Jude Hernandez has a problem. Well, a couple problems. Make that several. First, her father is suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s Disease, and the only thing that Jude can think of to bring him back is to get Valentina, his beloved Harley, running again. This brings up problem two: neither Jude nor her dad can do the mechanical work; so to avoid disaster, they hire a cut-rate mechanic. His name is Emilio, and he turns out to be a Vargas, part of a family of young men who have a really impressive track record for breaking Hernandez hearts. All of the Hernandez girls swore off Vargas boys six years before, when Jude was 12, through a blood oath on the Book of Broken Hearts. So, Emilio has to be kept secret (as does the fact that he’s sweet, and impossibly good-looking), which shouldn’t be too hard since Jude’s sisters are far from home and her mother is too distracted with working full time to pay attention. But, of course, life isn’t that easy, not when you add problems presented by blabby best friends with hurt feelings, and college plans that just may have to be put on hold. And what about figuring out who you are apart from your dominating much older sisters?
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This is a lovely coming of age book with sympathetic, engaging characters, and a sensitive yet realistic treatment of Alzheimer’s and the impact it has on families. Jude’s voice is witty, sarcastic, vulnerable, and realistically confused; and the message about figuring out what you want apart from family expectations is clear but not at all heavy handed. An excellent read for high school students (language and some plot situations make it questionable for younger readers), this is a great discussion starter and all-around good read from the celebrated author of Twenty Boy Summer (Little Brown, 2009) and Bittersweet (Simon Pulse, 2012).
—Reviewed by Ann Welton, Helen B. Stafford Elementary, Tacoma, WA.