Book Review: Breakfast with Neruda by Laura Moe, reviewed by teen reviewer Lexi
Michael Flynn is just trying to get through his community service after he made the dumb decision to try to blow up his friend’s car with fireworks–the same friend who stole Michael’s girl. Being expelled and losing his best buddy and his girlfriend are the least of his problems: Michael has learned to hide everything, from his sick hoarder mother to the fact that he’s stuck living in a 1982 Ford LTD station wagon he calls the Blue Whale. Then one day, during mandatory community service, he meets Shelly, a girl with a past, who’s also special enough to unmask Michael’s deepest secrets. Can he manage to be worthy of her love, a guy living in a car, unable to return to his chaotic and fit-to-be-condemned home? Shelly won’t give up, and tries to peel back the layers of garbage and pain to reveal Michael’s immense heart. (May 16, 2016 from Merit Press. ISBN: 9781440592195)
“The afternoon leans into laziness, and we linger, just being.”
I wouldn’t make it a day in Michael Flynn’s shoes. He has the art of surviving down to a T. Between living out of his car and his mandatory community service, Michael seems to be getting along just enough to make it to the next day. I would say he is doing fine but Michael is a boy who lives out of his car he named the Blue Whale, dumpster diving for a decent meal, and having to repeat his senior year for something he hadn’t even gotten to finish.
But even through all this he still somehow finds love. Enter Shelley, a fellow delinquent who chain smokes and comes from a rich family. She knows about his living situation and she makes light of it like she does most things. She doesn’t pressure him to be anyone he’s not and doesn’t pressure him to tell her why he lives in his car. This book is all about not only Michael’s secrets unraveling but also Shelley’s.
Michael’s secrets bury him almost as much as the clutter that buries his house. Michael trying to find out what Shelley’s secrets are is like grasping at the smoke she so frequently blows from her endless amounts of cigarettes.
Breakfast With Neruda is about secrets. It’s about love and understanding and betrayal and pain. All the necessary ingredients to make a connection to the reader. But it’s not only about all these common things but it’s about living with someone who has a hoarding problem. This is a book that opens the door to a real problem that is hardly discussed or addressed outside of entertaining tv shows that make the viewer cringe. This book gives us a story from an insider. A person who suffered and who got pushed out by all the junk that cluttered his home. A person who has to live in his own car while his sister lives in the backyard because of their mom’s problem.
The love is the fabric that covers this story but it is the hoarding and the theme of family relationships that make up the insides. It’s about what an outsider can’t see that this book is about. It is the most inner parts of a person’s life. It’s what is behind their door. Breakfast With Neruda is a saddening book but it’s also very uplifting in a way that i can’t really explain. I can say i have never read anything like it. I recommend people to read it to get a peek through the shades of what really goes on in a house of a hoarder.
I came for the love and stayed for the pain and secrets.
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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