The Breakaway by Jennifer Weiner

Publisher: Atria Books

Date of Publication: August 29th, 2023

Genre: Romance, Fiction, Chick Lit, Contemporary, Adult, Women’s Fiction, Adult Fiction, Travel, Novels

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Weiner comes a warmhearted and empowering new novel about love, family, friendship, secrets, and a life-changing journey.

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.

First Line:

“Are you ready?”

The Breakaway by Jennifer Weiner

At thirty-three, Abby is finally in a happy place in her life. While she feels she lacks in the career department (working dead-end jobs), and her apartment is a mess, she has great friends, a biking club, and a gorgeous boyfriend. But she feels something is off. Moving in with her boyfriend doesn’t appeal to her, and her dead-end jobs drag her down. So, she agrees when her best friend asks her to fill in as a guide on a bike trip at the last minute. But this bike trip is going to be anything but ordinary. Why? Because Abby’s unforgettable one-night stand is there, she can’t take her eyes off him. Add her mother suddenly joining the trip, Tick-Tok drama involving her one-night stand, and a teenager with a huge secret, Abby will have her hands full. Can Abby survive the 700-mile, 2-week trip to Niagra Falls with her relationship and sense of self intact? Or will everything be thrown up in the air?

I am going to be blunt here. This book was different from what I expected. I thought this was going to be a lighthearted romantic comedy. Instead, I read a thought-provoking book about women’s rights and body positivity.

There are some trigger warnings in The Breakaway. I went back and forth on posting some of these because of spoilers, but I decided to proceed. They are:

  1. Body shaming:Abby was weight-shamed constantly by her mother when she was younger. She was sent to a weight loss camp every summer and forced to diet. She is also weight-shamed by various secondary characters in the book (in flashbacks and the present day).
  2. Abortion: There are several different angles to abortion discussed here. One is how not being able to get an abortion severely affects women. There were also brief mentions of politics and abortion. There is also a storyline about a teenager getting an abortion via pill during the bike trip (not graphic, but the author did explain what would happen while the abortion was happening). The religious stance on abortions is talked about (and it was heartbreaking to read).
  3. Cheating: Abby cheats on Mark in the book. The aftermath of her infidelity is explored.
  4. Challenging mother/daughter relationships (I got this from a review posted on NetGalley): Abby and her mother have a very tenuous and stressful relationship. She is weight-shamed constantly, sent to fat camp, and only praised when she loses weight as a teenager. Morgan has a tense relationship with her mother because of her secret. She also feels that she cannot tell or trust her with it because of religious implications.
  5. Eating Disorders: Bulimia is brought up by Abby during a heated conversation with her mother about the weight loss camp she was forced to attend. Abby’s boyfriend, Mark, has a severely restricted diet because of gastric bypass surgery. He also developed disordered food thoughts due to the surgery and what he went through when he was overweight.

If any of these trigger you, I suggest not reading the book. I struggled with sections of the book.

I liked how the author broke The Breakaway up. She sections the books into the trip’s legs (for example, the chapter would have the character’s name, and under it would be Day One: New York City to Mount Kisco. 50 miles). Within those blocks, the main characters (Abby, Sebastian, Morgan, Lily, and Kayla) would have chapters from their POVs. It was interesting to read and helped the book zip right along. I was OK with figuring out whose chapter it was (the author marked it) or where they were (again, clearly marked).

As I mentioned, there are 5 POVs in The Breakaway. They are the main characters. Instead of giving them each a paragraph, I will bullet point them instead.

  • Abby: She was my favorite character, and I hated how she viewed herself. I also thought that she was settling with Mark. I understood why she was so pissed that her mother showed up (there is an explanation). But I didn’t get her fascination with Sebastian. I liked her character’s growth during the book. I only disagreed with how she dealt with the Morgan situation or how she cheated on Mark with Sebastian.
  • Sebastian: He was not my favorite character. He was a manwhore, plain and simple. Who sleeps with every girl he meets on Tinder or other dating apps? But I did like that he was honest about it and that he felt shame when that girl made that TickTok about him sleeping with her and 8 of her friends. Sebastian did have some deep-seated issues that were lightly touched upon in the book (drunk mother/absent father). I wasn’t thrilled that he kept pursuing Abby, even though she told him she had a boyfriend.
  • Morgan: My heart broke for her. When she was introduced, I wasn’t expecting the storyline to go the way it went. I thought the author would reveal that she was lesbian and in a secret relationship with her best friend. When the author dropped that bombshell, I was pretty shocked. I’m not going much into the storyline except that I felt for her.
  • Lily: The author kept her chapters pretty sparse, as she appeared often in Morgan and Abby’s. But I did think she was a holy roller by some of the things she said. When Morgan finally admitted what happened, I was expecting nuclear fallout. Instead, she surprised me. Actually, she was too good about it. If a stranger had taken my daughter to do what she did (even if it was by pill), I would have been furious.
  • Kayla: I did like Kayla and wished she had been featured more in the book. I liked how she decided to help Morgan. It brought tears to my eyes. But again, I was a little irritated that she didn’t tell Lily.

The secondary characters made the book. I liked seeing Abby’s relationship with her mother progress (and it was very bumpy during the trip). I liked seeing Morgan’s friendship with Kayla’s oldest son, who was a sweetheart and supportive of Morgan. I also loved the elderly couples who traveled with the RV. I almost died when a particular tidbit was released about them. Mark, I wasn’t a fan of (he was dull), but Abby did do him dirty. And Lincoln, Sebastian’s best friend, was precisely what Sebastian needed during the trip.

The end of The Breakaway had me crying. I liked how Abby and her mother started to patch up their relationship (what her mother told Abby was heartbreaking). The note about Morgan made me happy. And Sebastian, well, nothing was said about him until a year after everything happened. I liked that the author ended the book as a happy for now instead of a HEA.

I would recommend The Breakaway to anyone over 21. There is mild violence, language, and graphic sexual situations. Also see my trigger warning list.

Many thanks to Atria Books, NetGalley, and Jennifer Weiner for allowing me to read and review The Breakaway. All opinions stated in the review are mine.

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