ARC Review: Hearts, Strings and Other Breakable Things by Jacqueline Firkins

Posted February 28, 2020

ARC Review: Hearts, Strings and Other Breakable Things by Jacqueline FirkinsCheck out on Goodreads | Buy on Amazon
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance, High School Romance
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Source: Fantastic Flying Book Tours

In this charming debut about first love and second chances, a young girl gets caught between the boy next door and a playboy. Perfect for fans of To All The Boys I've Loved Before.
Mansfield, Massachusetts is the last place seventeen-year-old Edie Price wants to spend her final summer before college. It’s the home of wealthy suburbanites and prima donnas like Edie’s cousins, who are determined to distract her from her mother’s death with cute boys and Cinderella-style makeovers. Edie has her own plans, and they don’t include a prince charming.
But as Edie dives into schoolwork and applying for college scholarships, she finds herself drawn to two Mansfield boys who start vying for her attention. First there's Sebastian, Edie’s childhood friend and first love. He’s sweet and smart and . . . already has a girlfriend. Then there's Henry, the local bad boy and all-around player. He’s totally off limits, even if his kisses are chemically addictive.
Both boys are trouble. Edie can’t help but get caught between them. Someone's heart is going to break. Now she just has to make sure it isn't hers.

Disclaimer: I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, but it does not influence my opinion of the book nor this review in any way.

Review contains very mild spoilers. Warnings will be given. 

I have really mixed feelings about this book. I read this one in one sitting, more out of spare time than any rush to get to the end, unfortunately. It’s a really great coming-of-age YA book, really. I loved the realizations, the growing pains, and Edie’s personal attitudes and style were lots of fun. I also loved that Edie wasn’t the only one growing during this story. But… I hated that everyone around Edie (who wasn’t either one of the boys present in the love triangle) was a catty, money-obsessed bitch. 

Edie herself was a great character, even if a bit stereotypical. The premise of this book is that Edie was taken in by her rich aunt three years after Edie’s mom died and after three years in foster care. So Edie was NOT rich and not up to Auntie’s expectations, expected to be a charity trophy for beloved aunt to show off to her neighbors and the Club ladies or something. Hence the hints of a Cinderella retelling (complete with two cousins, who went back and forth on the irritating scale).

But Edie here… she didn’t fit into the rich scene. She doesn’t like heels, doesn’t wear designer clothes, plays guitar, and would rather go thrift shopping than Nordstrom. Yes, yes. “Quirky,” and “Not like other girls” is correct. That said, it read authentically for me. Edie was a Smart Girl and loved lexicography, had a Velcro brain that memorized weird facts and she collected quotes like candy. I LOVE quotes, so this read helpfully expanded my collection, which I loved. 


Who would you be if you could be anyone? She thought as she searched the sky for inspiration. Cassiopeia? No, too vain. Andromeda? Too helpless. A nameless girl made entirely of stars and sky? Possibly.


I enjoyed Edie’s character, but I couldn’t help but feel that she was spunky and passionate, yes, but she also let herself be tugged around quite a lot. (Skip to next paragraph to avoid mild spoilers.) If she wasn’t comfortable with the popular crowd that her cousins inhabited, why didn’t she try to make different friends? I understand it’s not quite as easy as I’m making it seems (believe me, I can’t believe the introvert is saying this), but I think there were other options available to her than eating with her cousin’s friends or the fire escape. In summary, she felt real, if stereotypical, but didn’t make very smart decisions or look very far outside of her immediate thoughts. 

That aside, I’m going to move onto the Boys. This book is a love triangle, after all, featuring a class Bad Boy vs. Good Boy. Actually, a word about that first. I DID NOT LIKE THAT. Sebastian was the “Good Boy” because he was the childhood friend/crush that lived next door, and Henry was the “Bad Boy” because he was a year older, charismatic, and loved hitting on girls. Ummm. The Good/Bad Boy label didn’t sit well with me at all, in those cases, because it felt very prejudiced. Anyway.

I loved Sebastian (the sweet neighbor) and Edie’s connection. They were actual, real friends, I could feel it. They laughed, had fun together, and were actually friends first, which was very genuine and I really enjoyed it. That said… Sebastian had a girlfriend. Right. So therein lies the problem.  This issue was handled very delicately and it felt sincere. Edie was very careful around him because she knew that she had feelings for him and that he was taken, and didn’t want to step on any toes. But there is an argument to be made for some emotional cheating on Sebastian’s part. It wasn’t obvious, but it was there. Even though he and Edie were great together, and I loved that, I wasn’t sold on him as a character because he stayed with someone he didn’t like and wasn’t honest about personal issues, while having clear, obvious feelings for Edie. That said… I was uncomfortable

And making his girlfriend a bitch just felt lazy. To a point, it was justified. But really? It felt like lazy writing. (If you want to avoid spoilers, I would advise you to skip to the paragraph with the * next to it.)     


“When I write, I spill. I stew. I make messes. I remind myself how little I know. But when I read, the words march on their black-booted feet, parading from the page to attack my ignorance. The i’s wield their dots, the t’s their crosses, the q’s and p’s their tongue-dipped tails, strutting, well-armed, into my defenseless soul.”


I also really loved Henry, the charismatic “Bad Boy.” He and Edie were really funny together because she didn’t take him too seriously and he took her really seriously. His chapters were also really fun. I compared him to Nikolai from the Shadow and Bone series – a really fun, great character (SPOILERS AHEAD. If you want to avoid spoilers, I would advise you to skip to the paragraph with the * next to it) that I wish got treated better. But it was also clear from the authors writing of the two boys who were going to win out. If Sebastian was written in technicolor and fleshed out, then Henry was written in black-and-white and there to be funny and interesting. He may have fallen in love with her, but I’m not convinced she got anything real from him. But it’s an interesting thing, because Henry was definitely the more interesting character. 

* Overall… it was a confusing read. The boys were kinda difficult to get a handle on, and there was little-to-no background information given. We know almost nothing about Edie’s life before she moved (other than her issues with Shonda) and it just felt very focused in the present. I liked how the Love Triangle was portrayed,  kinda, but it was also really quite odd and I felt more like rolling my eyes.

The story felt like it was trying really hard and while there were things that I liked, it was hard for me to get past the manipulation and the fact that everyone except Edie, Sebastian, and Henry was a catty bitch and just didn’t know how to handle relationships or friends. Not to mention, they were all money-obsessed. Just overall it was underwhelming, and a bit annoying, to be frank. I’m still struggling with my thoughts on the ending and overall… ugh. It was entertaining, but not great. 

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What are some of your favorite coming-of-age YA books? Do you like love triangles? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!


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