ARC Review: When Reason Breaks by Cindy L. Rodriguez

When Reason BreaksTitle:  When Reason Breaks
Author: Cindy L. Rodriguez
Published: February 10th, 2015
Pages: 304
Genres/Themes: Young Adult, Contemporary, Social Issues, Depression, Poetry, Romance, Friendship, Family Problems
Format: E-ARC
Source: Netgalley and Bloomsbury
Disclaimer: I received this E-ARC from Netgalley and Bloomsbury in return for an honest review. This in no way influences my opinion of this book.
Rating: Three Stars
Goodreads Summary:
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.
Purchase: Barnes and Noble / Amazon / Book Depository
Cover Thoughts: I love the text color, though I think some of the glowing bits are a bit distracting when reading the title. I love how the character on the cover is a silhouette looking out into the city. The city lights look really cool.
First Line: She lies on the hard ground, breathes deeply, and waits for death to come.
~First Thoughts~
I love the stream of conscious writing style of this. This is fascinating. But bad. It’s bad. It’s also really interesting though. Who is she? Where is she? And what did she mess up?
What initially drew me to When Reason Breaks was the “13 Reasons Why meets the poetry of Emily Dickinson” blurb. I haven’t read 13 Reasons Why, but I have read books compared to it and I love Emily Dickinson.
When Reason Breaks begins with an interesting start. On March 7th, a girl lays in the woods, on the ground, alone, She’s taken a lethal dose of sleeping pills to ensure her death. A teacher called Ms. Diaz reads her note and rushes out of the school as fast as she can. After reading the first chapter, I was a bit let down by the first few chapters. The writing style changed so it wasn’t so vague or in such a stream of conscious style.
The story then flashes back to eight months before, in July. The narrative begins with a girl named Elizabeth, who’s a bit hardened by the world, a little angry and definitely cynical. The narrative then switches to Emily, who’s lived a somewhat sheltered life, has a politician for a father, two best friends and a somewhat secret boyfriend.
~What I Loved~
  • I really like how the first chapter is eight months ahead of when the second times place. I love how the story goes back in time to tell how everything happens.
  • I loved that the majority, if not all, of the characters were Hispanic. This was a really interesting addition that I loved. There aren’t enough books with minorities in them, especially not a full cast, so this was fantastic.
  • I like how different Emily and Elizabeth were from each other. Emily was definitely the nice, smart, somewhat introverted of the two and Elizabeth was the sarcastic, lively, energetic, but a bit misunderstood. They complemented each other nicely.
  • I loved that it took place in English class and that the class had a supportive teacher, Ms. Diaz. Throughout When Reason Breaks, Ms. Diaz was constantly there for Elizabeth and also Emily somewhat, but she was definitely more “supportive” to Elizabeth.
  • I love the poetry featured in When Reason Breaks. At the beginning of every chapter, there’s a title which is taken from one of Dickinson’s poems. That was a really interesting touch because you could then connect the quote to what was going on in the chapter.
  • The mental health of Emily and Elizabeth was wonderful. I loved the downward spiral that they both went through. It happened gradually with the girls questioning themselves and their lives. Emily became more depressed and it was shown really well. She retreated from her friends and she didn’t really go out. In turn, Elizabeth got angry, angry because she was misunderstood, angry at her father, and angry at herself. She pushed away her boyfriend as well.
  • I loved the cast of characters, I thought Emily and Elizabeth’s personal lives were fleshed out very well. They both had friends, family issues, and relationships of their own. It was great to see how each of their groups of friends and families affected their life as they all strongly did.
  • In the acknowledgements, Rodriguez shares all the aspects of Emily Dickinson’s life that she used in When Reason Breaks. it was really fascinating to read how she intertwined pieces of Dickinson’s lives into every character from Emily and Elizabeth to Kevin to Emily’s father to Abby.
  • Ms. Diaz was a character that I really enjoyed. It always seems like English teachers are the ones to just “get it” when it comes to students. I love how she was always there for them and didn’t judge them.
  • When Reason Breaks definitely made me think a lot. There were quite a few quotes I highlighted while reading this that made me look at my own life and situations. I can definitely appreciate a book that makes me think.
~What I Didn’t~
  • I didn’t love how some of the dialogue, primarily when the parents spoke, switched to Spanish. It somewhat slowed down the reading experience, if that makes sense.
  • I wished the poetry had a more central focus to the story. While I liked how it was used in the english class, I wish it had been used a bit more.
  • I didn’t like how Emily, Elizabeth and the teacher all had the name Emily and the last initial D in their names. I understand and loved what Rodriguez was trying to do, but it was just a bit too unbelievable for me to really appreciate.
  • I wish there had been a clearer picture of the girls’ family lives. We hear about Emily’s a lot, but it still never really took any spotlight. 
~Final Thoughts~
I loved how the reader doesn’t know whether Emily or Elizabeth was committing suicide. When I thought I knew who it was, it turned out I was wrong. I like that I was surprised by who it was though. I did enjoy When Reason Breaks, in the beginning it did drag a little, but it eventually picked up. I didn’t like how little Emily and Elizabeth talked, I wish there would have been more of it. I loved all of the side characters, they really “livened” up the story. I think When Reason Breaks could really benefit from a second read through of the book to really pick out everything.
~Do I Recommend?~
~Recommended For~
  • Middle schoolers
  • People wanting to understand depression
  • Fans of Coming-of-age stories
  • Fans of Emily Dickinson
~Memorable Quotes From ARC (May be subject to change~
  • She wondered if it really had to be all or nothing. If it did, then which would be worse: being exposed again or being ignored? She couldn’t decide.
  • Elizabeth could peg a teacher within twenty minutes, and she gave them one class period to amuse or impress her.
  • “Because in poetry–more so than other genres–every word matters.”
  • She often did that, made small things better instead of leaving them alone.
  • What? It’s true. If you cut off your friends when you’re dating someone, you’ll be all alone if the relationship ends.
  • So, taking the pills could magically cure me or make matters worse? Brilliant
  • Relax, Davis, You’re not in The Hunger Games.
  • “Because no one can make another person happy,” said George. “He was happy when he was with me, but otherwise he wasn’t. That’s not enough. I mean, in 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.”
  • Did Emily Dickinson pull away from the world because it was easier and safer to hide than face it all? Or did something inside of her crack? Was something really wrong with her, the way something was really wrong with me? No one seems to know for sure about her. No one really knew about me.

