Abuse, Alcoholism, Book Review, Excerpt, NetGalley, YA Fiction

The Art of Breaking Things by Laura Sibson


Weekends are for partying with friends while trying to survive the mindnumbingness that is high school. The countdown to graduation is on, and Skye has her sights set on escaping to art school and not looking back. 

But her party-first-ask-questions-later lifestyle starts to crumble when her mom rekindles her romance with the man who betrayed Skye’s boundaries when he was supposed to be protecting her. She was too young to understand what was happening at the time, but now she doesn’t know whether to run as far away from him as possible or give up her dreams to save her little sister. The only problem is that no one knows what he did to her. How can she reveal the secret she’s guarded for so long?

With the help of her best friend and the only boy she’s ever trusted, Skye might just find the courage she needs to let her art speak for her when she’s out of words. After years of hiding her past, she must become her own best ally.


I am extremely moved by this brave story “inspired by truth” of a young girl holding a horrible secret for 5 years; her life spiraling out of control until her love of art reveals the truth to the people she loves.

The story is told from Skye’s point of view jumping from present day to days past when the secret happens and how it changes her life forever. Her true friends, Ben and Luisa, are her support system, but the partying has got out of hand when the man behind her secret has appeared in her mother’s life again. The family dynamic with her mother and sister, Emma, are very volatile and very real, especially Skye’s need to protect her little sister from what happened to her several years ago.

I enjoyed Skye’s art and how things in her life inspired her drawings and murals. The idea with the post-it notes was genius! 

I can’t recommend this debut novel enough! It is filled with heartbreak and despair but also about renewal and healing. I promise you will be affected by this book!

Thank you to Ms. Sibson, Penguin, and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to review this book with no expectations of a positive review given.


The Art of Breaking Things

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Laura SibsonLaura Sibson worked for years as a career counselor for undergraduates before getting her MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. When she’s not writing, counseling, or drinking impossibly strong coffee, you can find her running miles around her home in Philadelphia, walking her dog, or ingesting pop culture (along with great takeout) with her family.

Follow Ms. Sibson on her website, Instagram and Twitter.


Chapter 1

This is How I Deal

With my sketchbook and charcoal, I’d capture Ben lying on the couch as Figure Reclining in Smoky Haze. I could disappear into that sketch, consumed by getting his curls just right and the way his hands rest on his stomach like they’re just hands, not like they can pull magic from a guitar. I’d change the setting to be a little more exotic, a little less wood-paneled basement. But I don’t have my sketchbook or my charcoal. All I have is this half-empty bottle of tequila and some weed.

Dan was at my house. The truth that I’ve been avoiding all night weasels into my mind. Mom was sitting at the kitchen table with Dan. After all these years. I’d like to think that he needed legal advice. But . . . Mom is only a paralegal. Or maybe she was asking for information on writing essays. Truth is, I knew that neither of those possibilities made sense. I just didn’t want to believe the other possibility: they might be thinking about reuniting.

“Want a shot?” I say. I knock one back and grit my teeth as the fire snakes into my belly.

Ben shakes his head and holds a joint out to me. “How about a hit?” His voice is tight from holding in the smoke.

I lean way out of my recliner to take the joint from Ben’s fingers. My lungs pull the smoke in deep, and I hold it there as long as I can. Ben never teases when I cough, but I try not to anyway.

“Is Luisa going to be pissed that you left?” Ben asks.

Luisa. Shit. I’d been so focused on trying not to obsess about Mom and Dan talking again that I’d forgotten about Luisa. I pull my phone from my jeans pocket and text her. I pause in my typing to ask, “How long have we been here?”

Ben purses his lips and stares at the ceiling. “Forty-five minutes?” he says. “Or maybe a couple of hours.”

“You are exactly no help.”

“I whisked you away from that lame-ass party,” he says.

“Whisked? Really?” I type a bunch of I’m sorries with a string of emojis that I hope will make Luisa forgive me.

“Did I just say whisked? Who says that?” Ben says. “Whisk. Whisk. Whisk.” Ben takes a hit, sits the joint in an ashtray on the card table, turns off the music, and grabs his acoustic guitar, one of several instruments in the room. He strums experimentally and then settles on a folksy chord while singing whisk over and over.

The giggles explode out of me. Ben starts laughing too and we know it isn’t that funny, but we can’t stop. I snatch some paper and markers from the card table—left over from Ben working on a song or a new art project, probably—and start sketching.

“Play this,” I say, holding up a piece of paper on which two girls hold hands and skip down a sidewalk.

“That? Child’s play,” Ben declares, strumming a playful sunshiny rhythm. I giggle. We haven’t played this game in a while and I’d forgotten how much fun it is. Ben and I have been in the same schools forever, growing up in a small town and all, but I didn’t know him know him until sophomore year, when we landed in the same art class at the same table. While Mr. Mozowski spent the first day boring us about the obligatory course goals and planned assessments, Ben opened his sketchbook and began drawing. I watched the way his hand moved without hesitation across the page as an elephant appeared.

After a few moments, he turned the sketchbook to me and offered his felt-tip marker. His bold confidence inspired me, and though I was usually slow and careful with my drawings, I accepted his challenge. I created a dance floor around the elephant and drew a glass for her to hold in her upraised trunk. We traded the drawing back and forth until our disco elephant became so ridiculous that we both busted out laughing. Mr. M gave us The Look, and even though he’s my favorite teacher of all time, his disapproval only served to seal our bond. I still have trouble diving into my drawing without thinking too hard about it, except when I play this game with Ben. He is the only guy I hang with who seems to actually see me, not just a pair of boobs or whatever else guys see when they look at me.

But sometimes, like tonight, I sort of would like to know if he thinks of me the way that he thinks of the girls he flirts with at his shows.

I sketch like mad. “Okay, this.” The paper shows cars on a road at night. He nails it, playing in a way that absolutely pushes your mind to road trips and highways, dimly lit dashboards, and falling asleep with your head against the window. While he plays, I sketch again. My hand pauses as I see the scene unfolding beneath the marker. Two people kissing. I crumple the paper.

“Come on. No tossaways. Let me see.”

“Nah,” I say, not looking up. “That one was too easy.” I draw something safer. A butterfly on a flower beside a pond. A bright sun. Some grass. “This?”

Ben raises his eyebrows and slows the tempo of his playing to something easy and quiet. “That was a gimme,” he says. “I thought you were going to draw something hard.”

I smile and fall back on the recliner. “Guess I don’t have the touch tonight.” I think of the two figures kissing in my balled-up drawing; the guy has just the same curly hair as Ben. Luisa texts back asking who I’m hooking up with. I respond that the only hooking up I’m doing is with this bottle of tequila, as if typing will hold me to my word.


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