Cover of Dear Heartbreak: off-white background, illustrations of pink and blue flowers, with a half assembled envelop over top and cursive words written on the envelop

Cover Story: Heartfelt
The Wallflower: “We Have to Be Who We Are” by Libba Bray
The Guarded: “Knock Down These Walls” by Ibi Zoboi
The Mythbusters: “Own Your Heart” by Jasmine Warga; “Life in the Friend Zone” by Varian Johnson
The Survivors: “We’re Not Alone” by Kim Liggett; “Down the Rabbit Hole and Out the Other Side” by Cristina Moracho; “Love Is All, Love Is You” by Heather Demetrios and Zach Fehst
Bonus Factors: Love Yourself, Introspection
Break Glass In Case Of: A Heart That Needs Mending

Content Warning: “We’re Not Alone” by Kim Liggett involves sexual assault; “Down the Rabbit Hole and Out the Other Side” by Cristina Moracho involves depression and suicidal thoughts; and “Love Is All, Love Is You” by Heather Demetrios and Zach Fehst involves dating violence.

Cover Story: Heartfelt

Maria Wigley’s textile art gives such a personal touch that’s perfect for this anthology. The words even seem to be spilling out from the envelope, like they are from the tender hearts of the letter writers themselves. (And I’m sure it’s no coincidence that the floral motif matches another of editor Heather Demetrios’ covers, too.)

The Deal:

Heartbreak. That all-encompassing, soul-crushing behemoth knows no bounds. Nor age, as the anonymous real-life teens who wrote letters about their own heartbreaks know far too well. Heartbreak might not be able to answer, but a group of YA writers has shared their perspectives of this all too relatable experience in response. 

The Wallflower: “We Have to Be Who We Are” by Libba Bray

Heartbreak isn’t exclusive to those who have been in love; it strikes those who fear being unlovable, too. It actually comes up in several sets of letters, but only Libba Bray’s involves hypothetical mean ducks and buttered popcorn. 

The Guarded: “Knock Down Those Walls” by Ibi Zoboi

Full of beautiful imagery, Ibi Zoboi’s advice could even double as a visualization exercise for those who have walled off their hearts. 

The Mythbusters: “Own Your Heart” by Jasmine Warga; “Life in the Friend Zone” by Varian Johnson 

Jasmine Warga addresses how following ‘girl code’ can be a disservice to everybody involved when two friends like the same person, while Varian Johnson looks back on how he misguidedly handled unrequited love for a friend. (Although his most shocking revelation is that he doesn’t like ice cream?!?!) 

The Survivors: “Down the Rabbit Hole and Out the Other Side” by Cristina Moracho; “We’re Not Alone” by Kim Liggett; “Love Is All, Love Is You” by Heather Demetrios and Zach Fehst

Of course, heartbreak is not the only way we can hurt and get hurt. Depression, date rape, and dating violence can feel impossible to live through, but they can be lived through.

Bonus Factor: Love Yourself

Woman smiling and holding heart-shaped object

If there’s one unifying theme in this anthology besides heartbreak, it’s the importance of loving yourself. Hearts can break, but they can also heal—with the love and kindness that we all crave, that we all deserve, that we all owe to ourselves first and foremost. 

Bonus Factor: Introspection

Woman looking at herself in the mirror

Even for an Old with fairly healthy self-esteem, this book was a powerful catalyst for self-reflection. Regardless of our similarities (or lack thereof), the emotions of these teen letter writers still resonated with both Past and Present Me, and the author responses have given me a lot to ruminate on.

Break Glass In Case Of: A Heart That Needs Mending

This is the kind of book that you read with an ache in your heart—for the teen letter writers, for the authors responding, for anyone feeling the same pain, for yourselfDear Heartbreak might be as devastating as its namesake, but also just like heartbreak, it’s possible to emerge from the other side pieced back together again.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Henry Holt and Co. This review was originally posted on Kirkus Reviews in exchange for monetary compensation, which did not affect or influence my opinions. Dear Heartbreak: YA Authors and Teens on the Dark Side of Love is available now.

Mandy (she/her) lives in Edmonton, AB. When she’s not raiding the library for YA books, she enjoys eating ice cream (esp. in cold weather), learning fancy pole dance tricks, and stanning BTS. Mandy has been writing for FYA since 2012, and she’s been overseeing all things FYA Book Club since 2013.