“A charming, tender, and hilarious debut you will want to get lost in.” —Gayle Forman, bestselling author of If I Stay and I Was Here
In this ode to all the things we gain and lose and gain again, seventeen-year-old Penelope Marx curates her own mini-museum to deal with all the heartbreaks of love, friendship, and growing up.
Welcome to the Museum of Heartbreak.
Well, actually, to Penelope Marx’s personal museum. The one she creates after coming face to face with the devastating, lonely-making butt-kicking phenomenon known as heartbreak.
Heartbreak comes in all forms: There’s Keats, the charmingly handsome new guy who couldn’t be more perfect for her. There’s possibly the worst person in the world, Cherisse, whose mission in life is to make Penelope miserable. There’s Penelope’s increasingly distant best friend Audrey. And then there’s Penelope’s other best friend, the equal-parts-infuriating-and-yet-somehow-amazing Eph, who has been all kinds of confusing lately.
But sometimes the biggest heartbreak of all is learning to let go of that wondrous time before you ever knew things could be broken…
About the Author
A former bookseller and teacher, Meg Leder currently works as a book editor in New York City. Her role models are Harriet the Spy and Anne Shirley. She is the author of Letting Go of Gravity, The Museum of Heartbreak, the coauthor of The Happy Book, and spends her free time reading, looking for street art, and people watching. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. You can visit her website at MegLeder.com or find her on Twitter @MegLeder.
Read an Excerpt
The Museum of Heartbreak
New York, New York
Cat. No. 201X-1
On loan from Ephraim O’Connor
ON THE FIRST DAY OF my junior year, in the first two minutes of open assembly, the most handsome boy I had ever seen in all my sixteen never-been-kissed years sat down and raised an eyebrow right at me.
He had gray-green eyes, cool like a round stone in your hand.
He was wearing a Catcher in the Rye T-shirt and a navy corduroy blazer with elbow patches.
He smelled like cinnamon.
If I could have conjured the perfect boy, I couldn’t have done better than this.
“Hey,” he said, tipping his head my way. “How are you liking it?”
Without thinking, I checked the seat next to me, but no, Eph was sprawled out, doodling intricately on the back cover of a notebook. I checked in front of me, but Audrey was talking to Cherisse, her back to us.
The boy was talking to me.
The boy with the thick eyebrows and the beautiful head of curly brown hair was talking to me.
“Ohhhh?” I said, and the sound came out like someone had stepped on a mouse, and I couldn’t help it, I was so flustered: I poked my finger at my chest. Me?
He nodded, a wry smile. “Yeah, you, Scout.”
My heart shot up and through my ribs to the tip of my tongue, paused for one breath, then plummeted back down even faster.
Like I’d stuck my finger in a socket.
Like I’d been hit by lightning.
Something inside me started, something with fierce, gnashing teeth and adrenaline and bone.
“How am I liking what?” I wiped my palms on my lap, willing myself to be cool, to calm down.
“Your comic book,” he said, pointing to the copy of Watchmen poking out of my bag. “Do you like it?”
The cute boy across the aisle was, for no apparent reason, striking up a conversation with me, and I had this giddy, fleeting thought: Wow, maybe it is finally happening. Also: Thank you, Baby Jesus, for making Eph lend me his copy of Watchmen.
And then I opened my mouth.
“Oh, the graphic novel? It’s not mine; my friend is loaning it to me. . . .” I nodded in Eph’s general direction, afraid to take my eyes off the boy. “Which is cool, because it’s a first edition and he’s a megafan, probably because he’s going to be a graphic artist someday. . . .” The beautiful boy gave an amused nod, so I pushed forward. “Have you read it? I haven’t finished it yet, but I saw the movie and it was all right, though Eph said the movie messed a lot of stuff up. . . .”
The boy started to say something, but words were haphazardly tumbling out of my mouth on top of his. “Though I have a hard time following the graphic novel stuff, like do I read the dialogue up to down or left to right . . .” I zoomed my hands in crazy directions like the comic was in front of me. “Or maybe it doesn’t matter—I don’t know? But I like reading so much.”
I stuttered to a stop because I had lost my breath, but also because the boy had this inscrutable look on his face that I could only imagine meant he was trying to figure out the nearest escape route without having to interact with me again.
I winced. “Oh God, I’m sorry.”
He shrugged. “I was only making conversation. . . .”
He was only making conversation. He was only trying to be polite.
My neck flushed hot, and a large part of me wanted to get up and scream, I am terrible at talking to boys! I am terrible at life! and then run away as far as I could, to some solitary research station at the North or South Pole (whichever one has penguins), where I would never have to interact with another human being for the rest of my life.
