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Symptoms of a Heartbreak

Symptoms of a Heartbreak

by Sona Charaipotra


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"Doogie Howser, M.D. meets The Fault in Our Stars in this tender romcom." —Teen Vogue

The youngest doctor in America, an Indian-American teen makes her rounds—and falls head over heels—in Sona Charaipotra's contemporary romantic comedy Symptoms of a Heartbreak.

Sixteen-year-old Saira has always juggled family, friendships, and her Girl Genius celebrity. Now, as the youngest med school graduate ever, she can finally achieve her mission to treat young people dealing with cancer.

But proving herself in life-or-death situations is tough when everyone from her boss to her patients can't see past her age to trust her skills. And working in the same hospital as her mom isn't making things any easier!

Life gets even more complicated when Saira falls for a teenage patient. To improve his chances, she risks her lifelong dream—and it could cost her everything.

In her solo debut, Sona Charaipotra brings us a compelling #ownvoices protagonist who’s not afraid to chase what she wants. Symptoms of a Heartbreak goes from romantic comedy highs to tearjerker lows and is the ultimate cure-all for every reader needing an infusion of something heartfelt.

An Imprint Book

"Fans of YA contemporary don't want to miss this one." —Buzzfeed

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250250995
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication date: 05/04/2021
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 465,948
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.33(h) x 0.89(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Sona Charaipotra is not a doctor—much to her pediatrician parents’ chagrin. She has worked as a celebrity reporter at People and TeenPeople and has contributed to publications ranging from the New York Times to TeenVogue. She uses her master's in screenwriting from NYU and her MFA in creative writing from the New School to poke plot holes in her favorite teen TV shows—for work, of course. She is the cofounder of CAKE Literary, a boutique book packaging company with a decidedly diverse bent, and the coauthor of the YA dance dramas Tiny Pretty Things and Shiny Broken Pieces, as well as the psychological thriller The Rumor Game. She is a proud We Need Diverse Books team member. Find her on the web or on Twitter.

Read an Excerpt


It's 7:30, and it's all going smoothly.

Paperwork: done.

Shower: complete.

First-Day Pants and Blouse selected: clean and classic.

White coat: ironed and safe in its dry-cleaning bag.

Loafers: stiff and polished.

Laptop and phone: charged.

Briefcase: prepped.

Everything just right. Or it was, anyway.

And then, there she is.

Mom. That familiar knock. Only about an hour too late.

I've just slicked down my hair again — this July heat triggers the frizz, inevitably — when she starts pounding on my bedroom door.

I look at my smartwatch. Yup, 7:43. If I actually relied on her to get me up on time, I'd be so very late.

"Saira, beta! Time to get up," my mother singsongs just outside my door. "Dadima made paranthe!"

"Mom, I don't have time."

"Of course you have time. Your dadima made you a special first-day breakfast, and you absolutely will eat it."

I sigh. I better get dressed. I've already been up for hours — three to be precise — but I didn't get dressed yet because I don't want to wrinkle my clothes. I mean, it's my first day. I've had a lot of first days on my path to becoming a doctor, but this is a pretty damn important one. I want to be ready. I need to be ready.

I walk over to the bed where I've laid out my perfect First Day as a Real Doctor Outfit: a mauve button-down shirt and gray slacks — a picture of Harper tucked into the left back pocket as a reminder — along with black loafers and the same plain, small gold hoop earrings I always wear.

But my outfit's not there. I mean, like, it was there twenty minutes ago when I got into the shower. And now it is GONE.

"It was just so wrong."

I turn around and my big sister Taara's standing in the doorway to the jill-and-jill bathroom we share — or did, before she left for college last year — a smirk on her already-glossed lips as she holds up a shopping bag.

"Taaaaara," I say, lunging forward, trying to find my clothes, but she blocks my path.

"Nope," she says, and I sigh as I take the bag.

"I mean, just because you're a doctor doesn't mean you want to look like you're forty," she says, taking things out of the bag and handing them to me. A soft, satiny black-and-white polka-dotted blouse, black tailored-but-casual capri-length pants, strappy black sandals. And some cute dangly earrings that I'll totally lose by the end of the day. "The white coat should do the trick."

I pull on the clothes and follow her back into the bathroom so she can do my makeup. There's no use fighting it.

