Skip to main content

Dear Heartbreak: YA Authors and Teens on the Dark Side of Love

Review

Dear Heartbreak: YA Authors and Teens on the Dark Side of Love

DEAR HEARTBREAK is an anthology collection of advice from some of the biggest names in contemporary YA today to young adolescents who have written to Heartbreak, all edited by author Heather Demetrios. These teens’ letters pose questions to Heartbreak, questions about themselves and others, as well as rants and accusations, fears and hopes. The 18 writers included in this collection offer their wisdom to these teens as people who have gone through similar experiences, as a way to hopefully ease the burden that the idea of love puts on all of us.

Some of the topics involved in this collection are: unrequited love, loneliness, assault, mental health, lack of experiences and appearances. All of the responses are raw and full of good intention.

"The advice pieces in DEAR HEARTBREAK are serious, informative, humorous and reflective. Seventeen teens wrote about 17 different issues, and 18 authors responded in their own ways to them...yet, there was always a unifying message behind each one that tied the collection together."

One of my favorite things about the concept around this anthology was also the most aggravating part about it. That is the assumptions, interpretations and liberties that the authors take and make from the initial letters. These letters written by teens are entirely anonymous, there is no way for the author to ask further questions and get answers from the source materials writer. In some ways, it’s nice because it’s a truly outside view of this stranger’s situation. But it also leaves the door wide open for missed connections. There were certain pieces that felt to hit the issue the sender had right on, but there were also pieces that felt to miss the point entirely. Of course, this opinion is only mine and the idea of what worked and what didn’t is going to vary from reader to reader. Furthermore, due to the broad range of topics covered in here, not all the pieces will be applicable to many readers’ lives. Out of the 17 advice pieces, I only found myself able to promote the advice given or relate to maybe 7 of them. But still, I enjoyed reading almost all 17 of them.

At the end of the day, these are writers. Whether I could vibe with the advice or topic they were writing, I was still able to find enjoyable bits in each piece. Many the contributors to this anthology are authors I hadn’t read before. Now, they are authors I’m looking forward to reading because their writing in here, from a technical standpoint, was amazing. There are now authors I intend to read simply because I felt a connection to them and their writing. As much as this is a collection for fans of these authors already, this is also a great way to find new authors.

Ultimately, though, I would say DEAR HEARTBREAK is a collection for a very specific group of people. I don’t imagine that was the intention at the conception of this book, but having read all of it, I think it’s a safe bet that this is going to be best enjoyed by teens 12-16 with not much crossover for older readers.  Additionally, I think a large portion of people who’ll enjoy this collection will be readers that are a bit inexperienced in the area of love and relationships.  I thought that a large portion of the letters would be about relationships failed, but most of them were about not even being able to get into a relationship (which I feel!). But because of that fact, I believe it really narrows the pool of readers that’ll be attracted to and invested in this collection. I can see readers picking this up for a few of the contributions, whether they’re drawn by the authors' name or the topic of the piece, but I don’t imagine many readers will read every single section --- or at least, I wouldn’t suggest doing it all in one sitting.

Now, of course, there will be people outside of the 12-16 age group I believe this is best suited for, who haven’t yet had any romantic experiences or only bad ones. I fall in line with that. The reason I think it’s better suited for younger readers is not because only they would have that lack of experience or knowledge. No, it’s more so the tone that some of these pieces take on that I cannot imagine older readers sitting through. While most of the responses are positive, helpful, self-reflective leveling with the teen, some of them have a distinct condescending air to them. I think most preteens and teens are used to being addressed with some sort of condescending tone and may roll their eyes when it’s presented in this book but push through it regardless. I don’t imagine adults being very willing to tolerate that.

The advice pieces in DEAR HEARTBREAK are serious, informative, humorous and reflective. Seventeen teens wrote about 17 different issues, and 18 authors responded in their own ways to them; through many different tones and methods. And yet, there was always a unifying message behind each one that tied the collection together.

Most of these letters written by the authors talk about self-love. They talk about getting to know and understand yourself, about how our expectations for ourselves and for love are often heavily shaped by various forms of media (including their own books) that society has deemed to be “the Goal.” When most responses offer that, that same exact message that the last one offered, it may be justifiable to call it repetitious. But look, the message of self-love and awareness are ones I feel okay with getting shoved in people’s faces; especially given that it’s so often the opposite being pushed to the masses. Maybe not every letter needed to say the same things (and not every single one does!) but maybe that’s what someone (the anonymous sender, the reader…) needs. Humans are stubborn. Human teenagers tend to be especially stubborn and often self-loathing. Because I, as a teenager, can acknowledge this fact, I’m okay with some of the same bits of advice really being hammered in here. It helps to chip away at the idea we’ll never be good enough, deserving enough. I think on that note, I would consider this anthology to be an important addition to the YA available today.

Reviewed by Olivia Will on January 16, 2019

Dear Heartbreak: YA Authors and Teens on the Dark Side of Love
edited by Heather Demetrios