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Amalia Andrade sets high goals for herself: in a recent interview, she said she wants to be the Adele and Beyoncé of books. You Always Change the Love of Your Life (For Another Love or Another Life) performed well in its original Spanish version (Penguin Books released the English translation of the book in December), and it’s plain to see why. Her book–mostly handwritten, with many illustrations–is accessible and easygoing. It’s an eclectic mix of advice, fiction, short creative nonfiction pieces, mixtapes, and recipes, with plenty of guided writing and drawing exercises for her readers.
Andrade entered herself into a rehab program in her hometown of Cali, Colombia after a particularly heinous breakup, where she learned to “die and be reborn,” and she draws heavily on this experience in You Always Change. She admits from time to time that she doesn’t have a piece of advice for a particular situation and asks her readers to send her an email with their own ideas. She doesn’t go into detail about the breakup that inspired the book, only teasing us with one or two pages about her feelings at the beginning of a few chapters.
In the chapter titled “Crying,” Andrade provides examples of celebrities who have a good handle on emotions as well as those who have it worse than you. (Telling people to measure their pain against others, especially to diminish what they’re feeling, is a troublesome concept, but I take her point.) She talks about the medical side of heartbreak: broken heart syndrome, where, in response to intense emotional duress, part of the heart literally stops working, causing a heart attack-like effect.
In “Self-Destruction,” she starts by telling us that she can’t write about the woman who broke her heart (“I can’t write her name without feeling my hand burn. I can’t think of her body without feeling regret”). She shares some words of wisdom from her therapist–self-destruction doesn’t just take place when you intentionally injure yourself, but also when you try to distance yourself from yourself, “self-sabotaging your happiness.” (She also includes the national Suicide Prevention Hotline, which, in case you need it, is 1-800-237-8255.)
There’s also a glossary of passive aggressive terms, a set of bills from the “Bank of Emotional Intelligence” for when you successfully avoid acting out of anger, and a listicle of “Why it’s not a good idea to stay friends with your ex and sabotage his/her life from the inside” in the anger section, and a wonderful vignette at the start of the depression section (“It wasn’t the things that we lost. It was not realizing that we were losing them”). More questionable is her assigning normal vs. abnormal labels to types of grief, such as not crying being an abnormal type of grief.
The rest of the book is more upbeat, with topics like “finding well-being and satisfaction in life no matter the circumstances,” reinventing yourself, “finding love after heartbreak,” a short piece of fiction, and several recipes. She makes some strange assertions, like using whether or not you can make rice and eggs as a measure of your mental well-being.
Overall, the book does have some helpful advice, even if there are a number of problematic things inside. Honestly, I could’ve used some of this book in my last breakup, especially the parts about not trying to be best friends with your ex in the immediate aftermath. There are a lot–a lot–of pop culture references, which vary between helpful and distracting. The assignments she gives, such as listing types of magical thinking, do seem like they would be helpful, and also seem like they probably came from her time spent at the rehab in Cali. The process of metaphorically dying and being reborn, something that she talks about in an interview as a large part of her time in rehab, is something that most of us could stand to do more of in our lives, and I appreciate her focus on it in the book.
Does she meet her standard of being Adele or Beyoncé for books? For me, not quite. After reading, Andrade feels like one of your friends, but not like she’s got it all figured out, the way that Adele and Beyoncé seem to through their lyrics. That’s not to say that the book isn’t helpful; she does share some pieces of wisdom from her own journey through pain, and through her thoughtful, poignant vignettes and more casually voiced, often humorous tips and lists, it’s easy to believe that she knows what true heartbreak feels like, and that she can truly empathize with your pain.
All in all, You Always Change will probably help you through your current or next breakup, if only by knowing someone else shares your pain.
You Always Change the Love of Your Life (For Another Love or Another Life)
By Amalia Andrade
Paperback, 9780143133469, 237 pp.