Only Love Can Break Your Heart
Author: Katherine Webber
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publication Date: August 2nd 2018
Format: Paperback (400 pages)
Sometimes a broken heart is all you need to set you free… Reiko loves the endless sky and electric colours of the Californian desert. It is a refuge from an increasingly claustrophobic life of family pressures and her own secrets. Then she meets Seth, a boy who shares a love of the desert and her yearning for a different kind of life. But Reiko and Seth both want something the other can’t give them. As summer ends, things begin to fall apart. But the end of love can sometimes be the beginning of you…
My Rating: ★★★★★
The title of Katherine Webber’s second novel may suggest that only love can break your heart but let me assure you that this is false. This book will also break your heart. It will smash your heart into little smithereens and then slowly and gently put it back together until it is once again filled with love.
I was lucky enough to read Only Love Can Break Your Heart back in April – if you know anything about me it will be that I adored Wing Jones and so you can only imagine how over the top excited I was to read this book. I devoured the book but it has taken me this long to be able to put any words together coherently to form a review (I will happily admit now that this is more a rambling of my love for Reiko and Katie than it is anything else).
Only Love Can Break Your Heart is a story of love, loss, family and friendship. It is a journey about Reiko discovering herself and learning to love and accept herself. Most importantly, it is about Reiko learning to forgive herself and move on – something I can so, so strongly resonate with, especially this year. There’s first love and heartbreak, the ups and downs of friendship and the ever growing peer pressure that teens face today. Katherine manages to cover so much in this book but nothing feels brushed over or less important than other elements. She somehow ties it all together in the perfect, tear inducing package.
The first thing that struck me on reading this book was how different Reiko is to Wing (I won’t make too many comparisons, I promise…). Wing is a character I think everyone immediately falls head over heels in love with: she is sweet, makes the right decisions and, as a reader, you want to look after her. Reiko, on the other hand, is much feistier: she definitely doesn’t make all the right choices and at times I really wanted to yell at her. She isn’t always kind, she isn’t always perfect but my god does she have some layers on her! As the book moves forward, we really do see Reiko’s layers being peeled back and it didn’t take long until I was fully in love with her character. I loved seeing the outside Reiko vs the inside Reiko: the popular girl who people envy vs the girl who is so broken by grief she still talks to her dead sister behind closed doors. My heart truly, truly ached for Reiko and I could relate to her on such a personal note that this book was sometimes painful to read.
The family dynamics in this book are so wonderful. They are far from simple as we see Reiko continue to deal with the grief of losing her sister whilst also feeling like she can’t talk to her family about it. I loved the relationship between Reiko and her father; it felt so special to me. He is so supportive of her and there are some really touching moments between them that definitely had me in bits. Koji, Reiko’s little brother, is just wonderful and I am SO pleased that Reiko finally sees him by the end. You really get a feel for what grief can do to a family whilst reading this book and I think it is really sensitively and well written.
Now let’s talk about Dre. Dre is Reiko’s best friend and I flipping LOVED her so so much. I am such a sucker for a strong female friendship and this one just feels so pure. Again, it isn’t perfect but their bond is so strong and I love that Dre is there for Reiko no matter what. There were moments where I found myself willing Reiko to let Dre in a bit more but I knew the moment would come. Reiko and Dre have become a firm favourite fictional friendship of mine.
The romance between Reiko and Seth definitely has its ups and downs. There are moments where I was mad at Reiko for the way she treated Seth but also plenty of moments where I was mad at Seth for mistreating Reiko too. It felt like a very real teenage romance or any romance really. Nothing about love is perfect and this romance definitely shows that. It would be wrong of me not to mention that this book contains the CUTEST date you’ll ever read. Think picnics, desert views and a dinosaur. My heart still beats quite happily just thinking about it!
Katherine’s writing is just sublime. She manages to write in such a way that every word feels full of meaning and there is a definite lyrical feel to her descriptions. I found myself transported straight to the desert: I could feel the heat on my face, see the gorgeous desert views and feel the sand in my toes which is all down to such incredible attention to detail in the writing process. The atmosphere and emotion of this book really captured me and made reading this book such a special experience.
It’s safe to say that reading Only Love Can Break Your Heart was an absolute rollercoaster ride for me. I went through all of the emotions possible but I am still absolutely blown away by just how incredibly real the emotion in this book feels. The depiction of grief is so real and touching and I just wanted to wrap Reiko in a huge hug and let her know everything would be okay. This is definitely a book that was difficult to read on a personal level but one that I treasure because of that. I’ll reread this many times over the years and I know it will be a source of comfort to me and many others.
The end of this book is absolutely perfect. Whilst reading this, Katherine told me her favourite line was the last line and I am absolutely inclined to agree. After the journey I’d been on with Reiko, I honestly couldn’t have wished for a better ending and it certainly was the one she deserved. Her journey to loving herself is a difficult one but it will show to readers that it is possible, no matter how long it takes.
Please read this book and, if you haven’t already, pick up Wing Jones too. Katherine is such an incredibly talented writer of books and characters that have such emotional impact on the reader whilst simultaneously warming your heart. You don’t want to miss out. ❤