(Another part of me—one so very small—wanted desperately to rewind to a minute ago, before I opened my mouth, before I knew he was only being polite, when my heart was all hopeful and electric.)
“Sometimes I talk too much . . . ,” I started to explain right as Cherisse—one of my top ten least favorite people in the world (and that list included dictators and people who ran dog fights)—gasped: “Oh my God, Keats!”
The beautiful boy—Keats, evidently—flushed and raised his eyebrows. “Hey, Cherisse. I was wondering when I’d see you.”
He pushed his jacket sleeves up and leaned over to give Cherisse a cheek kiss, and I saw one red-and-white-striped sock peeking out from under his cords. The other was a navy blue one with giraffes on it.
Cherisse blushed and flicked her hair over her shoulder, playfully toying with the charm on her gold necklace, leaning close to Audrey, effectively using her back to block me from the conversation.
“Aud, this is the guy I was telling you about! His dad and my dad have known each other for forever.”
“Wow, that’s forever,” Audrey murmured politely, meeting my eyes and smiling apologetically.
I shrugged, looking back down at my notebook.
“I’ve known Keats since before we could even talk,” Cherisse continued, smiling coyly at him, and I felt disappointment settle over me like a weary sigh. Even if I hadn’t blown it with my epic monologue on Watchmen, if Cherisse and her shiny hair and smooth conversational skills were in the picture, I didn’t stand a chance.
Cherisse pointed at Audrey. “Keats, this is my bestie, Audrey. You will love her.”
I wanted to say, Audrey’s my best friend, but I wasn’t seven years old, so I bit down on my lip instead, watching the introductions.
“Nice to meet you,” Keats said, reaching across the aisle to shake Audrey’s hand, which seemed really gentleman-like and polite, and she shook his hand back and said, “Charmed,” and not for the first time I wished I had half the conversational grace Audrey did.
Cherisse pointed at Eph. “And the tall, handsome hottie over there is our friend Eph.”
Tall, handsome hottie? Who talks like that?
Eph glanced up from his drawing. “Hey, man,” he said, jerking his chin up at Keats, then leaned back over his picture.
Cherisse smiled, evidently done with introductions, and I felt that familiar mix of embarrassment and general badness I got every time it was clear she was merely putting up with me because my presence was a side effect of being friends with Audrey. Why did I care what Cherisse thought? I didn’t, right?
I was turning red on the outside and cringing on the inside, because it is terrible to be purposefully overlooked when there is a cute boy in the vicinity, and that, coupled with the previous epic flirt fail—scratch that, epic life fail—was making fleeing to the solitary research station at the penguin-friendly pole seem better and better.
But then Audrey placed her hand on his arm and gestured toward me. “Keats, you have to meet my friend Penelope.”
If I could have nominated Audrey for high school sainthood right that second, I would have.
Cherisse batted a dismissive glance over her shoulder, so quick I was sure I was the only one who saw it.
I smiled weakly at Keats. “Yeah, we met already,” I said.
Audrey raised her eyebrow appraisingly at me, like, Well, what’s this? and Keats’s eyes rested on mine, and my heart fluttered, like it was waking up from an enchanted sleep.
He started to say something to me—so maybe all wasn’t lost after all?—but Cherisse interrupted him. “What classes do you have? You’re in AP, right?”
His eyes lingered on mine a second longer as he gave a rueful shrug and turned to Cherisse. “Carroll for chemistry.”
I started to say, “I have her too,” but Cherisse squealed dramatically. “She is cray! Audrey, didn’t she freak out on your biology class last year?”
I shifted back as Audrey started to relay Mrs. Carroll’s historic meltdown, one complete with tears and abandoning her classroom after someone sang out the lyrics to “Tiny Bubbles” during an experiment.
There was a nudge on my shoulder.
“You like?” Eph asked, sliding his notebook onto my lap and pushing his hair behind his ear.
He had sketched himself, gangly and knobby, bangs in his eyes, chin-length hair, with a name tag saying HI, MY NAME IS TALL HANDSOME HOTTIE, wearing a clearly bored expression while picking his nose.
At the bottom he’d written, in all capital letters and minus any proper punctuation or actual hashtag symbol, HASHTAG TALL HANDSOME HOTTIE ALERT.
Sometimes the sheer fact of simply knowing Ephraim O’Connor makes me feel like the luckiest girl in the whole Milky Way.
“Fuckin’ rad, yeah?” He stretched back in his chair, folding his arms behind his head.
