________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 41. . . .June 22, 2012


The Break.

Nelsa Roberto.
Winnipeg, MB: Great Plains Teen Fiction, 2012.
204 pp., trade pbk., $14.95.
ISBN 978-1-926531-20-5.

Grades 8-12 / Ages 13-17.

Review by Amy Dawley.

*** /4



He’d made it to the kitchen door before the shock had faded enough for me to speak out. “Kyle! Wait.”

He stopped, turned around, and waited. “I—I’m the one who owes you a favour. You found Nonna. Of course I’ll help you—your mom and sister, I mean.”

He didn’t respond right away, and for a second, it looked like he had changed his mind and was going to refuse. For some reason, I knew I’d be really disappointed if he did.

He turned his fierce stare to the floor. “Thanks. They’ll be happy.”

But you’ll be miserable.

Why did he dislike me so much? And why did I care if he did? Why should I care what he thought about me?

“So, I guess I’ll see you—that is—your mom and sister tomorrow. Same time?”

“Yeah.” He cleared his throat. “Well, thanks again.”

Why was he still waiting? Why wasn’t he running for the front door like I knew he wanted to?


Abby Lambert is devastated when she finds out she’s not going to be able to go on a ski trip over spring break with her friends. Her mother, a brilliant surgeon, has been called overseas to conduct emergency medical surgeries for Doctors Without Borders, and as always, that takes precedent over Abby’s life and plans. Her tight-knit cheer squad friends will get to have the time of their lives while she’s stuck at home with her ailing grandmother, Nonna. When outraged Abby complains about having to care for Nonna, Abby’s mother threatens to commit Nonna into Sunny Haven, a local seniors care facility, and Abby finally relents.

     For one week Nonna is Abby’s responsibility. They cook together, spend time together, and Abby accompanies Nonna on her regular day trips to Sunny Haven to play bingo and visit Nonna’s friends. It’s there that Abby sees classmate Kyle Di Luca and his family who own and operate Sunny Haven. Aloof and outwardly rude, Kyle mocks Abby and her stuck up cheer friends, saying that she must really be having an awful time by not getting to go on their spring break ski trip. Abby tries to avoid Kyle at all costs, but when Mrs. Di Luca begs Abby to cover for a volunteer who can’t teach a dance program for Sunny Haven’s residents, she’s thrown into Kyle’s path once again. Things get even more complicated when one of the residents complains to the Sunny Haven board of directors about Abby’s teaching a course without proper qualifications. Problems suddenly pile up, and what was supposed to be a low-key spring break is now hectic and overwhelming. Mrs. Di Luca is in danger of losing her job and is under disciplinary review, Kyle blames Abby for his family’s troubles, and, as Nonna’s health and understanding rapidly deteriorates, Abby has trouble keeping track of her.

     At its core, Nelsa Roberto’s The Break is an honest story about how families change and how that change is difficult and inevitable. With Abby’s mother constantly away at work or overseas, Nonna is the only real constant parental figure Abby has ever known. Nonna means comfort and familiarity. Abby is not willing to acknowledge how serious Nonna’s health has become and, therefore, does not accept the inevitability of Nonna’s admittance to Sunny Haven. While Abby’s voice is at times annoying with her self-pity, stubborn outbursts, and habit for jumping to conclusions, she is overall an endearing character. Readers will identify with Abby’s feelings of being the only person who truly cares for Nonna’s well-being. If given the opportunity, Abby’s mother would admit Nonna to Sunny Haven as soon as possible, and Abby feels that it is her protestations that are the only thing that stand between Nonna and oblivion. The tension between Abby and her absent mother is powerful and will interest teen readers who have similar relationships with their parents. Woven into the story is the development of an unlikely relationship between Abby and Kyle, which is tentative and careful. As they both navigate the changes in their family life, Abby and Kyle begin to realize the importance of shared experiences and the strong bond that can create.

     Teen readers who enjoy real life stories about changing relationships and family dynamics will gobble this one up. The Break will be especially poignant for readers who have very strong relationships with their grandparents, or whose grandparents live with them. Teens struggling with change or loss would also benefit from reading this story. The Break is a strong addition to any public or school library collection where stories about real life and families circulate well.


Amy Dawley is the teen librarian at the Prince George Public Library in Prince George, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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