Cover of The Pursuit of Miss Heartbreak Hotel by moe Bonneau. Red background. Two female hands reach for each other through a mass of ivy

About the Book

Title: The Pursuit of Miss Heartbreak Hotel
Published: 2019

Cover Story: Little Lambs Eat Ivy
Drinking Buddy: Meh
Testosterone Estrogen Level: Low
Talky Talk: Huh?
Bonus Factor: End of Life
Bromance Status: No

Cover Story: Little Lambs Eat Ivy

I’m not sure what’s with all the vines. The grasping hands are neat, but almost unnoticeable on this bright red cover. There’s a cockroach and a centipede on the back, who did not appear in the book. Also, while Lu refers to Eve as ‘Miss Heartbreak Hotel,’ we’re never told why.

The Deal:

Lucy ‘Lu’ Butler is a high school senior, a track star, and popular with the boys, who don’t really impress her. Her father is a doctor, and she has difficulty connecting with her family, including a younger brother and an older sister who has left home. Lu has a hopeless crush on Miss Hayes, one of her teachers. Everything changes when  her ex-best friend, Eve, reappears in Lu’s life. Eve stopped hanging out with Lu after deciding Lu wasn’t cool enough, and they haven’t spoken in years. After a women’s bathroom encounter involving a pregnancy test and the best way to get blood out of a sweater, they start reconnecting. But can they be friends again? Can they be…more?

Drinking Buddy: Meh

Two pints of beer cheersing with a "Denied" stamp over them

I didn’t dislike Lu. She was compassionate, conflicted, and talented. But I didn’t like her, either. There was just nothing about her or Eve that really made them stand out, and nothing about their conflict that made me want to cheer for them, other than they were the heroines and were supposed to be happy. It just wasn’t enough to keep me turning pages.

Testosterone Estrogen Level: Low

There were some steamy bits, but they usually ended with Eve not returning Lu’s texts for several days. I felt like the friend who has to hear about someone’s relationship problems, with no good advice to give.

Talky Talk: Huh?

The main reason I didn’t care for this book was that the author chose to write the entire thing in a bizarre, nearly incomprehensible stream of invented slang:

Ours is an age-old tale of two betties, apple-jacks forever, when suddenly one goes ace gorgeous and then, naturally, massive popular. Said popular betty ditches other unsaid, unpopular betty for superhit cool crowd.

That was the back cover blurb. And the entire book is like that:

Three other party hardies peer up at us and say, “What’s the beat, Butler!”…Eve’s hush as I scat with Raine and Blue and I can see Eve’s not hit with these Jacks. I introduce her and they scope her massive skeptic but then Blue says…”Nate Gray’s girl, yeah?” and eve laughs, sorta crickets.

It’s not like this is some secret language between Lu and her friends, either. Even her father talks like that.

Now if you’re going to go to the trouble of inventing a new language, do it because your book is set in another world (Lord of the Rings), the distant future (Stand on Zanzibar), or some strange subculture (A Clockwork Orange). When you’re writing contemporary YA, this sort of thing is just baffling. It took me a long time to figure out, for instance, that ‘Ophelia’ means ‘crazy’ and that ‘tars’ are ‘cigarettes.’ The whole thing felt like I was reading a book written in Pig Latin, and I feel I missed a lot of the plot because of this.

Bonus Factor: End of Life

Human skull

Lu’s grandmother is very sick. She’s stopped medical treatment and has essentially come home to die. Lu has difficulty coping with this. Her grandmother is more or less unresponsive. Lu feels guilty for not spending more time with her when she was healthier, is getting crap about that from her older sister, and is uneasy being around someone who’s actively trying to die. How do you deal with that?

Bromance Status: No

I’m sorry. This was a short book, but a confusing and unexciting one. I won’t be back.

Literary Matchmaking

The Swap

For a better book with unfortunate invented slag, read Megan Shull’s The Swap.

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza

The Apocaylpse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson, is a much stronger book about two girls in…not quite love.

A Very, Very Bad Thing

Jeffery Self’s A Very, Very Bad Thing is another LGBTQ book that could have used a more interesting protagonist.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, but no money or beer.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.