I'll admit, I'm already in "Glee" withdrawal, even though I agree with Jim Cantiello that the New Directions trip to New York was kind of unsatisfying. Enter this week's Summer Beach Read, Kim Culbertson's "Instructions for a Broken Heart," which follows a group of high school theater kids on their spring break trip to Italy. And in the role of a much more likable Rachel Berry type is Jessa, an overachiever with a penchant for poetic thoughts and an iPod full of Broadway musicals.
The story begins just days before the big trip, when Jessa finds her boyfriend Sean in a compromising position with Natalie, another member of their drama posse. And though she's devastated, Jessa refuses to skip the trip she's been saving for all year, even if it means having to see Sean and Natalie's PDA nonstop for 10 days.
Lucky for Jessa, she has one thing Rachel never had, well, two things: best friends Carissa and Tyler. Carissa sits out the trip, but sends with Tyler a packet of 20 envelopes to give Jessa, containing the "Top 20 Reasons He's a Slimy Jerk Bastard." She's supposed to open two envelopes a day for the course of the trip, and after reading the different reminders from Carissa of all the terrible, selfish or mildly annoying things Sean did, she has to complete an assigned task, under the capable guidance of stage manager Tyler. And those tasks range from thinking of five things she hates about Sean to publicly denouncing him in song or verse. We should all have such creative friends when in the throes of self-pity.
We should all also have the backdrop of Italy in which to recover. As Jessa and her quirky classmates travel from the Pantheon to the Venice seaside—on a bus they're forced to share with a group of rich, spoiled kids from another school—the landscape serves as both an amplifier of her heartbreak and an excellent distraction. The descriptions of their trip are so vivid, you won't be blamed for immediately starting an Italian trip fund of your own.
The setting, plus a great cast of traveling companions (including a cute boy from the other school, a sympathetic teacher who lends her his battered copy of James Joyce's "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" and a hot Italian guy), make this a perfect summer read—whether you're getting over your own slimy jerk bastard or just mourning the fact that you don't have your own exotic vacation planned.
Have you read "Instructions for a Broken Heart"? What books are you bonkers for this summer? Tell us in the comments and on Twitter!