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Hidden Heartbreak (2019)
Book Reviews

Hidden Heartbreak (2019)

Emma Lee’s compiled Instagram comics on modern love won’t – much like modern love itself – be for everyone.

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Love is a finicky mistress, isn’t she? It can be the best thing that ever happened or like me you’re sitting around crying because love songs on the radio just HAVE to play at the worst time. Well, I’m sure glad Emma Lee is there to help me through these tough times! Originally began as an Instagram project, her Hidden Heartbreak series has been turned into this handy compilation of comics that fans old and new can enjoy. The operative word here being “can” – as your mileage on her take on modern romance will, undoubtedly, vary.

Emma Lee’s approach to romantic relationships is an all or nothing gamble. Her passion is a raging inferno for the new person she just met and seems perfect in every way. Everything he does is amazing to her, from his comments on artwork to the small compliments he drops, she absorbs it all. I rolled my eyes at this “new love” phase of her relationship, but I’d be lying if I say I didn’t act the exact same way in my own past relationships. Hey, at some point in everyone’s life they’ll play the lovesick fool too!

Emma talks about her romantic of exchanging texts all day long and being by spending time with the new man in her life. She just wants to spend every waking moment with him from the moment they wake up to the time they fall asleep. Gradually, this sanctuary she built around herself with him begins to crack and the more she tries to ignore it, the more it begins to crumble. Deep down she knows the downfall is coming, but slaps band-aids and every little issue in hopes that the person she’s become interested in will reciprocate the love she feels so strongly.

There are even interactive bits where you’re invited to take over the story by writing down insecurities about a past or current relationship, what attracted you to the person in the first place, etc. I chose to forego this invitation since writing in a book for me is blasphemy (!), I can’t even bend a corner of a page without feeling like I’d just betrayed my best friend. Besides, the pages were too glossy to write anything on.

Hidden Heartbreak is one of those books that after a second read through I couldn’t tell if I liked it or not. I have a habit of breaking down relationships (romantic or otherwise) into their separate elements to analyze before piecing them back to dinner once I’ve spotted a “problem”. On the one hand, a part me wondered why Emma just didn’t just talk to the guy about how she felt while in the same vein I’d been in the same situation. You want to be close to this person you’ve come to love, but lying to yourself about emotions the other person doesn’t share can be damaging to both sides.

Recognizing where it didn’t work for either person, grieving about what happened, and eventually moving on is the healthiest choice. Just because it’s the “right choice” though doesn’t mean everyone will make it, I should know.

Maybe one reason I didn’t quite take to Hidden Heartbreak is because it resurrected uncomfortable emotions I didn’t want to confront. But that could just be me, given my own rocky road of romance. Emma doesn’t rely on words to get her message across or to explain a situation; she pours it all into her pictures. The few sentences she sprinkles through the pages could probably be removed and her story could still be pieced together. The organization of every emotion felt chaotic, but there’s still a clear line of narrative. Is this a bad book? Hard to say, but it tells the story Emma wants to tell, and for some readers that’s all they’ll need.

About the Author: Nia Bothwell