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Thursday, March 26, 2015

[REVIEW] When Reason Breaks by Cindy L. Rodriguez

When Reason Breaks

Author: Cindy L. Rodriguez
Genre: YA Contemporary
Published: February 10th 2015 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Purchase from: Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble
13 Reasons Why meets the poetry of Emily Dickinson in this gripping debut novel perfect for fans of Sara Zarr or Jennifer Brown.

A Goth girl with an attitude problem, Elizabeth Davis must learn to control her anger before it destroys her. Emily Delgado appears to be a smart, sweet girl, with a normal life, but as depression clutches at her, she struggles to feel normal. Both girls are in Ms. Diaz’s English class, where they connect to the words of Emily Dickinson. Both are hovering on the edge of an emotional precipice. One of them will attempt suicide. And with Dickinson’s poetry as their guide, both girls must conquer their personal demons to ever be happy.

In an emotionally taut novel with a richly diverse cast of characters, readers will relish in the poetry of Emily Dickinson and be completely swept up in the turmoil of two girls grappling with demons beyond their control. 


My Thoughts

When Reason Breaks is a gripping and emotional tale of hope, despair, friendship, love and giving up. Saying Cindy L. Rodriguez did something right with her debut novel is an understatement. This book will definitely make my 2015 favorite reads list.

I fell in love with both Rodriguez's prose and Dickinson's poetry in this book, and their fusion made for a beautifully written novel. It was also interesting to know that there are parts of the book that are loosely based on the life of Emily Dickinson herself, as mentioned in the author's note. "The characters in When Reason Breaks represent pieces of the iconic American poet Emily Dickinson." I just think it's a refreshing and unique take to incorporate the life and works of a literary icon on a contemporary novel like this. I've never actually read anything like this before as I'm more familiar with fairy-tale and folklore retellings, so this is a new one for me.

Coupled with this ingenious move is Rodriguez's brilliance in words and story-telling. The pacing was somewhat slow, though, and it felt like there's nothing really happening in the first few chapters. But actually, the build-up of tension is there and it made the climax more gut-wrenching. The somber atmosphere also matched the dark theme of the story.

When Reason Breaks is deliciously diverse. It has a Latina main character, a boyfriend with gay parents, and a best friend of multi-cultural background. All these characters complemented each other well with their colorful and dynamic personalities. Yay for diversity!

As for the main characters, Emily and Elizabeth may well be polar opposites but they were brought together by their common love for Dickinson's poetry and the fact that they were both struggling with their own issues. They were both interesting characters and their journey towards healing and acceptance was tough but inspiring. I liked that they're different in a lot of ways because that made them distinct and it's easy to be confused in stories that have two main characters with a seemingly one fate. The character development was subtle but nevertheless present.

The anonymous letter was also an effective plot device. It brought the mystery factor on who among Emily and Elizabeth would attempt suicide. I actually guessed beforehand who it would be, but I wouldn't call it predictable. Maybe I just didn't bet on the obvious choice. But these letters were the most heart-wrenching parts of the book because they showed the true feelings and reasons of the mystery girl.

When Reason Breaks is a difficult read, but it delivers an important message. It wouldn't be for everyone, but it's undeniably an excellent read. It tackles heavy issues like suicide and depression, but the author is able to create a story that is both sensitive and honest. It is poetic and compelling and reading this book is a moving experience for me.

Favorite lines

"What is death? It is the glass of life broken into a thousand pieces, where the soul disperses like perfume from a flask, into the silence of the eternal night."
~ ~
Possibilities are great, but you have to take action. If you get too comfortable in your home of possibilities, then your dwelling becomes a prison before you realize it. Your home becomes a jail that sucks the life out of you.
~ ~
" a relationship, you have your ups and downs, sure, and you help each other through, but if a person is genuinely unhappy, it won't work. No amount of love or laughter from the other person can fix that. Each person has to love and laugh on their own. They need to feel it for real, deep down, in here."
~ ~
A bandage covers a wound and helps it to heal, but it also masks the hurt. And if the broken part of you is bound too long or too tightly, doesn't it make everything worse? At some point, don't you have to rip off the bandage, expose the wound, and deal with the pain? So whether you're injured or healing, it hurts.

Meet the Author

Cindy L. Rodriguez is a former newspaper reporter turned public school teacher. She now teaches as a reading specialist at a Connecticut middle school but previously worked for the Hartford Courant and the Boston Globe. She and her young daughter live in Connecticut. When Reason Breaks is her debut novel. For more author information, click here.


author image

Julie @ Books and Insomnia

Julie is a Filipina blogger who pretends she has insomnia so she can stay up late reading. When she's not buried in books, she can be found watching anime, drinking chocolate-flavored instant coffee, lurking on the internet, daydreaming and talking about herself in third person. She loves purple and anything sweet!


  1. Oh how did I miss this? I'm a a big fan of Emily and J. Brown so I'm pretty sure I'll love this. Your review is perfect! Totally convinced me to buy the book! Can't wait to dive in to the story xx

  2. This has been a "maybe" for me, as far as my TBR list goes. Now I'm feeling more certain about it. :) Great review!

    1. Thanks, Nikki! :) I hope you enjoy it as well!

  3. Suicide has been such a big issue in spring/summer titles, and I'm glad it's being written about in YA books. Great review!

    Kate @ Ex Libris

    1. Thanks, Kate! I think suicide is a common theme in YA contemporary; the books just differ in the way the authors handle the issue. :)

  4. Wow that sounds like quite the read Julie. It's always amazing finding one that moves you. (gorgeous cover as well)

    1. YES! This is really a good one. Ended up enjoying this more than I expected to. Thanks, Anna! :)

  5. Latina main character! I totally need to get more diverse in my reading, especially culturally, so I will have to check this one out!
    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings

    1. Please do! And I hope you enjoy this as well. :) Thanks, Missie!

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  7. Prose and Poetry?!?!?! Yes please! Thanks for this review... On my TBR it goes.


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