Sunday, February 18, 2007

Review: Cures for Heartbreak

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. The only things that work, though, are time, patience, and the real sympathy of a new friend.

Cures for Heartbreak is best suited for readers ages 13 and up. Pick this one for Rabb's honest, beautiful writing and her brave, yet vulnerable narrator. Mia is frightened, lonely and unsure of herself, yet she picks herself up time and time again. In the end, she realizes, "if grief had a permanence, then didn't also love?" (232)