Books about rapturous, all-consuming first love are prevalent in young adult literature. But what about that last year before graduation, realistically? What about all those heartbreaking decisions that must be made when one or both parties go away to college? What happens to that beautiful teenage love then?
Adi Alsaid's Brief Chronicle of Another Stupid Heartbreak is the story of Lucinda "Lu" Charles, love and dating columnist for the popular online teen magazine Misnomer. Her heartbreak: Lu got dumped by her perfect boyfriend, Leo, who is leaving for college at the end of the summer.
The trouble is, Lu is still in love with Leo. Thoughts of him subsume her every waking moment, resulting in a raging case of writer's block that not even her best friend Pete can pull her out of. She resorts to eavesdropping on conversations, hoping to find the spark of inspiration that will light her compulsive writing fires once more.
Through a series of crazy coincidences (the kind that only happen in New York City), Lu finds herself constantly crossing paths with Iris and Cal, two teenagers caught up in the very same situation as Lu. Only Iris and Cal seem to have the perfect solution! Iris will still go away to California at the end of the summer, and their relationship will be over. But instead of breaking up and being miserable for months, they make the decision to live and love like there's no tomorrow, reveling in their perfect relationship all the way up to its expiration date.
Lu becomes obsessed with the pair of them, even more than she is with Leo. Unfortunately, all this dwelling in love doesn't help her writer's block. It also affects her relationship with Pete — Lu seems to keep forgetting that her best friend is leaving at the end of summer, too. Which is super frustrating, because Pete is a great character and I would have loved to have seen more of him in this book.
In a way, Pete's very absence adds yet another layer onto Lu's already overwhelming anxiety — an anxiety that readers will 100% feel, on many levels. Friendship anxiety, family and culture anxiety, potential loss of a scholarship anxiety, self-esteem issues, all on top of all that, heartbreak — Alsaid's incredibly vivid writing is so believable that, at times, I found myself suffering minor sympathetic panic attacks.
As a result of her obsession with Cal and Iris, Lu keeps missing her deadline at Misnomer — that particular anxiety spoke to me on a deep, personal level. Each day is a constant struggle for Lu, fraught with underlying apprehension (as the deadline approaches like a time bomb) and the embarrassment that comes with having to email her editor (or not) and admit her defeat.
Lu comes up with so many excuses for not writing, I found myself yelling at her on the page. (I had to keep reminding myself that THIS review was not past deadline and I wasn't the one about to lose my job!)
But that's the danger — and the beauty — of experiencing a book that cuts so incredibly close to the emotional bone. Alsaid beautifully illustrates those raw nerves — from anxiety to love, teens feel all the things, simultaneously, at an off-the-charts level. Not only is love new, but so is the loss of love, and Lu doesn't know how to heal from that. Do any of us, really?
Brief Chronicle of Another Stupid Heartbreak is a book about being in love with the idea of being in love, and how even that obsession can sweep you up in a tidal wave and wreck the rest of your life when you're not looking. But as much of a wreck as your life becomes, it — and you, like Lu — are always salvageable.
Alethea Kontis is a voice actress and award-winning author of over 20 books for children and teens.