"Aren't you supposed to be in class, like, right now?" I ask her as she lines my eyes with kohl. Taara's a sophomore at Rutgers. Premed, following in our mom's footsteps. This year should be pretty intense for her.

"No talking."

She works for a few minutes, frowning the whole time.

"What?" I say.

"We should really do something about those brows."

"I thought thick brows were in now."

"Thick brows, yes. Bert brows, no." She waves a pair of tweezers in the air, and I smack her hand away.

"No time."

"All right, but I'm warning you now." She grimaces and gets back to work, lining my eyes with kohl. She hands me lip gloss and I dab some on.

"There." She grins at me in the mirror, satisfied. "But it'd still be better —"

"No." I take a quick look. I do look cute. The problem: I also look so very sixteen.

"I told you ...," she says, preempting my complaint.

"I know, I know," I say. "The white coat should do it."

Should. But it won't. I know from experience.

* * *

Breakfast is a spread. Dadima went all out. There are aloo ke paranthe and egg bhurji and samose and of course chai.

And there's Vish, tucked into the booth right next to my dad, talking about cricket or Bollywood or some other boyfriend-father bonding topic. Here's a thing you should know about Vish: Technically, to everyone else, he's my boyfriend, one word, and has been pretty much forever. Like since we were twelve. But to me he's my boy friend, two very separate words, and decidedly platonic, because he's probably, definitely, totally gay. He just hasn't told anyone besides me (and his boyfriend, Luke) yet. He will when he's ready.

Here's the other thing you should know about Vish: He's half-Punjabi, half-Gujarati, and fully vegetarian. Read: hard to feed. Which sort of puts him on Dadima's shit list. (Granted: It's quite a long list.)

That's why she frowns and scowls when he playfully swipes the fresh, hot parantha she's just carried over from the stove.

"That was for Saira," she says, hustling me toward the breakfast nook. "Extra chili. You will regret. Saira, sit, eat. Quickly. Otherwise you're going to be late."

Taara and I squish into the booth and dig into the crispy potato-stuffed bread my grandmother has laid out, dipping it into cool yogurt and spicy mango achar.

"Are you nervous, Guddi?" Vish asks, taking a sip of chai. Guddi is his old nickname for me. It means doll.

I shake my head, my mouth already full of food.

"She's got this," Taara says. "She's only been preparing, like, her whole life."

"Where's Mom?" I wonder aloud. But I already know, because she's decidedly not in this room.

"In the shower," Taara mumbles.

"But she's fast," Papa says, and they all laugh.

I don't. Because this is no joking matter.

"I mean, if she's running behind, I can drop you off," Vish says, and I can feel the little dents on my forehead collapsing into those familiar creases. "Like, we can leave right now."

Dadi starts clearing away plates, and pours me another cup of chai. "Relax. It's not even eight yet. You have time." She plonks a grease-stained brown paper bag onto the table. "Treats. For your big day."

I sigh. It's inevitable. I'm going to be late. On my first day. Because of Mom. As usual. All my life, my mom has made us late. She's known as the local pediatrician in our neighborhood — and has been for nearly thirty years — and so every time she steps out of the house she has to look perfect. And as junior representatives of her, so do Taara and I. For Taara — all long, lean, and flawless, like Katrina Kaif — that's pretty easy. For me? Not so much.

Mom walks into the kitchen, her shoulder-length bob freshly set, her burgundy blouse a perfect match to her burgundy pants (and burgundy lipstick), her black patent loafers freshly polished. You'd think it was her first day.

But it's mine. And we're late.

"Ready?" she asks. Like I'm the one who's been holding things up. Dadi, prepared as always, hands her a muffin and her to-go chai. And a full twenty minutes behind schedule, we're finally headed out the door.

We should be okay. Barring any other incidents.

But as soon as we step outside, we're surrounded. By thirty members of the extended Sehgal-Kapoor-Dhillon clan, along with a few stray cousins thrice removed for good measure. The whole paltan, as my dad would say. Except for my friend Lizzie, who'll be sleeping till noon.

Vish's mom stands front and center, of course, a puja thali prepared with the glow of a lit diya and a small bowl of vermilion.

"Pele pait puja, abh asli puja," Vish says, laughing, and I shoot him the glare of death.

