Heartbreak Symphony


By Laekan Zea Kemp

Formats and Prices




$15.99 CAD

Clap When You Land meets On the Come Up in this heart-gripping story about navigating first love and overcoming grief through the power of music.

Aarón Medrano
has been haunted by the onstage persona of his favorite DJ ever since his mother passed away. He seems to know all of Aarón’s deepest fears, like how his brain doesn’t work the way it should and that’s why his brother and father seem 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.

  • A 2022 Booklist Editors’ Choice
    A 2023 TAYSHAS Selection
    A Bank Street Best Book of the Year
  • "A gripping, authentic, and vivid portrayal of grief and the many ways it can manifest itself."
    Jonny Garza Villa, author of Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun
  • "A heartwarming, soul-searing coming-of-age journey."
    Raquel Vasquez Gilliland, author of How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe
  • * "This story will be resounding in readers’ hearts long after they’ve turned the last page. With the lyricism of Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe and Raquel Vasquez Gilliland’s works, this novel is recommended for all collections."
    SLJ, starred review
  • * “Kemp’s latest novel is a multilayered symphony in itself, keeping the reader’s emotions heightened from the first sentence until the finale, during which readers will be left breathless in wonder. Kemp effortlessly creates beautifully flawed characters who are impossible to forget.”
    Booklist, starred review
  • "A powerfully emotional story about two teens pursuing their dreams in a difficult world."
  • "A lyrical standalone about pursuing one’s dreams despite impossible odds."
    Publishers Weekly
  • "A story of surviving grief with the help of community."
    Kirkus Reviews
  • Praise for Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet:
    *"Fans of Elizabeth Acevedo’s With the Fire on High will cherish Xander and Pen’s love story and Pen’s passion for food. This stellar debut offers a cathartic take on a relationship between a father and daughter. Authentic flavor inside and out."
    Kirkus Reviews, starred review
  • *"Kemp’s novel serves up finely rendered, stirring character arcs...as well as an intimate portrait of two teens grappling with mental health, complicated family relationships, and newfound love."
    Publishers Weekly, starred review
  • "Wonderfully realized characters, a vibrant setting, and so much more. I loved this."
    Melina Marchetta, award-winning author of Jellicoe Road
  • "Pen and Xander will steal your heart. One to savor."
    Laura Taylor Namey, New York Times bestselling author of A Cuban Girl's Guide to Tea and Tomorrow
  • "A bold new voice to watch in children's fiction."
    Eric Smith, author of Don't Read the Comments
  • "An affecting, timely debut....Add it to your 2021 TBR list immediately."
    Liz Lawson, author of The Lucky Ones
  • "Like the delicious food and decadent desserts described within its pages, Kemp's debut explores the often bitter and sweet complexity of family, new love, and what it means to find home. "
    Mia García, author of The Resolutions
  • "Pen and Xander's unforgettable love story refuses to sugarcoat difficult topics, but instead deftly explores them with a thoughtful hand. A cathartic read and new favorite author."
    Nina Moreno, author of Don't Date Rosa Santos
  • "Lush imagery celebrates Mexican culture and depicts how food can bring people ­together. . . . not to be missed."
    School Library Journal
  • "Students will enjoy the food descriptions and community culture that lend the story a sense of authenticity and believability."
    School Library Connection
  • “Kemp’s precise writing flows from Pen’s perspective to Xander’s effortlessly, even while revealing their individual lives….Recommended for readers who enjoy strong stories about found families, expectations, and food.”

On Sale
Oct 3, 2023
Page Count
384 pages

About the Author

NOVL - Headshot photo of Laekan Zea Kemp

Laekan Zea Kemp is the Pura Belpré Honor author of Somewhere Between Bitter and SweetHeartbreak Symphony, and Omega Morales and the Legend of La Lechuza. Her work celebrates Chicane grit, resilience, creativity, and joy while exploring themes of identity and mental health. She lives in Austin, Texas. Laekan invites you to visit her at laekanzeakemp.com or follow her on Twitter @LaekanZeaKemp.

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From NOVL Nation

“Is there anything better than reading a book and finding the words to describe things you feel so deeply but haven’t ever been able to articulate? Heartbreak Symphony made me want to underline whole pages. This book puts in words so many things I thought I was alone in feeling.”

– Megan, @emdashmegan

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.”

 – Lili, Utopia State of Mind

“I think Heartbreak Symphony is the most perfect name for this book. It was a beautiful melodic heartbreak that tore me up, but made me feel whole at the same.”

– Mellie, @milesofpages

Heartbreak Symphony by Leakan Zea Kemp was one of those heart-gripping, gut-wrenching reads… Ohmigoodness – the feels! I knew I was reading an emotionally charged book, but to hear Aarón and Mia speak their thoughts and feelings made my heart soar. This is such an important story and one that should not be missed!”

– Katie, @niftyreads

“This is a really compelling and heartfelt read. Both Mia and Aaron are struggling with their grief and also struggles with anxiety/depression… Their relationship was really fantastic, and some of their conversations/scenes were heartfelt and lovely.”

– Olivia, onemused



Laekan Zea Kemp

About the Author

Laekan Zea Kemp is the Pura Belpré Honor author of Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet and other young adult novels, as well as a middle grade series and picture books. She lives in Austin, Texas. Laekan invites you to visit her at laekanzeakemp.com or follow her on social media @LaekanZeaKemp.

Learn more about this author