The Breakaway by Jennifer Weiner [Book Review]

Jennifer Weiner’s The Breakaway offers a fresh take on a story about romantic and familial relationships. Read my review.

At first glance, The Breakaway appears to be your usual romantic story: two people meet, enjoy one wild night together, and then never see each other again… until they accidentally cross paths again. Yes, we’ve all heard that story far too often. But this book was unique. It began as a story about a one-night stand, but it evolved into a study of connections of all kinds: friends, acquaintances, mothers and daughters, families, couples, co-workers, and others. The entire novel takes place on a bike tour up the East Coast, which gives the plot a distinct basis.

I’m no stranger to Jennifer Weiner’s writing, but it’s been a long while since I’ve read anything by the author, and I was not disappointed. Still, I only gave the book three out of five stars; read my review below to find out why.

What is the book about?

Thirty-three-year-old Abby Stern has made it to a happy place. True, she still has gig jobs instead of a career, and the apartment where she’s lived since college still looks like she’s just moved in. But she’s got good friends, her bike, and her bicycling club in Philadelphia. She’s at peace with her plus-size body—at least, most of the time—and she’s on track to marry Mark Medoff, her childhood summer sweetheart, a man she met at the weight-loss camp that her perpetually dieting mother forced her to attend. Fifteen years after her final summer at Camp Golden Hills, when Abby reconnects with a half-his-size Mark, it feels like the happy ending she’s always wanted.

Yet Abby can’t escape the feeling that some­thing isn’t right…or the memories of one thrilling night she spent with a man named Sebastian two years previously. When Abby gets a last-minute invi­tation to lead a cycling trip from NYC to Niagara Falls, she’s happy to have time away from Mark, a chance to reflect and make up her mind.

But things get complicated fast. First, Abby spots a familiar face in the group—Sebastian, the one-night stand she thought she’d never see again. Sebastian is a serial dater who lives a hundred miles away. In spite of their undeniable chemistry, Abby is determined to keep her distance. Then there’s a surprise last-minute addition to the her mother, Eileen, the woman Abby blames for a lifetime of body shaming and insecurities she’s still trying to undo.

Over two weeks and more than seven hundred miles, strangers become friends, hidden truths come to light, a teenage girl with a secret unites the riders in unexpected ways…and Abby is forced to reconsider everything she believes about herself, her mother, and the nature of love. []

My thoughts:

I enjoyed almost everything about Jennifer Weiner’s The Breakaway: the unusual premise, the diverse ensemble of flawed individuals, and, of course, Weiner’s effortless writing style. The one issue I had with the novel, and I mean the only issue, was the main character’s love interests. They irritated me, and my dislike for the characters of Sebastian and Mark only intensified as the story progressed. Fortunately for me, The Breakaway is more than just a love story.

The story follows Abby as she leads her first cycling excursion. To Abby’s shock, her former one-night stand, Sebastian, and her mother join the multi-day ride. Abby is forced to deal with a disapproving parent, feelings for someone who isn’t her boyfriend, a teenage pregnancy, self-inflicted body shaming, and other issues as she leads the group of unique characters. To put it mildly, The Breakaway is quite a ride (pun intended)!

FYI, if you’re a fan of actors Nikki Blonsky (Hairspray) and Santino Fontana (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), consider the audiobook version of The Breakaway.