“Language, Ephraim.” I took the drawing in, admiring how in such a quick sketch he’d managed to capture the rattiness of his Superman T-shirt and the inked-in bubble tags on the rubber rims of his checkered Vans. “It’s pretty frakking rad.”
Eph ignored my f-bomb substitution. “Pretty rad? Come on, Pen. It’s completely fucking rad.” He leaned closer, grinning. “You know I’m a tall, handsome hottie. Say it.”
I stifled a laugh, which turned into a snort, which tragically morphed into the sound I imagined a seriously constipated (and angry about it) wild boar would make.
My face went cherry red. I couldn’t bear to turn around to see if the new boy had heard it.
Eph stared at me, mouth twisting. “What was that?”
I decided to pretend that that sound had not come from me. “Sorry to disappoint you, but I can’t confirm your tall, handsome hottie status. That’s Summer’s job.”
“Her name is Autumn.”
“I get all your girls mixed up,” I said, trying to remember if Autumn was the one with the dreadlocks or the one with the nose ring.
Something neon pink shifted in the corner of my vision, and I saw Cherisse taking off her sweater and stretching like a cat in the tiny white T-shirt underneath. She giggled, then leaned over to squeeze Keats’s knee and whisper in his ear.
I could never flirt like that. Keats was smiling at whatever Cherisse was saying—and his grin was sly and handsome, like a fox, or a character from a Wes Anderson movie, or that fox character from that Wes Anderson movie, and at that moment, I would have given all my future birthday and four-leaf-clover and stray-eyelash and falling-star wishes to get someone like him to smile like that at me.
I would have given anything to finally be the one someone liked back.
I chewed on my lip—my worst, grossest habit—and glanced at Eph.
He was studying me, his eyes darting between Keats and me, like he knew something I didn’t. He raised an eyebrow.
“Nothing,” I said, digging in my bag for lip balm, trying to sound all casual and easy-breezy. “It’s nothing at all.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I really relate to this book very much. Most especially with Pen. This book was so honest. Many symbolisms but the most profound symbolism is dinosaurs. this is the type of book that you seem to annalize. Maybe it was just me who annalized it but it definitely brought the sense of having hidden meanings, hidden messages, and a lot of deep thinking to what the author would like to actually come to say. It definitely started slow. it felt as if it were already explaining something the reader already knows. And Pen seems to be the innocent and pure teenager that is actually what I think teens are. Or probably just me when I was a teen. i related to her so much. Hating change, believing in that epic love story, how it's a choice with her or without her. i could see myself clearly in her... and this book is what made it beautiful. i would definitely understand if not all who read this would get it. but i want to thank Meg Leder for writing a book not because of heartbreaks, but because of writing a book for people who feels scared, neglected, ans even ignorant sometimes. i have to admit, I feel braver having finished it. and these are the books that would stay in your heart for a long time. i love the characters. Pen is the type of main character that you would hate but also like. Eph is so brave and frank, Aud is her own person. And these characters are represented by someone we know in our lives... scary yet enticing... i could go on and on about this book. i really truly loved it. *i won this book and other book swag in a giveaway hosted by rivetedlit.com.
When I first heard about this book I was so freaking excited. I loved the IDEA of this book and I just knew it would be one I loved. But unfortunately, this book I had been eagerly anticipating completely missed the mark with me. Penelope's life has always been safe. She has the same friends, who do the same things, and talk about those things afterwards. Until one day a guy walks into her life. And he's nothing like she's ever known. She soon learns that can be a good thing or a bad thing. Soon things start to change faster than she thought. The main reason I didn't like this book was the characters. In the very first few pages one of the characters makes a "fart" noise. Then throughout the book he's continuously described as saying stupid things like "Exsqueeze me" whenever someone says something that rhymes with fart. -__- I'm not sure if they author was trying to be funny, but it just didn't do it for me. It just got on my nerves. I'm one of those people that say it's crazy to say that YA characters are "young," but at the same time, these characters did. To be honest they seemed more like MG characters. My cousin makes those noises in the 4th grade. Another thing I didn't like about this one was the plot. I remember being able to figure out what was going to happen on page one. I would have liked it better if there was something I hadn't figured out was going to happen, but alas, I called it all. The entire book felt way too cliche. The only reason I didn't DNF this was because I was hoping to see some type of change in the story. It did indeed get better (the one character had stopped talking about fart noises) but by that time it was already the end of the book. I also was hoping for some change in the characters. One person seemed to get a little more mature, but Pen stayed the same until the very end and it just got monotonous. To be honest, this was a little disappointing to me. I wanted to DNF it numerous times, but something told me to continue to give it a shot. I'm sure this will be great to others but it just wasn't for me.
