Title: Songs of Our Breakup (Playlist #1)
Author: Jay E. Tria
Publication Date: August 22nd 2015
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance
Every breakup has its playlist.
How do you get over a seven-year relationship? 21-year-old Jill is trying to find out. But moving on is a harder job when Kim, her ex-boyfriend, is the lead guitarist of the band, and Jill is the vocalist. Every song they play together feels like slicing open a barely healed tattoo.
Jill’s best friend Miki says she will be out of this gloom soon. Breakups have a probation period, he says. Jill is on the last month of hers and Miki is patiently keeping her company.
But the real silver lining is Shinta. Having a hot Japanese actor friend in times like these is a welcome distraction. This gorgeous celebrity has been defying time zones and distance through the years to be there for Jill. Now he is here, physically present, and together he and Jill go through old lyrics, vivid memories, walks in the rain, and bottles of beer. Together they try to answer the question: what do you do when forever ends?
“You don’t really stop loving someone,” Yuki continued calmly, as if they were still in a lecture about character developing, inside a stuffy classroom in the middle of humid July.
“It’s just that you’re different now from the person you were yesterday. And you can’t go back. Even if you can, why would you want to?”
Imagine it: you’re stressed out during the first week back at class, but then you find it. The perfect book to get your mind off your mountain of work. Your trusted friends on Goodreads have all given it 5 stars and glowing reviews, there’s a newly single heroine (a trope you’re fond of), there are original song lyrics in the book, the series revolves around a band that you’re already familiar with from Feels Like Summer, and it’s New Adult. All signs pointed to love… Right?
Yeah, things didn’t turn out as well as expected, which truly was a shame because there was a lot of potential. Songs of Our Breakup deals with some of my favorite tropes like I Could Love You Someday and a theme revolving around life post-breakup. I’m amazed at how indifferent I am to a story that should’ve been 4-star, fluffy read. I wish I could muster up vehement hatred or some other strong emotion for this book, but I simply don’t care enough to feel that passionately.
Songs of Our Breakup follows Filipino college student Jill, who is the vocalist in an Indie band called Trainman along with her now ex-boyfriend Kim and their other schoolmates. Trainman are also friends with famous Japanese actor Shinta who they met at a music festival in Tokyo. Shinta just so happens to be the son of their creative writing professor. While the work starts on Trainman’s new album and touring continues, Jill has to deal with the aftermath of getting out of a relationship that lasted since her teenage years, struggling with the band’s direction, and her evolving relationship with Shinta. The story is told switching off between the past and the present.
Anytime a story is told in alternating parts, there’s room for worry. Some authors are not able to pull off the dueling timelines. The story can get confused and the timelines can end up clashing, or one will have all the important bits while the other will be filled with nothing. Songs of Our Breakup actually did a great job working with the two timelines. There was purpose behind the flashbacks. I never felt myself wanting the past over the present or vice versa. Both were equally engaging. The addition of original song lyrics in between chapters were extremely beneficial and kept me engaged (and were such an unique touch). The story formatting wasn’t the problem.
I knew there was an issue when I was more interested in the movies Shinta was acting in then the actual plot of the book. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the plot of Songs of Our Breakup. But, it only worked in theory. I realized fairly early on that the characters were holding me back from loving the story.
All the characters, with the exception of Shinta’s mom, felt lifeless. I wanted to love them so badly. The tropes and themes that these character’s lives revolve around are favorites of mine. It was like being offered a bowl of melted ice cream. In theory, I love ice cream, but I’m not going to enjoy a bowl of melted ice cream just because I love ice cream when it’s frozen, and, you know, actually ice. It was a bowl of wasted potential (terrible analogy, I know). Characters would have these amazing lines like the one Jills says when she realizes that she and Kim have grown out of each other. I was left just shrugging my shoulders because I didn’t feel the weight that should’ve been behind those words.
Songs of Our Breakup fell into trope pitfalls common to the New Adult genre. The first being the one of the heroine having no female friends. Female friendships in New Adult are seriously lacking. This theme of the heroine finding a boyfriend but not having any female friends and only male friends usually plays a lot into the “not like other girls” trope (which wasn’t really the case in Songs of Our Breakup). Often, female characters are detached from the heroine so there is no competition for the hero and so that you have no questions about who the star is. It’s a sign of poor writing.
The story also managed to fall into every single bad trope associated with Friends to Lovers. There was this 3x over of the “girls and guys can’t be friends without one of them crushing” trope because both Shinta and Miki like Jill in the present. There’s also a flashback scene in which Kim gets jealous of Shinta and sees him as a threat. If the heroine is dating someone else in a Friends to Lovers romance and that trope appears, it dampens the experience greatly. I’m already picky with Friends to Lovers, so that did the story no favors.
There were parts of Songs of Our Breakup that left me feeling uncomfortable. At one point “queer”, was used to mean strange. In context, it was talking about anti-aging implement. It wasn’t mean anything other than odd but modern use of the word to mean that always leaves a sour taste in my mouth because of the history of the word as a slur towards LGBTQ+ people. Anytime that word is used it makes me feel gross. There was also this exchange:
Son was watching a woman with blue hair braided to her waist stand barefoot on the carpet, talking to an old lady in a baby pink cardigan.
“She used to be a man,” Shinta said, pointing to the scene Son was immersed in.
“Blue hair?” Nino blurted out.
“No, the cardigan lady,” Shinta countered.
Miki stared back at him, his mouth agape as Nino, Son and Jill burst out laughing. Whether Shinta was joking or not would remain a mystery forever.”
Like, really? What’s supposed to be funny about that. The scene was vague enough for the reader to not be able to tell whether the joke was about drag or trans people. For reading the last sentence, it comes off as transphobia.
The worst thing about my feelings towards Songs of Our Breakup is that at the end of the day I’m mostly indifferent. Indifference is damning. For someone like me who reads hundreds of books a year, it means I’ll probably forget writing this review by the end of the week.
If you like friends to lovers and the aftermath of breakups, then Songs of Our Breakup might be for you.