Cures for Heartbreak

Book review by
Pam Gelman, Common Sense Media
Cures for Heartbreak Book Poster Image
Sad, witty, powerful read about a parent dying.

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Kids say

age 10+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Could be used as a jumping off point to talk about grief and its various stages. See our "Families Can Talk About" section for some discussion ideas.

Positive Messages

Mia's progression through grief is real, and while there is no "sure-bet" cure, she leans on family and friends to grow.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mia's teen behaviors after her mother's death are spot-on, and readers will find it easy to connect with her, even if they don't have similar experiences.


Many passages describe scenes in hospitals. Some mentions of Holocaust concentration camps. Stories told of two suicides: one from ingesting pills, another by hanging.


Descriptions of kissing, fondling, heavy petting under skirts, virginities, fantasies, and wearing skimpy clothing to be sexy. Teen girl suspects her father is having sex with his girlfriend. Mia's mother may have been pursuing a former flame.


"F--k" said amongst teens and by teens to their father.


Mention of Bloomingdales and other shops in NYC.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

People smoke cigarettes and drink. Parents let teens sip wine at dinner. A person dies from ingesting pills.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the mother of 15-year-old Mia dies 12 days after being diagnosed with cancer, and her father has a heart attack. Each chapter could stand alone with vivid descriptions of Mia's evolving grief, her relationships with her stodgy father and sharp-tongued older sister, and her challenges with boys, peers, and fitting in. There is some edgy material: Teens discuss sex and romance, sip wine, use profanity, and skip school; there is also reference to the Holocaust and aftermath for Mia's mother's family. But overall, Mia's progression through grief is real, and readers will appreciate that while there is no "sure-bet" cure, she is able to grow by leaning on family and friends.

User Reviews

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  • Kids say

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Kid, 12 years old May 15, 2009


i love this book ive read it many times
Teen, 14 years old Written bysophmore2010 April 9, 2008

well not too amazing.

I got this book thinking i was going to learn how teenage daughters cope losing their mothers but i did not.What i learned was more about her family.

her edg... Continue reading

What's the story?

Fifteen-year-old Mia's mother checks into the hospital for a stomach ache and dies 12 days later from melanoma. Then her father, whom she struggles to get along with, has a second heart attack and bypass surgery. Helping her absorb it all is a new best friend, shopping trips, and a 19-year-old boy in remission from leukemia. Then, as if keeping herself going wasn't hard enough, her father is suddenly engaged.

Is it any good?

The author expertly weaves Mia's everyday moments as a teen girl -- funny stuff -- with the tough and tear-jerking milestones of her grieving process. Mia gets a new best friend and crushes on boys on the one hand, and ponders her parents' marital discord, her mother's bouts of depression, and her difficult relationships with her father and older sister on the other. CURES FOR HEARTBREAK is a valuable coming-of-age story for the right teen reader ready for the tough subject matter.

The authenticity of this novel stems largely from author Margo Rabb's teen experiences of losing her own mother and father. Mia's teen behaviors after her mother's death are spot-on, and readers will find it easy to connect with her, even if they don't have similar experiences.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the title of this book: What was the "cure" for Mia, or is there one? How are these related to Mia's needs as a teen -- such as the comfort of a best friend, finding love in a boyfriend (one who has his own experiences with illness), or the safety net of a family?

  • How is Mia a more evolved person in the end?

  • On the author's website, she remembers that, "Within two weeks after my mother died I'd checked out every library book I could find which featured a dead parent." How does reading about a character like you help you deal with situations?

  • Why is it also important to read about characters different from yourself?

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