Book Reviews

Review: Heartbreak Symphony by Laekan Zea Kemp

Heartbreak Symphony is true Zea Kemp fashion, wrung every emotion out of my heart. This sophomore book is full of family dynamics, fear and loss, as well as love and friendship. If you loved Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet, this is a must read. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.


Aarón Medrano has been haunted by the onstage persona of his favorite musician ever since his mother passed away. He seems to know all of Aarón’s deepest fears, like that his brain doesn’t work the way it should and that’s why his brother and father seems to be pushing him away. He thinks his ticket out is a scholarship to the prestigious Acadia School of Music. That is, if he can avoid blowing his audition.

Mia Villanueva has a haunting of her own and it’s the only family heirloom her parents left her: doubt. It’s the reason she can’t overcome her stage fright or believe that her music is worth making. Even though her trumpet teacher tells her she has a gift, she’s not sure if she’ll ever figure out how to use it or if she’s even deserving of it in the first place.

When Aarón and Mia cross paths, Aarón sees a chance to get close to the girl he’s had a crush on for years and to finally feel connected to someone since losing his mother. Mia sees a chance to hold herself accountable by making them both face their fears, and hopefully make their dreams come true. But soon they’ll realize there’s something much scarier than getting up on stage—falling in love with a broken heart.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

Heartbreak Symphony is a book that develops in front of your eyes into a symphony. Sorry about that one, I had to do it! It’s like where you hear a melody that keeps repeating – this constant string of complex family relationships full of unspoken silences, love, and pain – with new additions weaving throughout. There’s a story line of love, of people who inspire us to see what they see in us. At the same time, it’s rooted in grief and trauma, of this paralyzing fear of our loved ones being take from us.

Your heart will feel every emotion while reading Heartbreak Symphony. Mia and Aarón’s lives orbit around family expectations, around secret moments, and music which connects us. The weight of what it would mean not only to fail, but also to want something so badly. Leaning into immigration, fear, community, and solidarity, Heartbreak Symphony takes place after Zea Kemp’s first book. It’s a delightful twist, for fans like I am, but also grounds these fears, gentrification, and community in a larger context and picture.

(Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links. For more information you can look at the Policy page. If you’re uncomfortable with that, know you can look up the book on any of the sites below to avoid the link)

Heartbreak Symphony is a beautiful homage to the power of music to make us brave, soothe our heart, and bring back memories. The family relationships in this book are tender, painful, and stunning all at once. Mia and Aarón’s story speaks of family and community, love and friendship. Family which we find and choose, who show up in our lives. The way that the pain of loss never truly leaves us. How there are thorns that scar, but still ache.

I cannot recommend this more to those who love YA contemporary books, stories about family and loss, and books that explore immigration and solidarity. Find Heartbreak Symphony on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, & The Book Depository.


What is your favorite musical piece or song?

Share this post

2 thoughts on “Review: Heartbreak Symphony by Laekan Zea Kemp

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.