A Field Guide for Heartbreakers by Kristen Tracy
Reading Level: Adult Romance
Release Date: June 1, 2010
Pages: 352 pages
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Seventeen-year-old Dessy Gherkin is a straight-A student from small-town Ohio who receives the chance of a lifetime due to the intervention of her adventurous, long-time best friend, Veronica Knox. Without Dessy's knowledge, Veronica submits a humorous essay the two of them wrote together to a prestigious writing program which will be held in Prague the summer before their senior year. Amazingly, they are both accepted and assigned to the fiction workshop led by Veronica's mother, a famous literary novelist. They are the only two high school students among dozens of college students attending the writing program.
Dessy had been moping the entire month prior to the trip to Prague, because her boyfriend and fellow geek, Hamilton Stacks, dumped her, giving the excuse that he was heading to university and didn't want to maintain a long-distance relationship. Bouncy, bossy Veronica is determined to take Dessy's mind off Hamilton, whom Dessy persists in believing will eventually come back to her, in spite of glaring evidence to the contrary. Veronica insists that the cure for Dessy's Hamilton fixation is to get interested in other guys, and Prague is just the place to do it. Rather than taking the writing workshop seriously, Veronica is determined to spend her time hunting down "hot-dudes," and drags the reluctant Veronica along with her.
This is a hilarious buddy story with the classic chick-lit theme of dating disasters. Dessy is the "straight man" of this sprightly pairing, playing the part of the stooge and comic foil, who is constantly shocked, awed, or physically bowled over by the wild and crazy antics of willful Veronica.
Veronica's continual volley of her personal impressions of the people around her, her endless plots for for the greater glory of her life and Dessy's, and her occasional startlingly accurate insights fuel this book from start to finish. Beneath all the comedy, though, there is a strong coming-of-age throughline. Dessy begins this story emotionally dependent on the important people in her life, to the extent that, in every area outside her studies she is a passive follower. Veronica has always taken advantage of that, because she loves to lead, and she starts out the book dragging Dessy behind her everywhere she goes. Over the course of this fast-paced, witty novel, though, both girls learn to moderate the extremes they've been living, and their relationship survives and prospers because they both share the important virtue of loyalty to and support for each other.
As someone who has attended many literary-fiction workshops while in grad school, I personally thought the author does a dead-on send-up of the unconsciously comic, self-involved pretentiousness of the participants of such workshops. The author also does a great job with her unusual setting, bringing Prague alive for her audience without ever sliding into boring travelogue.
Fans of Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, Gimme a Call by Sarah Mlynowski, the Demon Princess series by Michelle Rowen, and the Magic In Manhattan series by Sarah Mlynowski will especially enjoy this book.
I read this as a Kindle edition. It is well-formatted and edited.
I rate this book as follows:
Chick-Lit Plot: 5
Overall: 4.5 stars rounded to 5 stars