Sophomore year broke Clementine Williams’ heart. She fell for her best friend’s boyfriend and long story short: he’s excused, but Clem is vilified and she heads into summer with zero social life.

Enter her parents’ plan to spend the summer on their sailboat. Normally the idea of being stuck on a tiny boat with her parents and little sister would make Clem break out in hives, but floating away sounds pretty good right now.

Then she meets James at one of their first stops along the river. He and his dad are sailing for the summer and he’s just the distraction Clem needs. Can he break down Clem’s walls and heal her broken heart?

Told in alternating chapters that chronicle the year that broke Clem’s heart and the summer that healed it, Unbreak My Heart is a wonderful dual love story that fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Susane Colasanti will flock to.

I have been pining for this book for quite some time, after reading reviews of it by Magan at RatherBeReading and Ginger at GReadsBooks. These two ladies are the go-to-source for Contemporary reads that are guaranteed to capture your heart and have you reaching for the box of Kleenex beside your bed. Once again, their recommendation did not disappoint. Unbreak My Heart is the perfect Summer Beach Read. Admittedly, I did not read this book while lounging on the beach, but I did read it on a lovely summer day – July 4th, to be exact, in less than 8 hours! That’s how captivating and easily readable this book is.

The story is narrated by Clementine “Clem” Williams, as she sets out on a summer-long sailboat excursion with her parents and little sister, Olive. This sounds like the perfectsummer to me, but for Clem, things are not that simple. Slowly, through occasional flash-backs, we learn how innocently and easily she fell for Ethan, her best friend’s boyfriend. In alternating chapters, we are witness to Clem’s anguish, heartbreak, and confusion as she struggles to balance feeling sorry for herself, figuring out where things went wrong, and appeasing her jovial, close-knit family.

Melissa Walker takes a touchy subject – cheating – often seen as very black-and-white, and reminds us that this world is shaded in gray more often than we perceive. Cheating in and of itself is not right. However, once you’ve read things from Clem’s point of view, you realize how fickle the heart is and that, often, very good people sometimes make very bad mistakes without ever meaning to. Clem never got a chance to explain herself to Amanda, and Ethan minimized his part in the whole debacle, so much so that Amanda forgave him and ostracized Clem.

I really felt for Clem. I’ve been in her position before: heartbroken, confused, and lonely. When you’re a teenager, the world seems so small and you feel even smaller. And when you have a family that loves you and means well, you know you’re lucky, but you just don’t feel like talking or hashing out your feelings. Clem doesn’t have a choice, not out on the water, not while sharing a sailboat with three other people. Her parents are the kind you don’t see often in YA novels. They’re loving, quirky, honest, and they know when to push and when to give in. Olive, Clem’s little sister, makes me wish she were mine! They each have something special to share with Clem, something to help her heal, but she is not quick to let them in.

Then, she meets Red – er, James. He and his father are on a sailing excursion, too, following the same route as Clem and her family. As he and Clem spend more time together, she realizes that she isn’t the only one dealing with a difficult situation, and that while people make mistakes, it’s not the end of the world and they don’t define you as a person. Their budding romance is sweet and natural. The more James came around, the more Clem smiled. I did, too. It was the perfect summer romance. Whether or not they stayed together, or even in touch, after summer ended was beside the point. James helped her heal and to realize that she valued her friendship with Amanda enough to fight for it.

Overall, Unbreak My Heart was a very heart-touching, realistic portrayal of what goes on in a teenage girl’s heart and head. You will fall in love with Clem, her journey, her family, and even her friends. This is a story about heartbreak, yes, but also about the hope and sense of renewal that comes afterward. After all, there is always sunshine after the rain, and you may find it in the curve of a boy’s smile, the hug of a loving parent,  in the acceptance of self – or all the above.

*A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.