Breakup From Hell by Ann Dávila Cardinal Review

Breakup From Hell by Ann Dávila Cardinal

Publisher: Harper Teen

Release Date: January 3, 2023

Pages: 304

Cover Illustrator: Diana Novich

Available through Bookshop

Summary: Miguela Angeles is tired. Tired of her abuela keeping secrets, especially about her heritage. Tired of her small Vermont town and hanging out at the same places with the same friends she’s known forever. So when another boring Sunday trip to church turns into a run-in with Sam, a mysterious hottie in town on vacation, Mica seizes the opportunity to get closer to him. It’s not long before she is under Sam’s spell and doing things she’s never done before, like winning all her martial arts sparring matches—and lying to her favorite people. The more time Mica spends with Sam, the more weird things start to happen, too. Like terrifying-visions-of-the-world-ending weird. Mica’s gut instincts keep telling her something is off, yet Sam is the most exciting guy she’s ever met. But when Mica discovers his family’s roots, she realizes that instead of being in the typical high school relationship, she’s living in a horror novel. She has to leave Sam, but will ending their relationship also bring an end to everything she knows and everyone she loves?

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Breakup From Hell, the YA that defies classification is a paranormal mixed with contemporary and also threads of a romance / romcom! Mica, a small-town girl and horror bookworm at heart goes through the motions of her uneventful day-to-day, until a newcomer by the name of Sam shakes up the quiet Vermont life. A wholly unique, fast-paced story with deeper themes of family and self!

Who knew my first read of 2023 would be a book about a small-town girl who falls for a guy with roots in the underworld?! (NOT ME) Anyways, I’d genuinely been looking forward to this novel not only because of the premise was something I’d never seen (especially in Young Adult) before, but also for years I’d been eager to read Ann’s novels…so why not start with a paranormal romcom?

I think what many readers may gloss over about this book is that it uses humor in a way not only to take on the one-of-a-kind concept in addition to how deeply the themes of family, especially the dynamic Mica (or Miguela) has with her very religious grandmother, becomes a central thread of the novel as she tries to navigate her senior year amid familial secrets and a potential apocalypse.

Mica’s hilarious, witty voice carries an energy to this novel that compels you to keep on reading. No matter where I closed the book, I felt like Mica came to life from the first pages and as she starts her relationship with the charming Sam, there was always that relatability to her that I think teens will definitely feel connected to. As an adult reader, I felt Mica’s journey in self-discovery, romance, friendship and uncovering more about her Puerto-Rican family’s religious roots, was done in a way where it feels so authentic to how a teen would react to these situations (especially if they find out their date is actually from the underworld). Mica’s arc in learning to find her independence but also reconnect with her abuela (who is as far as she knows…her only family member) made for such a heartfelt, satisfying read because it felt like I really understood Mica!

There’s a meticulous intention to the details that Cardinal presented with this concept through her presentation of Catholicism and religious stories that is quite literal and allegorical throughout the plot the further you read along, that made for deeper meaningful messages about faith and family. However, I also appreciated how the author explained the religious themes & elements, which makes you really comprehend the story, since it’s not often I’ve read fiction books that center religion.

As for the theme of family, I think as a reader whose Latina it made that such a crucial and integral part of how I viewed Mica’s journey of discovery as to where these powers come from, what happened to her mother and understanding the strictness of her abuela’s rules.

Mica wants to escape her stiflingly idyllic life for an out-of-state university and have adventure. But when she encounters Sam outside her town’s church, it seems as though he has a magnetic energy to him that Mica’s drawn to! However, weird (supernatural-like powers making her ridiculously strong) begin to flourish within Mica, but also terrifying visions?! Her day-to-day is almost a fever dream as Sam and Mica’s secret relationship becomes an almost…whirlwind of an experience!

Sam is a pretty memorable character and although the formation of his character and the arc is very obvious from even the title (and cover), there’s witty dialogue and a charm to him that leaves you intrigued! He’s the type of character who knows exactly what he’s doing (I mean he also happens to know Mica’s favorite author?!) which leaves us the reader more compelled to explore Mica’s arc and how Sam’s role leads her on a path of rebellion and figuring out who she truly is. Along that note, Mica’s friends are equally a big part of her journey and I liked that element explored too, especially when she begins to question all the supernatural hijinks that begin happening because of Sam’s presence in town. While at times they could have had a bit more layers to them (and would have loved to see more scenes between Mica and Sam), I really liked Mica’s friendship with Zee, Rage and Barry. Though, will say loved Zee the most though because there’s a loyalty and quirkiness to her that you can’t help but enjoy as you see her dynamic among the group.

The book has a bit of everything to make it such a unique YA contemporary / paranormal romance story with the action scenes, uncovering familial roots mystery, and mostly the humor which blends seamlessly into the novel making it such an entertaining read. It’s a book definitely outside of what I normally read, but I’m glad to have finally picked up an Ann Dávila Cardinal novel.

Breakup From Hell delivers on its peculiar premise through the engaging characters, Mica’s comedic voice, the humor woven throughout and the immersive story that intrigues you to keep on reading! With deeper themes about family, friendship and the standout blend of paranormal, romcom and the supernatural, this was an adventure-fueled, wild ride of a book, especially if you love rebellious, badass contemporary heroines like Mica!

Have you read this book? Have you read any novels that utilize multiple genres or what do you like most about the kinds of stories that do that? 📚✨

*Note: I’m also aware of the HarperCollins strike currently going on (read more on what to do as a reviewer here) and while I know reviewing isn’t recommended, personally it would be a disservice of me to not discuss this book especially as my goal is to give insightful depth into all that I read and support Latina/Latine authors (who in my opinion have not gotten the hype they deserve). I’ll do my best to be more mindful of the books I’m reviewing but also support these authors who are being affected! Overall know, that I support the strike and the conversation that is going on.

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