I love the VOICE! I love the characters! I love New York! Museum of Heartbreak is a compelling, adorable, and quirky YA read. Highly recommend!
“The Museum of Heartbreak” is the sort of YA book that takes me right back to my high school years. I was literally going through all of the emotions Penelope was feeling while reflecting on my own memories. The format is a fun way to get to know the life of Penelope and her friends. Each chapter contains a different item from the “museum catalogue” and revolves around the story behind it that helped shape where she is at the moment. Some of them are flashbacks to elementary school and others are recent events. It was a clever plot device and made me think about the small mementos I’ve accumulated over the years. (To the young adults: This habit doesn’t stop when you get old and is perfectly fine. Just don’t become a hoarder.) There are all sorts of heartbreaks covered, but the one that resonated most for me was that of growing up. Everyone matures in different ways at different paces, and it really hurts to be the one who feels left behind during it all. It was a good lesson to be able to see from the outside that maturing at a different speed isn’t a bad thing and there is no need to rush. “The Museum of Heartbreak” is a book I can recommend for any young adult or adult who enjoys contemporary YA. The pacing was fast and the dialogue realistic. It will make for a perfect summer read or provide an escape from the real world. This unbiased honest review is based upon a complimentary copy.
This book was so wonderful! I love books about friendships. Pen (Penelope) has been best friends with Eph (Ephraim) and Audrey forever. But this year, Audrey has a new friend, Clerisse, who is awful to Pen. And Eph is dating anything that breathes. Pen doesn't like how things are changing and she's dealing with little heartbreak after little heartbreak. Not to mention, she has her first relationship with a boy, and she needs her friends. Luckily, she finds a few new ones: Grace and Miles. This book just felt so real. The relationships were believable. The emotions were raw. Pen was slightly annoying at times, but I was very invested in her happiness because of the hurt I felt for her right away. I loved the way this book was written as a museum. Each chapter began with an artifact, and then that section of the story explained why it had meaning and how it played into the various heartbreaks involved in this book. I most appreciated that the heartbreak wasn't just about a boyfriend. This book examines the way that our friends and family can hurt us too, sometimes without meaning to. It's a great read! http://www.momsradius.com/2016/07/book-review-museum-of-heartbreak-ya.html
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for the arc of The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder! Penelope has been best friends with Eph and Audrey for several years. Now Eph and Audrey think it's time they increase their social circle, much to Penelope's dismay. They each grow and have different struggles and experiences of their own and try to remain friends through it all. The artwork is fun and adds life and charm to the Museum of Heartbreak idea. This high school story contains popularity problems, artistic talent and book lovers and is a touching, endearing story.
The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder was a sweet look at first love and what can happen when it does not end up like expected. Penelope (Pen) has had the same two best friends since elementary school. Eph the boy who has always been there for her and Audrey her other half. Pen does not need anyone else in her life but then the charming new guy Keats appears. I really enjoyed Leder’s style of writing, she was able to merge friendship, romance, heartbreak, family issues and more in a cohesive story that never seemed dumbed down. I also loved the graphics of the “museum” items that accompanied the chapters. They were vague enough that you could not quite guess the ending but specific enough that you knew something was coming. The world created was also vivid and the descriptions top notch. I could picture the players well and visualize where they were placed. Pen was alternately charming and frustrating and I really enjoyed reading her journey. There were a few moments that made me want to shake her as it seemed like she deliberately went down the wrong path, but hey there needs to be drama somewhere. For the most part though this was a very cute read that I really appreciated. First love and first heartbreak is never easy, but Leder made it enjoyable. Original review @ 125Pages.com I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
3.5 stars! Let me be honest here... this was total cover love at first sight. When I saw this cover, there was no question whether I would read this or not. It was a done deal. Then I read the synopsis, which sounded pretty unique to me for a contemporary read. Once this book arrived on my doorstep, I immediately jumped right in! Penelope is a hopeless romantic. She dreams of the picture-perfect romance you will find in a romance novel. She meets the super-cute Keats, and sparks start flying. When Keats speaks to her for the first time at a party, she's over-the-moon excited to finally be on his radar. Totally cliche, yes, but it's always made known to watch your back when getting mixed up with the most popular boy in school. This story revolves around Penelope's attempt to find the type of love you see on the big screen, finding herself experiencing heartbreak, both romantically and friendship-wise, along the way. "Sometimes you get hurt. And sometimes you're the one doing the hurting." Despite her naive and immature actions, Penelope grew on me after I got to know her a bit. The "romance" with Keats though was 100% meh for me. I wasn't convinced of their connection at all. I didn't like the two of them together. And as far as Keats himself, I really didn't get a chance to know him very well. As far as he is concerned, I really don't have any feelings whatsoever. Then there is Penelope's best friend, Eph. *swoon* Why, oh why, do I always instantly fall for the dorky, creative, hilariously funny guy and never the attractive popular one? Who knows. But Eph, he's the kind of book boyfriend that I instantly claim as my own and never look back. So much love for Ephraim. After the mildly slow start, this story really took off and ended up surprising me in such a wonderful way! I was thoroughly invested in this story and really started to love the characters so much. I have to admit, I felt like it was missing something as a whole. It was quirky and silly, which I love, but wasn't quite the total package, if that makes any sense. I was hoping for a little unpredictability and depth to the story, but it wasn't there for me. Either way, I still overall really liked this story and would recommend it to contemporary readers alike. It's the perfect read to get lost in as a refresher between more serious reads. "Maybe in real life there aren't happy endings. Maybe that's the point." (Thanks to Simon Pulse for the review copy!)