About Amber (YA Indulgences)

Amber is a 20-something woman who enjoys reading, writing, listening to music and taking walks. She has a book blog called YA Indulgences . She is still trying to figure out what she's doing with her life, but she's confident that time will tell. In the meantime she's heading towards the goal of becoming a renowned blogger. View all posts by Amber (YA Indulgences)

11 responses to “ARC Review: When Reason Breaks by Cindy L. Rodriguez

  • Nova @ Out of Time

    I was actually really irritated at the comparison to 13 reasons why. In my opinion, 13 reasons why left such a strong message on me and this book completely dulled in comparison. It left a different kind of message which is why I was upset. Just because a book features suiide, does not mean that it’s auto compared to 13 reasons.

    I ended up loving Elizabeth’s character over Emily. I felt like I could connect to Elizabeth better. Maybe the anger issues thing?

    I actually didn’t mind the names. I did in the beginning but I quickly got the hang of things!

    Great review!


    • Amber (YA Indulgences)

      I couldn’t really understand the 13 Reasons Why comparison other than the suicide aspect, which this one doesn’t even focus on and the other does, I believe anyway. But yeah, a ton of books get compared to others just because they have a similar subject matter, like “Maybe One Day” and “TFIOS”.

      I liked Elizabeth’s character too. She seemed real. They both seemed real, but I felt I could relate to her more. Though I also have Emily’s goody side as well. 🙂 And I have Elizabeth’s anger parts.

      The names didn’t bother me with understanding what was going on, surprisingly, it was more like, it didn’t seem plausible to me so it was distracting when I was done. It got even worse when I realized the teacher’s name…

      Thank you Nova. ❤


  • Myra

    Great review, thanks for sharing this one 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  • Maya

    I love Emily Dickinson and 13 Reasons Why- I never imagined them combined but it sounds so thought-provoking! Your review makes me want to read this:)

    Liked by 1 person

  • Brittany

    What a lovely review! This book certainly sounds like it has potential, but I hope that its better than Thirteen Reasons Why. I have a bit of a grudge against that book, but it does remind me some of Gayle Forman’s new book, I Was Here which deals with suicide, too.

    Brittany @


    • Amber (YA Indulgences)

      Thanks Brittany! Huh, I’m hearing a lot of not so positive things about 13 Reasons Why. I thought the book had been well received, though I remember reading a couple negatives about it…

      Anyway, I wouldn’t compare it too much to I Was Here, which I’ve also reviewed, I think I like this one a bit more, though the concept of I Was Here is fantastic. Thank you for stopping by!


  • Erin @ The Hardcover Lover

    I’m glad you ended up liking it! I did too, despite how I was feeling pretty awkward about it when we talked about it on Twitter.

    I read 13 Reasons Why, and pretty much hated it, so I was pretty scared of this one, but still had to read it because Emily Dickinson is awesome. I’m glad I finished it, although parts were kind of predictable for me. (I figured out who would attempt suicide really early on.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amber (YA Indulgences)

      See, I noticed that in your review, I was like “Aw”. I heard 13 Reasons Why was good. I’ll be taking that part of my comment to Twitter now. That was an interesting Twitter conversation. I love Emily Dickinson. I can’t really remember any predictable moments myself. Hmm…


  • Monthly Recap: February ’15 | YA Indulgences

    […] ARC Review: When Reason Breaks by Cindy L. Rodriguez (Three Stars) […]


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