Today I’ll be reviewing Heartbreak Symphony by Laekan Zea Kemp as part of the blogtour brought to you by TBR and Beyond Tour. You can check out what other bloggers are saying about this book through the tour Schedule. Without any further words, let’s jump to the review.
I received an eARC of this book from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, NetGalley courtesy of TBR and Beyond Tours in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
► Title: Heartbreak Symphony
► BY: Laekan Zea Kemp
► Publishing: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
► on: 05 Apr 2022
► GENRE: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
► pacING: Fast
► paGES: 368
► aGE: 13+ ► Rating: 4/5 ★
Clap When You Land meets On the Come Up in this heart-gripping story about navigating first love and overcoming grief through the power of music.
Aarón Medrano has been haunted by the onstage persona of his favorite musician ever since his mother passed away. He seems to know all of Aarón’s deepest fears, like that his brain doesn’t work the way it should and that’s why his brother and father seems to be pushing him away. He thinks his ticket out is a scholarship to the prestigious Acadia School of Music. That is, if he can avoid blowing his audition.
Mia Villanueva has a haunting of her own and it’s the only family heirloom her parents left her: doubt. It’s the reason she can’t overcome her stage fright or believe that her music is worth making. Even though her trumpet teacher tells her she has a gift, she’s not sure if she’ll ever figure out how to use it or if she’s even deserving of it in the first place.
When Aarón and Mia cross paths, Aarón sees a chance to get close to the girl he’s had a crush on for years and to finally feel connected to someone since losing his mother. Mia sees a chance to hold herself accountable by making them both face their fears, and hopefully make their dreams come true. But soon they’ll realize there’s something much scarier than getting up on stage—falling in love with a broken heart.
Rep: Latino Main and Side Characters; Latino Gay SC; M/M relationship; SC with Parkinson’s; SC with Bipolar Disorder
Every day, in ways big and small, we are carrying our culture on our backs. Dragging it into the future whether it’s welcome here or not.
• The story follows a soul-wrenching tale of two teenagers struggling to find their voice in this world. Both, Mia and Aarón, have lost a parent and know the weight of missing them, hoping they’d be here to guide them into adulthood, in this cruel world. But grief follows them like shadows, growing bigger and bigger each day, making their absence more prominent. For them music is healing. It’s an escape. A way to cope up with their grief and battle their inner demons. But when they take a step closer to their dreams, grief, anxiety, and fear swallow their music, their voice, leaving them feeling tired and exhausted.
• Mia’s brothers were her pillars; without them and her music teacher, she would’ve been lost. For Aarón, it was his mother’s words and his idol’s songs that kept him going. His twin and his father were stuck with their grief and were harsh on him for expressing his grief.
Reading about grief never gets old and is never the same. Each person experiences grief differently. Reading about Mia and Aarón’s struggle to overcome their stage fears and piecing their broken families together was an incredible journey. Their love grounded each other and enabled them to become their better selves.
• There are many threads that hold this story together. It weaves grief, love, family issues, mental health, and immigrant issues into a symphony that touches our hearts. My heart was heavy every time when someone in the book was told (forcefully) to leave their family for being an undocumented immigrant. The atrocities of ICE never stopped with undocumented immigrants. Anyone from the Latino community was their target. Our characters in the book were always on their watch- flinching at shadows and hiding from police cars. They’d hunt them and make sure their lives were living hell. Music is one common thread that bound them all and made them fight against this violence targeted on their community.
•Overall, The Heartbreak Symphony is a layered story with expressive prose. Mia’s brothers were sweet characters and they (and the others) didn’t deserve the pain and misery added to their lives. Mia and Aarón’s anxiety permeated the story. I liked how they made their voices heard against violence through music. I wasn’t aware of ICE, so this book was an eye-opener for me. It threw light on contemporary matters and mental health issues breaking the stigma around seeking mental help.
There’s so much packed in this book, and I don’t want to spill everything in this post. Do pick it up if you want something real and a reminder of the violence inflicted on the Latino community in America.
CW // Dead Parents off-page, Violence ON immigrants, Gun Violence, Police brutality, Grief, Loss of Loved Ones, Depression, Panic Attack, Anxiety, Cancer mentioned, Abandonment, Suicidal Thoughts
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
LaekanZea Kemp is a writer living in Austin, Texas. Her debut novel, Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet was a 2021 Pura BelpréHonor Recipient. In addition to writing she’s also the creator and host of the Author Pep Talks podcast, as well as a contributor to the Las Musas podcast. She has three objectives when it comes to storytelling: to make people laugh, cry, and crave Mexican food. Her work celebrates Chicane grit, resilience, creativity, and joy while exploring themes of identity and mental health.
Have you read this book or is it on your TBR? What do you think about it?
“What is grief, if not love persevering?”
― Andrew Garfield