger to the genre, is the most debatable in terms of how one addresses it: death. Even with the seeming inability to construct a definitive, proactive response to death, writers continue to offer meditations on how it can be approached. Some even come very, very close to what one can only suspect is the truth.

In CURES FOR HEARTBREAK, Margo Rabb introduces us to 15-year-old Mia Perlman, whose mother dies 12 days after being diagnosed with melanoma. In her efforts to cope with the aftermath and learn new ways to relate to her older sister, Alex, and her father, Mia begins to reconstruct her own life through a review of her mother's past and a careful study of Mia's present life. In dealing with her grief, Mia confronts fears of her own mortality, the shifting paradigm of life with just her father, and her own forays into love (all with mixed results).

What makes Mia's heartbreak hit home is the skill with which Rabb paints a complete portrait of bereavement. Where some books rely on presenting a protagonist who dwells on the loss of someone wholly wonderful, Rabb chooses to explore the more complex path to healing, one not drenched in sappy sentimentality but rather an assault of all knowledge of the person who is lost.
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