Published January 8th 2013 by Strange Chemistry
ARC received through Netgalley
I’d like to preface this review by saying that most of my criticism stems from the fact that this novel isn’t what it was marketed to be, and isn’t what I was expecting at all. I did quite some research before reading Broken, checking out reviews of fellow bloggers, thinking this book was for me. It most definitely wasn’t. In this review I will try to warn others to stay away from this book, if you are anything like me. For the romance lovers, especially in the tradition of Twilight, Fallen and Hush, Hush, I think you guys will eat this up. More on that later.
I’d also like to state that I read the ARC copy provided by Netgalley. So take the quotes with a grain of salt – they might not even be in the published version.
Let me sum up some facts about Broken:
- calling it a Frankenstein retelling is REALLY stretching it; there is barely a connection to the Mary Shelley’s story until about sixty percent in
- nothing substantial happens (as in anything besides romantic plot development – there is a lot of that going on) until 82 percent in
- that’s right, no action or horror until the last fifth of the book
- the main character falls in love in only three months after the death of her boyfriend
Basically, Broken is the story of Emma, who loses her boyfriend Daniel. Three months after his death she meets mysterious Alex, who she is instantly attracted to. But there is something wrong about him, and she is slightly hesitant to find out what.
The main problem I had with this book is the blurb. By just reading the blurb we can deduce that Alex is somehow Daniel: “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”. In the book it takes her more than half the book to actually see similarities between Alex and Daniel. And this is something we already know before we even start reading. It just all took way too long for me, stretching the first half into a boring mass of angst and lovey dovey-ness.
I was waiting for the creepiness to kick in. I waited and waited. The cover is very misleading – it remembered me a bit of The Replacement, which actually was a very haunting read. Broken pretty much only features a high school and Emma’s home, both of which are extremely ordinary and nothing like gothic novel material. I’d love to at least have maybe a bit of spooky setting – sitting in a cemetery drinking isn’t my idea of a spooky setting.
Then there is the standard YA-cliche; the message that Broken sends. I have talked about this before, but I will bring it up again. Teenagers are easily manipulated. I’m not saying they are stupid and believe everything they read or see – but this is the period in life where you form your own image of the world, and of what is normal and what is not. If in a high-school novel you present it as normal that girls bully each other, then real teenage girls won’t think bullying is all that bad. It’s normal, right? My main problem with Broken was (for once) not necessarily the romance between Emma and Alex. It was rather stifling, but that’s really just a personal preference. My problem is that every girl in this novel, except Emma and maybe her best friend, is labelled a slut.
Yes, a slut. Let me quote a bit for you here. “Girls up and down the line turn to him, cleavages and boobs lifting and tracking, like indicators on radar”. What the…? This is one of the most degrading sentences I have ever read.
Literally every girl in Emma’s school wants Alex and is jealous of her. Every guy wants to be Alex. They are constantly the conversation of the school. There are literally pages and pages describing how everyone is talking about them. Here are a few examples:
“The halls teem, people pushing, jostling and shouting. Then life grinds to a halt, all eyes on us as we walk into the main hall, hand-in-hand.” I’ve never seen people grinding to halt because someone was holding hands. This isn’t major drama material, no one is cheating or anything. Oh my god, two single people in the school are holding hands! WHAT SORCERY IS THIS?!
“He nods at guys too busy starting to nod back, and ignores the petulant lip-puffing pouts from the girls”. Mind the wording – these aren’t just some girls, these are the girls. Every girl. Every single girl is a dumb lip-puffing pouting brainless person. This just makes me very, very angry. It doesn’t make these girls look bad, it makes all girls look bad. And to be honest, most of us don’t frigging care who you’re snogging anyway.
I really wonder why this book is so, SO degrading towards girls. The only person who doesn’t fall victim to this is main character Emma. Emma only ever wears hoodies, preferably her boyfriend’s, sometimes even multiple hoodies on top of each other (don’t ask me how that should work). The lesson we can gather from this is that every girl that thinks hoodies and thermal wear is boring, is a slut. At one point Emma thinks about how she missed out on the “style” gene but only got the “practical” one. So… those two are mutually exclusive? There is absolutely no way to not look like you are wearing your brother’s leftovers and be dressed practically? Behold all stylish females, we are clearly not dressed for walking around at schools! Because you know, you will look like a slut if even a hint of your cleavage is showing.
I think I get what the author is trying to say. You don’t need to have the ladies hanging out of the front of your shirt to look beautiful. There is nothing wrong with having your own style. Some girls are just plain mean and jealous and petty. That message is getting completely scrambled in the process though, turning it from quite nice to a monstrosity. Maybe that’s the real Frankenstein of this book.
Then there is also a scene in which Emma finds herself in a burning room. Once the paramedics arrive, she refuses treatment. This is so wrong. If you have been in a burning house and you have breathed in the fumes, you must get yourself checked out as soon as possible. She could have easily dropped dead after a few hours because the soot in her throat caused a reaction. I do not condone any of this kind of reckless behaviour in books. What if some teenager reads this, finds herself in a burning house, gets out, refuses treatment because who needs stuff like that, and dies? Really, the blame is on you.
By the way, the argument “what are the odds?” doesn’t work. There shouldn’t be any odds of this happening. This situation could have been mended within the story with just a few sentences. A simple “the paramedics checked all of my vitals but I was fine” would have sufficed.
Broken was not the book I was expecting to read, and if I had known what I’d be getting myself into I wouldn’t have picked it up. It completely pales in comparison, but the last fifty pages or so were quite entertaining. There is some mystery and a crazy scientist, and who doesn’t like one of those. It was all way too black and white for my taste, but that does fit the overall tone of the book. Really, if you are looking for a simple romance story with a dash of supernatural, you might love Broken. It has all the elements a YA romance reader will eat up, as long as you don’t mind the awful generalisations the novel makes.
Imagine a modern spin on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein where a young couple’s undying love and the grief of a father pushed beyond sanity could spell the destruction of them all.
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.
The closer they become, though, the more something inside her screams there’s something very wrong with Alex Franks. And when Emma stumbles across a grotesque and terrifying menagerie of mangled but living animals within the walls of the Franks’ estate, creatures she surely knows must have died from their injuries, she knows.