"Oh, Saira, we all just wanted to come to show our support and offer our blessings," his mom — forever known as Sweetie Auntie to me — says, waving the tray around near my face in a precarious circle. She dips her ring finger into the vermilion and pokes a little tikka of red onto my forehead as they all lean in close to peer at me. My dad glares in annoyance. He thinks Vish's parents are too religious. But that's probably because we're hardly religious at all. Too many doctors in the family.

"We should get going —" I start, but the expression on Mom's face stops me cold. I rub my cheek. "What?"

"You can't go to the hospital with your eyebrows looking like that," she says, her voice stern and worried.

"I mentioned it this morning, but Saira said we didn't have time," Taara says in her told-you-so voice.

"We still don't have time."

"Of course we have time," Sonia Mamiji says, stepping forward with authority. It's barely eight a.m., but she's all dolled up, her face made, her hair curled. "I even have my kit in the car."

And that's how I end up in the passenger seat of Mom's car, the seat reclined, as Mamiji uses her quick-heating wax strips and professional tweezers to coax and refine those suckers into shape as an audience of twenty — most of the men wisely bailed when the brow talk began — watches with smug satisfaction.

"You really should get them done every two to three weeks," Mamiji says as I yelp with pain. "Otherwise they're out of control."

"Yeh tho main hamesha isko kethi hoon," Mom says. "But she never listens to her mother."

"Or her sister," Taara adds with a grin as I fire death rays from my eyes, framed by newly impeccable brows.

When we finally start the car, it's already 8:45. Thank gods the hospital has that rule that mandates doctors live in a fifteen-minute radius. Because we are SO. VERY. LATE.


It's 9:04 when we finally pull into the staff parking lot at Princeton Presbyterian.

I hate being late. Loathe it. It literally gives me hives. They're psychosomatic, obviously. Physical manifestations of emotional stress are usually fascinating. Except when it's the first day of the rest of your life and you've got roses blooming on your arms and face.

By the time I climb out of the car, it's already 9:06.

Mom and I race to the main lobby and barely make it through the elevator doors as they close. I stab the button for the eighth floor as the people inside — a nurse, another doctor, a couple of civilians — frown or fret.

Except for one, tucked away in the corner — a boy about my age, tall and lanky, skater shorts and board, his hair flopping into his eyes as he stares at his phone. He brushes it away with his free hand, and I notice the freckles on his nose.

My stomach does an odd flip.


I look down at my brand-new feet-pinching, old-people loafers, trying to focus. But there's something about him that makes me look again.

He catches me staring and grins. I look away quickly, blushing, the brief erythema warming my cheeks.

He's busy with his phone again, that smirk still on his lips. I wonder what's so funny. Especially at 9:08 in the morning at the hospital. There's only one reason someone his age — well, my age — ends up at this part of the hospital. Someone's really sick. Or, like, having a baby or something. I wonder who.

He's cute, if somewhat unkempt.

Cutie McFreckles sneezes, and I automatically say, "Bless you." He grins at me again, then looks back at his phone, the moment over.

"Code blue! Code blue!" As the elevator doors open, the alert sounds on the intercom, shaking us all awake. That familiar hospital scent fills the elevator as one of the doctors on board rushes out, frantically punching at his phone. Not good news, clearly.

I reach for the photo I keep in my back pocket, and that's when it hits me. It's in my other pants. Shit. No Harper. How am I supposed to get through today?

A lump forms in my throat as her little face pushes its way into my brain. Every inch of this place reminds me of her. Those big blue eyes, rosy cherubic cheeks, that funny, familiar, hiccupping laugh that would crack me up and get us shushed by the nurses.

I close my eyes and can almost feel her by my side.

I shiver. I count to ten, then reopen them.

I can do this. I have to do this.

Focus, Saira, focus.

As we continue up, the elevator's half-empty now and the skater boy has moved closer to the doors, pretty much right next to me. He's tapping away on his phone, the clicking echoing in the silence as we continue to whoosh up past three, four, five.

I wonder where he's going.

My mom catches me looking at him. She nudges my shoulder and raises one perfectly groomed eyebrow.

The door opens and others step out, but he stays. It's the three of us now: me, Mom, and him.

I jab the eighth-floor button again for good measure. I check my watch.

It's 9:11 a.m. Catastrophically late.

This is all Mom's fault. And Taara's. And Sweetie Auntie's. And Sonia Mamiji's.

And okay, maybe just a bit mine. I should have gotten my brows done last week because this was pretty much inevitable. Or maybe I should have worked on getting my license this summer like any normal sixteen-year-old.

