By A.E. Rought
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Publication Date: January 8, 2013
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal/Fantasy
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.
As soon as I saw Broken, I knew I had to have it. Not only was it a retelling of Frankenstein, one of the very best monster stories ever, but instead of a vaguely modern twist of the tale, I had the impression that this was going to be a little more atmospheric and faithful to the original. I think the end product was more of a decent YA paranormal with some spooky spots and a couple of homages to Shelley’s Frankenstein.
Emma has been mourning the tragic death of her boyfriend and first love Daniel for months, constantly returning to the cemetery where they used to hang out and where he should have been laid to rest now if his parents hadn’t refused to hold a burial. Now that the first semester of school is half gone, things have fallen into a predictable daily pattern for Emma of running late for school, grabbing a coffee from the local hot spot and trading insults with the school jerk, all before the opening bell. Following an especially unsettling visit to the cemetery the night before, the school day goes off-kilter when a new student appears.
A few people, including Emma’s friend Bree, recognize Alex from elementary school, but she’s never laid eyes on him. There’s still something about him that makes the hair on her arms stand up and he gets a weird look on his face when he sees her too, something between amused and awestruck. Lest you think I’m leading you down a spoilery path, there really aren’t any giant secrets to be had in the story – it’s all laid out in the synopsis and there aren’t any shocking developments, which disappointed me. The majority of the story is about the unfolding of Emma sorting out her grief for Daniel with what’s happening with Alex and how he fits into a possible relationship.
Does this sound like it could be the plot for a regular YA romance? Take out the paranormal aspects and it could have been. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Rought’s writing and some of the moments between Alex and Emma when they were having their odd connection were very poignant and a little heartbreaking considering what had been taken away from both characters. In my opinion though, the story suffered for having been saddled with the Frankenstein hook. Like it or not, I had an expectation of something when I hear that title, some more doom and gloom, a rotten villain or some more visceral human experiments.
Horror remake expectations aside, I liked Emma, mostly because she felt very realistic to me. She was always in trouble with her mom (been there) for screwing up on a field trip, punching her locker, skipping school, etc. I couldn’t fault her for being a little obsessed with Daniel and his death and she didn’t stick her head in the sand about whatever weirdness was going on with the connection she had with Alex. I don’t think I’m damning her with faint praise when I say I loved her because the author actually made her a sensible girl – she wasn’t stupid, she wasn’t brilliant, she didn’t make horrible choices, she was just someone I could see relating to and hanging out with.
Alex fell into a gray zone, where I put characters I have no idea how to classify. Since he’s not exactly himself (ha), can I call him clueless? He seemed dense sometimes; I don’t know how he missed certain things and at other times, seemed to know more than Emma. There are a lot of loose ends about him that didn’t get wrapped up that had to do with his father, so he’ll remain a little bit of an enigma. I wish there had been more of his dad too. For someone so psychotic who had such a hand in creating the whole story after all, he was barely there.
As I said earlier, there really aren’t any big surprises in the story. The beginning of the story has a nice pace, but most of the middle is a slightly repetitive part about Emma and Alex getting to know each other at school and it slows down until near the end when the big finish happens. There’s a very nice amount of romance, a little of it sweet, some of it hot, and some real action. Rought really writes beautifully, I have no complaints at all in that department. This just didn’t feel like a paranormal, contemporary or a twist on Frankenstein – I didn’t know what to do with it and I couldn’t fully enjoy it. I had a difficult time deciding on my rating for this one, but the writing won out and bumped it up that half-grade. If you’re on the fence about this one after reading my review, my suggestion would be to look at others’.
My Rating: B-