Reviewed June 18, 2009.
Hyperion Paperbacks, New York, 2007. 265 pages.
High school Junior Jennifer Lewis's almost-too-good-to-be-true boyfriend suddenly decided to "just be friends." She is not handling it well.
When her well-meaning grandma gives her a book of advice called The Breakup Bible, Jennifer is ready to throw it in the trash. She continues on, obsessed with Max, analyzing his every word to her, wondering if he's thinking about getting back together.
Then she finds out the identity of the real reason he broke up with her, and her devastation is complete.
This time, Nana comes over and reads the book aloud:
"'So he's with someone else,'" she read. "'Yeah, it hurts. Yeah, you miss him. But you know what? You're not going to miss him for long. Because if you follow my simple steps, you can go from heartache to happiness before you can say, I'm over you!'"
Nana was looking up at me, a triumphant expression on her face. "See?" she said. "You're not the only one."
"Nana, you don't understand," I said. "That book --" I pointed at it. "Books like that don't help." Had Nana not observed the obese hordes with their terrible hair and bad jeans crowding the self-help aisles at Barnes & Noble, reading books like Who Moved My Destiny? and You're Not Weird, You're Special!
"Just how do you know that, Miss Smartypants?" She pointed at me. "You won't even give it a chance." Then her features softened, and she smiled. "Give it a chance, darling. For me, for Nana."
Jennifer does give it a chance, for her grandma's sake. It doesn't, perhaps, go quite like the book's author intended, but Jennifer does, little by little, make progress in getting over Max.
I'm a little embarrassed by how comforted I was by reading about a teenager getting over a breakup and how oddly similar the principles of recovery are for someone getting over a midlife divorce.
In both cases, it's helpful to remind yourself that there are some good things about not having him in your life, and to focus on interests you can get excited about for YOU.
It's also highly therapeutic to read about someone else handling it badly! It's easy to see in Jennifer's case where her faithful love is misplaced, but anyone who's ever been there will feel plenty of compassion. And I never noticed before just how funny a breakup can be.