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.”
I need to mention first and foremost that this is really isn’t my usual cup of tea, but I’ve been a Frankenstein fan ever since I read it at school, and I’m a fan of Angry Robot so I couldn’t resist having a peek at this one from their Strange Chemistry crew.
In Broken, Rought gives us a High School setting with a brooding hero and a clumsy heroine. Said brooding hero ends up being lab partners at school with our heroine, and his Dad works at the local hospital…sound familiar at all?
For that alone I should’ve put this one down, (not that I mind Twilight, I really don’t, I’m happy enough with any series that gets youngsters reading, but I’m not a fan of the endless try-hards it spawned). Non-Twilight fans don’t despair, Rought’s writing is a million miles from Meyer, and that’s what had me glued to this one. Right from the off, Broken is dripping with beautiful, vividly imagined, gorgeously descriptive language that draws you in and wraps you up in its magic and absolutely refuses to let you go. Brooding teenage boys and ‘should I, shouldn’t I?” teen girls are really not my thing, but there’s a magic to this one that transcends the immediate subject matter. The romance aspect here is massive, and I’m normally the first person to whinge about that but there’s just something about the way Rought writes that had me completely eating out of her hand. I’m 34 years old, and pretty hard on the outside, but even I was curled up in bed feeling like a 15 year old, swooning over Alex as I read this. Any author that can do that, gets my vote. It’s really, really impressive that she took me right out of my comfort zone, and made it stupidly comfortable around me. Hats off for that, really.
The pace here is deliciously slow and considered, and whilst I can appreciate that that’s going to drive some readers up the wall, I loved it, and I think it’s a brave move in a genre that’s so often all about the action. It’s refreshing. You’ll get 3/4 way into this one before anything actually happens, but if you’re like me you’re not going to be mind because you’re lost in Emma’s world and there’s so much to look at, and so many emotions to explore. And the build up to what you know is coming is deliciously tense and dark, and the language is so beautiful along the way that you can just indulge yourself and enjoy it. Or at least, I did.
The problem with this one is, from the blurb, you know exactly what’s going to happen. Well, not exactly, but you get the general idea and it’s a shame because whilst parts of this were still impressively jaw-dropping, there could have been some real shattering of bones as jaws hit the floor if the blurb could have been a little more restrained and the opening not littered with quite so many clues.
I genuinely couldn’t have loved this more. The happy ending was, perhaps, well not perhaps it was definitely a little overdone, but I’d imagine that’s a YA concession and as I’m not used to the genre I can let that go. It didn’t matter, I was so taken with the originality of a Frankenstein re-imagining (has there been one before? I don’t think there has you know), and the gorgeousness of Rought’s writing that I was sold whatever happened. Even when, and this is hard without spoilers, but even when the shizzle hits the fanizzle and Emma does…pretty much nothing…I didn’t care. My God, what was Rought done to me?? I feel like I should go and read something dark and gritty to recover.
In a nutshell, I found Broken absolutely spellbinding. Many thanks to Strange Chemistry for the ARC, and I will definitely be getting myself a copy next month. Gorgeousness!