Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Release date: January 8 2013
“Why did I have to fall in love with a boy so broken?”
I knew going into this book that it was going to be a Frankenstein retelling, and I was curious to see how the author was going to develop such an unusual premise. I’ll have to admit I did have some mixed feelings while reading Broken, but I ultimately enjoyed the gothic creepiness that perfectly captures the mood of the original tale. Rought’s writing style was a bit over-written for me, but now that I’ve finished the book, I can see the reason she wrote the story with such overwrought prose (such a terrible pun, sorry!). The story itself is over-the-top, and the language simply mimics its gothic atmosphere.
Emma Gentry drags herself through her days in a stupor of sadness. Her boyfriend Daniel has recently died after falling to his death off a balcony during a party. Emma spends time at the cemetery mourning Daniel, even though he isn’t buried there. (We don’t find out the reason for this until later in the story.) Until one day, a new boy comes to school and pulls Emma’s attention away from her dreary thoughts of life without Daniel. Alex Franks is an extremely attractive but mysterious and secretive boy who is instantly drawn to Emma. They begin to bond over coffee, but Emma is puzzled by the strange similarities he seems to share with Daniel: he can open her broken locker, just like Daniel did, he loves the same coffee drink as Daniel (caramel breve) and even shares Daniel’s strangely colored eyes. After witnessing some very odd behavior from Alex during a class field trip, Emma begins to form some theories about just what might be up with her new friend.
But Emma’s theories aren’t quite right. Even numerous references to electrical surges and cell phone malfunctions whenever Alex is around are not enough for Emma to connect the dots. It isn’t until she sneaks onto Alex’s family property to spy on his father that she finally figures out something close to the truth, but the reader might very well figure things out way before Emma does. The last fifty pages or so are a thrilling and horror-soaked conclusion that reveals some terrifying truths behind Daniel’s death, as well as the mystery of Alex and his horrible father.
The author does a great job setting up the story for the final reveal, with lots of references to electricity and Alex’s “beating heart,” and descriptions of the strange white scars that seem to cover his body. The problem, however, lies in the fact that we know upfront that this is a Frankenstein story, and I just wanted to get to the meat of the story faster! This quote from the book is a great example of how Rought uses imagery to set the tone and plant clues about what’s to come:
I shuffle into the Walk-Up line at Mugz-n-Chugz, one more uncaffeinated zombie needing a jolt to come to life.
But when Rought does finally reveal the awful truth, I was flying through the pages to get to the end. What started off slow for me became the horror story I was hoping for by the last third of the book.
The relationships between the characters in Broken were appropriately fraught with tension, and several of the “bad guys” were wonderfully gothic. Alex’s father, the “evil surgeon” of the story, was truly evil and scared me to death. Likewise, Emma’s nemesis Josh, a mean boy at school who spends his days hurling insults at Emma, plays an interesting role in the outcome of the story (although I was a bit puzzled by how much he seems to hate her). Although the instant connection between Emma and Alex seems unrealistic, you’ll understand the reason behind it when you read the book. A feeling of sadness infuses the story, and explains many of the more unlikable characters’ actions.
A couple of things seemed out-of-place to me, in particular the way the author kept referencing Dracula (Emma is reading the book at school, and she watches the movie several times during the story), but the atmospheric quality of the story and the tension Rought builds up to the final showdown are reasons enough to read this book. And the title, by the way, is perfect.