That was my first thought when I first heard about Laura Moe’s Breakfast with Neruda. I mulled it over in my mind a couple of times before I could even read the first page of this amazing novel. I couldn’t understand why someone storing up things yielded so many consequences for their family and I just assumed that the book was based solely on a kid going through his “awkward years”. By the time I got to the fifth chapter, I understood the reasons behind why Michael refused to live at home and why he attempted to blow up his mother’s car. More importantly, I understood why some people become hoarders and how being a hoarder can seriously screw over your family members and loved ones.
Michael Flynn lives in his car because his mother is a hoarder, he tries to blow up his best friend’s car after he steals Michael’s girlfriend and ends up serving out his community service hours at the school he recently got expelled from. That’s the kind of guy readers are introduced to when they first meet Michael. He’s the kind of character who can’t be classed as a “bad boy” but also can’t be labelled as “the misunderstood kid”. He’s the sort of person who’s been placed in an unfortunate situation and doesn’t know how to find his way out. Being this kind of character makes him so much more relatable than if the author had just decided that Michael would be a “bad boy,” with jelly curls and a bad attitude. By the end of the novel, I feel like I know Michael personally and it’s easy to relate to the plethora of emotions he feels when he encounters situations far more stressful than the one he’s currently in.
After meeting Shelly – a girl who was also saddled with community service duties, Michael’s world is completely changed (in a non-corny way). Shelly has dark secrets of her own and isn’t ready to share any of them with anyone – especially not Michael. However, over the course of 200 pages, Shelly helps Michael to realize that he isn’t as worthless as he’s led himself to believe all these years and, along the way, she slowly begins to trust Michael with her secrets.
Going for breakfast at random fast food restaurants before heading to serve out their sentence at the high school, is what causes Shelly and Michael’s bond to deepen. Michael has never told anyone about his mother’s hoarding problems but he entrusts this secret to Shelly and what she does with it is amazing.
I loved reading about the life Michael’s mother had and how he found out about the series of events that resulted in her becoming a hoarder. It’s almost too sad to read and I can’t believe that someone could be so obsessed with their belongings that they completely neglect their children and their needs.
I also enjoyed the few times that the book broke the fourth wall. It was perfectly timed and I just had to laugh when the story tried to defy the clichéd YA novel storyline. What I hadn’t expected was the lovemaking scene. It was unlike any YA sex scene I’ve ever read. It was racy without being distasteful. It was frank but at the same time poetic.
Still, I think the best part of the novel were the discussions Shelly and Michael have. I’ve never heard about the songs, books or some of the poets that the book talked about but I Googled them all. I listened to the songs while I read the book, I looked up the books this novel mentioned and I even Googled Pablo Neruda’s poems.
Overall, Breakfast with Neruda, is a book with well-developed characters, a more than enjoyable plot and a heart-breaking ending. I loved every moment of reading this novel and I’d recommend anyone to add it to their “Summer Read” lists.