Friday, August 29, 2014

Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend by Katie Finn

This summer, I bought and read all of Morgan Matson's new contemporary YA novels. Amy and Roger's Epic Detour, Second Chance Summer, and Since You've Been Gone. Morgan's books blend aspects of Sarah Dessen's and Deb Caletti's. She writes strong YA romances that also have interesting, complex characters and situations. When I found out that Morgan Matson also writes under the pseudonym "Katie Finn," I bought Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend, the first book in a series about protagonist Gemma's summer in the Hamptons. I had actually received Broken Hearts as an ARC at a recent conference, but forgot about it completely. I ended up buying the hard cover copy of Broken Hearts, and now both copies are shelved together. Sometimes knowing just that extra bit of information about an author and their other publication history (which you don't always get with a new publication, especially one written under a pseudonym - knowing that Morgan Matson was also Katie Finn is what led me to this book!) is just enough to create interest in a book that is otherwise indistinguishable from a pile of other ARCs. Morgan Matson - and Katie Finn - are now on my permanent "to-read" list, and I'm so excited about the news that Matson is beginning work on a new novel.

Broken Hearts follows teenage Gemma after her break-up with long-term boyfriend Teddy right before summer vacation. Gemma has plans to travel with Teddy to Colombia for the summer where they will be participating in a HELPP program (Humanitarian Education Learning through Progressive Programming). Dating Teddy has changed Gemma's interests and activities. She takes on Teddy's causes (mostly environmental initiatives) and swaps out movie dates for documentary dates. But she doesn't mind. She's happy to be with Teddy, and when he suggests they go to Colombia, she thinks it's a good idea (even if her idea of the program is more movie than documentary):
When Teddy had first told me about this volunteering program, I had assumed it would mean doing things like planting gardens and maybe teaching children to sing, until my best friend, Sophie Curtis, pointed out that I was actually thinking of The Sound of Music. I hadn't realized until I got the application forms that this program involved things like building houses and digging latrines. (pp. 2-3)
So when Teddy breaks up at her while they're shopping for travel supplies at Target, Gemma watches her summer plans vanish. Her mom and stepfather - expecting Gemma to be in Colombia - already have plans for the summer and insist that she can't stay home alone. Cue Gemma's invitation to stay in the Hamptons for the summer with her father, who is living with his writing partner so they can complete a new screenplay. The Hamptons should sound like a better option than building houses in Colombia to Gemma, if not for the fact that the last time she stayed there with her father, things went horribly wrong. She's not sure if she can face up to the damage that she left behind five years ago. 

But the Hamptons is Gemma's only choice, and armed with a brand new break-up haircut, she decides to go. En route, Gemma is mistaken for someone else, and this case of mistaken identity causes her to go by her best friend's name - Sophie Curtis - the entire time she is in the Hamptons. Her hair cut helps to conceal the fact that she's Gemma, the girl who ruined lives and left a lot of damage behind her. As Sophie, can she make amends with her ex-best friend Hallie and Hallie's brother Josh, who Gemma might be falling for? Or is it all going to go wrong?

The sequel, Revenge, Ice Cream, and Other Things Best Served Cold, comes out next year, and hopefully there will be another Morgan Matson book again soon! And I love all of the coffee references in Finn's novel, where the iced soy vanilla latte - extra vanilla - takes center stage as Gemma's beverage of choice. 

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