- Date published: 8th January 2013
- Publisher: Angry Robot (Strange Chemistry)
- Format: Paperback, 384 pages
- ISBN 13: 9781908844316 ISBN 10: 1908844310
- Categories: YA Science Fiction
- Goodreads / The Book Depository / Booktopia
- Source: provided for review by publisher
- Challenge: 2013 Debut Author Challenge
A string of suspicious deaths near a small Michigan town ends with a fall that claims the life of Emma Gentry’s boyfriend, Daniel. Emma is broken, a hollow shell mechanically moving through her days. She and Daniel had been made for each other, complete only when they were together. Now she restlessly wanders the town in the late Fall gloom, haunting the cemetery and its white-marbled tombs, feeling Daniel everywhere, his spectre in the moonlight and the fog.
When she encounters newcomer Alex Franks, only son of a renowned widowed surgeon, she’s intrigued despite herself. He’s an enigma, melting into shadows, preferring to keep to himself. But he is as drawn to her as she is to him. He is strangely… familiar. From the way he knows how to open her locker when it sticks, to the nickname she shared only with Daniel, even his hazel eyes with brown flecks are just like Daniel’s.
I hate to begin the review like this, but Strange Chemistry really need to work on their blurbs. The one I’ve provided is only half of the one on their site, and the reason I haven’t included it in full is because it basically makes 2/3 of the book redundant. I normally read books without a glance at the blurb, and luckily e-books make it even harder to read the blurb (lack of a back of book and all), so I was lucky, but there is only disappointment in store for readers who peruse the synopsis before starting this great book.
Broken is about two emotionally and physically damaged characters: Emma Gentry, who is mourning the death of her boyfriend, and Alex Franks, the new boy at school who has a mysterious connection to her. Although they initially seem copies of worn out clichés, they are proven to be compelling characters as the book progresses. I liked that Emma and Alex both understood how bizarre their situation was and honestly struggled to come to terms with it, instead of shrugging it off and readily accepting the weirdness as other YA protagonists are prone to do. And their connection, although hasty (but there’s a great reason for it) is also real and natural, shown to us not through kisses or steamy sessions, but through gestures, expressions and sweet moments of cuteness.
Despite only spanning a handful of weeks, Broken is paced slowly, allowing for a gentle build up of Emma and Alex’s characters and their relationship, revealing both the past and the creepy goings on around them gradually. While I like that it’s written this way, the writing style compounds the ill-fit of the blurb: readers who already know most of what’s going to happen will be incredibly frustrated at how slowly the plot progresses. Although, I have to point out that I figured out the deal with Josh pretty early on after he says a particularly telling line that everyone shrugs off.
On the topic of Josh. Emma has some real hate for red-haired people. Maybe it was just Josh, but she constantly fixated on his red hair, whether it was the hair on this head, badly styled, or his chest hair, which had a nasty habit of peeking out from the necklines of his sweaters. I found the preoccupation with his appearance more than a little distasteful, although I agree that he is an arrogant a-hole who needed to be put in his place.
It also made me uncomfortable that Emma had two guys in her life who wouldn’t listen to her when she made it clear that she wasn’t interested in them. I think she conducted herself very well and was mature about it, but the forcefulness of the two male characters in question unsettled me quite a bit. In this regard, I didn’t mind at all that Alex got all alpha male around her, but I was gratified to find that he didn’t once try to dictate Emma in any way and was always acting in her best interests.
Broken is a satisfying read, creepy and romantic and all-together wonderful. It’s an impressive novel, all the more so because it’s Rought’s début YA novel (although she has written a few books for adults), and perfect for fans of YA who want a dash of horror in their books.