- Young Adult Fiction
- Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend (Broken Hearts & Revenge #1)
Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend (Broken Hearts & Revenge #1)
Some narrative voices just pop to life for me immediately. Gemma’s does this. On page one, I knew that I would probably love this book, barring some sort of plotberg nonsense, which thankfully did not happen. To be honest, Gemma’s not the most likable character. I don’t feel any real sympathy for any of her plights, because she’s the orchestrator of her own downfall in most every instance. She’s not especially nice, clever, or witty. Gemma is best described by the examination of her handwriting she did as a child, which revealed that she “acted impulsively with little follow-through.” That’s Gemma. We’ll come back to this in a bit.
There’s a lot of humor in Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend. The book opens with one of the most fantastically embarrassing dumpings. Gemma had been with her boyfriend Teddy for about two years and then he dumps her in the Walmart, shortly before they were supposed to go away for the summer to volunteer together. Since Gemma has to pull out of the program, she ends up getting shuffled off to stay with her father, who’s in the Hamptons for the summer. While a summer vacation to stay in a producer’s mansion in the Hamptons (not her dad’s) might sound like a dream, Gemma wants little less, because returning to the scene of the crime is never a good idea.
In the summer of her eleventh year, Gemma did something terrible while she was in the Hamptons. For spoiler reasons, I won’t tell you what that was. You might know that I hate the intentional withholding of information trope most of the time, but Finn doesn’t draw out the suspense on what Gemma did for all that long, thankfully.
The thing to know about Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend is that it’s a bit ridiculous. Everything in this book hinges on Gemma pretending to be her friend Sophie Curtis, in an obviously misguided attempt to reconnect with Hallie, a figure from her past summer. Add to that her feelings for Hallie’s brother, Josh, who values honesty above all else, and you have the makings for CW-level melodrama. Sophie’s plan is idiotic and doomed to failure from the very start. You either accept this and go along for the ride or you probably will not enjoy the book.
What made this work for me, though, is Sophie’s character. While her idea is patently absurd, she also didn’t think it through. Remember? She’s impulsive. Josh saw her holding a cup with the name Sophie on it, assumed her name was Sophie and she decided to run with it, later sort of regretting that choice but whatever it was done so full speed ahead. Plus, Gemma is one of the most skilled people at denial ever. You see this element of her personality over and over again, starting with her reaction to her boyfriend dumping her. As much as Gemma lies to others, I think she’s even better at lying to herself and imagining things will work out in her favor, even if anyone else could have told her (and even did tell her) that was not the case.
The Final Verdict:
Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend entertained me from the first to the last page. I’ll be anxiously awaiting the next long-titled, drama-filled installment in this series. It’s a departure from what we know of Morgan Matson, but the excellent character-development and writing remains consistent.