Down with Love!
Becca Williamson has a unique part-time job. She receives requests from jilted friends and then sets out to break up the relationship that caused the issue. She has an excellent track record and few people even know that she exists. Backed up by her sister, a young woman who is suffering bitterly from her own break up, Becca sees herself as freeing her school from the clutches of tyrannical rule of the couples. Poised to embark on her biggest mission yet - to break up the school's most noteworthy power couple, and her former best friend - Becca must step out of the shadows if she hopes to succeed. But, her talents were not hidden as well as she had hoped and devastated ex-girlfriends are well on their way to discovering the identity of the Break Up Artist.
I was really excited to read The Break Up Artist because of its interesting premise. I can certainly relate to the teenage girl feeling like everyone had paired off, leaving the single girls an object of pity and ridicule. It is so easy as a teenager in a relationship to make that the be-all, end-all of your existence and I loved the thought of one girl fighting back. The Break Up Artist delivered on the teenage drama, if not quite on the espionage. The novel was paced well enough to keep me interested, with Becca moving further and further into Huxley's sphere of influence while still attempting to ruin her prom queen life. I wasn't all that keen on the writing style, much of it seemed superficial and I would have liked to see what was going on beneath the surface, but it didn't distract a great deal from the plot.
As a character, it is clear that Becca is dealing with some issues. Watching her sister fall apart after being dumped on her wedding day changed everything that she believed about the possibility of love and she began questioning every relationship that she saw. It is clear that Becca cares about her sister and her work as the Break Up Artist gives an outlet for some of their collective anger. This sets us up for a character who, despite having a rather flexible set of morals, is loyal to a fault. Despite this, Becca makes the choice to betray someone that she cared about - for a boy, leading to a great deal of drama. The supporting characters in this story are a little flat. Her best friend is obsessed with finding a boyfriend - any boyfriend and, despite their seemingly strong bond, I don't see any real connection between her a Becca. Huxley is clearly a Regina George clone and, once she began to have a real part in the story, brought a Mean Girl's vibe to the rest of the plot. The one character I really wished for more of was Becca's sister. Dianne was clearly suffering from some serious emotional trauma and I liked that the story followed her to some degree.
One of the major issues that I had with this book was the apparent views of the author. Having never BEEN a teenage girl, perhaps Mr. Siegel should have chosen a less demanding subject. He seemed to believe that all teenage girls think about is relationships. That every move made, every club joined and every word spoken is part of a calculated plan to snag a man. He also seems to think that any boy will do and that the boys have the upper hand. They choose a girl, and she goes along for the ride. This left me angry. I teach teenage girls and yes, boys take up a large part of their time, but they are not looking for ANY boy, and they are not sitting around waiting to be chosen. Give them some credit. I also found the boys in this story to be completely unrealistic. The huge romantic gestures were laughable and the thought that any teenage boy would do something so public without the least amount of ribbing (or far worse) from their peers is ridiculous.
Despite the issues in this novel, it was redeemed by the ending. A new bad guy is revealed and receives his comeuppance (though another one goes completely scott-free). Becca learns how much her "profession" was hurting people and may possibly embark on a new, more moral friendly, though just as manipulative, career.