A sweet tale of friendship turned to love amongst life long friends, The Museum of Heartbreak explores that moment when a tight trio starts to go its separate ways in high school.
I loved the nostalgia of this novel, for it told a wonderful story and I loved the way it pieced together her journey. It reminded me of the way individuals hold onto items that may not seem sentimental to everyone but hold deep meaning or emotions because of what they represent. The pressed flower that’s situated between a book that has lost its brilliance and luster is not just a flower but to its owner it retains the beauty that it held the night that they will never forget. A ticket stub torn hastily, fading with age, still holds memories of what transpired as if it just occurred yesterday. It is all in the eyes of the beholder. I really loved the cover of this novel. It took me a bit to fully embrace this novel but once I did, I couldn’t put it down. Penelope, Audrey and Eph have been friends since grade school. The three of them have a great relationship but now Audrey has begun to date lots of men and Eph is dating too but Pen is rooted in how things are. When Keats enters the picture, Pen is interested in him but the advice that she is getting from Audrey causes tension between the two of them. Audrey is just trying to be a friend but Pen is taking it differently, she feels that Audrey is being too overbearing. I was worried for Pen, Keats is turning out to not be an ideal person for her but she was set on making him be the one for her. Eph is in the middle of all the drama. He listens to Pen talk about Keats and its funny because when Pen is out with Keats she is thinking about Eph. She wanted Keats, for there was something about him but she couldn’t devote herself to him when she was out with him. He was like a trophy and I wondered how long his shine would last. There were lots of great lines inside this novel and I wrote many of them down as Eph was patiently listening to Pen talk about her obsession with Keats. Eph didn’t show many emotions towards Pen, he was comforting, very mellow and it wasn’t until Pen gets in his face did I see how he really felt. I loved Pen’s tone, she wasn’t sarcastic; her view of reality was plain and simple. She over thought things, life was overwhelming to her at times and when they were, she had to step back. I think everyone has their own Museum of Heartbreak. This was a wonderful, good feeling novel. I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley and Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
There are some books that grab you from the first page, with characters that feel authentic enough that you believe them, and yet almost too delightful (and funny) to be real. That's "The Museum of Heartbreak" -- at least it was for me. I immediately connected with our narrator, New York native Penelope Marx, whose heart has been broken. I loved tracking the items that contributed to the heartbreak, which she catalogues with lovely specificity, and seeing her fall for Keats, oh the dreamy mysterious Keats. But what I truly loved about this book was Eph, Penelope's best friend since the diaper days, who may very well have just overtaken Etienne St. Clair from "Anna and the French Kiss" as my new book boyfriend, which is a serious de-throning if there ever were one. Eph, the drawer of dinosaurs and watcher of David Lynch movies, who's stolen the hearts of many a girl, yet always been just a friend to Penelope. Thus far, that is... Sure, this book is about the highs and lows of falling in love and heartbreak, but at its core it's about the evolution of friendships -- and being open to new ones, or to changes in preexisting ones.
This book was hands down one of the best contemporary YA books I have ever had the pleasure to read. It is smart and cool and hopeful and heartbreaking in all the best ways. I have a legit hangover after living in Pen’s story. I have fallen head over heels for her. Loving her quick wit, keen observations, unbreakable Pen-ness. Her character is beyond awesome and she attracts awesomeness. Eph? Sa-woon. Audrey, Grace—the entire cast—is so perfectly flawed and real. Leder’s writing is engaging and hilarious and warm. This is a perfectly paced YA that tackles (with beauty) all the grit and grace of romantic, love, friendship, self-love and familial belonging. And, there are dinosaurs. So, yeah. Magic.