Then I wouldn't have had to have my mommy drive me to my first day of work.

She grins at me as I glare at her, and raises her brows comically.

Gods, I really do need a license.

As we get off the elevator on eight, I steal one more look at Cutie McFreckles (because for some reason, I can't not look), then bolt out, rushing down the hall toward oncology.

"See, I got you here, safe and sound and in one piece," Mom says, trailing behind me, her arms full of stuff. Why is she following me?

"Yes, but I'm late, Mom." I flash my smartwatch her way pointedly. She's supposed to be at pediatrics on the eleventh floor already, not here with me. "And aren't you late, too?"

"What, half the place is Desis!" she says with a grin. "We're always late."

"Mother, Indian Standard Time is an excuse manufactured by chronically delayed brown people like you." Mom's looking me up and down, "from tip to toe," as she always says, pausing at my earlobes. Damn. I forgot my earrings. She reaches up toward her own ear, ready to remove one of her ruby studs.

I stop her before she can get it out. "Yes, I forgot them. And no, I don't want yours."

I hear laughter, and that's when I see him. The guy from the elevator. McFreckles. He's standing near the registration desk, still on his phone, skateboard on the floor beside him, all casual like he's got no place else to be. Except maybe the oncology floor. And he's laughing. At us.

I glare at him, then at my mom, check my smartwatch one more time, and start walking toward the main oncology door.

Mom grabs my arm before I can storm off.

"Not another hug. I can't take it anymore, Mom."

"Did you remember your lunch?" she asks, and I can feel her mentally checking my briefcase.

I nod at her, raising my newly perfect eyebrows so she'll take the hint and leave. Instead, she steps closer, spits on her hands, and starts to smooth them out with her fingers. "Sonia Mamiji made this one a bit thicker —"

I shove her hands away. Hard. "Mother!"

The guy laughs again. Louder this time. He's not looking at his phone anymore, just staring right at us, like we're a part of his favorite sitcom or something. Mom notices him and frowns, but turns her focus to me.

"I knew we should have waited for Reshma to return," Mom says, and she can't resist one last eyebrow stroke even as I'm backing away toward the wall. "She's the only one who really knows how to do them properly."

My phone vibrates in my backpack. Lizzie, likely. If she's up early.

"Mom, I'm late!" I basically shout this time, making a move toward the door. My stomach is about to boil over, like an overdone pot of chai. This is pretty much the most important day of my life so far, and I am SO LATE. "I'll see you at lunch."

"Wait," she says, shoving the greasy brown bag toward me. "Don't forget the samose."

"I don't want them."

The guy laughs again, and I hear him say under his breath, "I'll take them."

"But, beta, your friends will enjoy them —"


"Acha," she says, tucking them back into her bag. "Have a good day."

She gathers all her crap — the carryall, the samose, three other random bags — and heads back toward the elevator. As it dings, I take a deep breath, then exhale.

"I've never witnessed anyone so violently reject samosas," the boy says to me. "I mean, I've never seen anyone reject samosas at all."

My cheeks are blooming again as he waltzes right up to me, just a few inches away. He's a good foot taller, and he smells familiar — like crisp citrus and something sweeter, maybe cinnamon. His dark hair flops forward into his eyes as he looks down at me, a dimple denting one cheek and that smirk playing on his mouth again. He looks mostly white, but there's a hint of something else, like that guy from my best friend Lizzie's favorite K-drama.

"You new?" he says when I don't answer. "You've got that new-kid vibe."

"You could say that," I say, picking up my briefcase. "And I'm late."

"So I heard," he says with a laugh. It's rough around the edges, like it could turn into a cough pretty quick, and he clears his throat to stop it. "Big appointment?"

"Yes," I say, looking at my smartwatch again. "And I really am super late now."

I rush off.

But I can't help but look back one last time.

He's still standing there, his phone at his side, staring after me with a wide grin. "Maybe I'll see you around. Give you the tour. Or something."

"Maybe!" I shout, then nearly trip over my own two feet as I head toward the oncology double doors. I catch myself, and for reasons I can't explain, I take a little bow, like some nerdy, uncoordinated ballerina, and push on through.


Excerpted from "Symptoms of a Heartbreak"
by .
Copyright © 2019 CAKE Literary, LLC..
Excerpted by permission of Imprint.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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