The Girl with the Broken Heart
THE GIRL WITH THE BROKEN HEART is Lurlene McDaniel’s latest YA contemporary novel. The story follows Kenzie as she throws herself into her summer job, putting all her attention on recuperating rescued horses. She’s hoping this will be enough of a distraction from her heart condition, her problematic relationship with her father, and her sister’s recent passing, but Austin, Kenzie’s stableman hired to help her, seems intent on dredging all of those feelings out of her, plus some more. Kenzie can’t deny her growing attraction to Austin, but she doesn’t know his full story and he’s not too willing to share it.
What works well in this book is how McDaniel’s sets up the air of mystery around Austin. She doesn’t give him just one secret, but instead leaves room for multiple surprises. By cluing the readers in on this fact from the beginning, she seamlessly injects thriller aspects into an otherwise straightforward romance story. I couldn’t guess Austin’s final twist, but I really like where McDaniel takes his character. In fact, I would have loved to know about him earlier on, because it would have made more sense as to why he needed to keep his distance from Kenzie and it would have heightened the tension between them.
For a lot of the book, the relationship between Kenzie and Austin feels difficult just for the sake of being difficult. Kenzie’s dislike of him from the beginning is a little forced and sometimes their dialogue is stilted. There is also a weird shifting perspective that happens between the two of them at random intervals. A consistent POV would have helped with the pacing and even the suspense.
With that being said, THE GIRL WITH THE BROKEN HEART is completely on brand for McDaniel and will appeal to any of her fans, especially those who have read LOSING GABRIEL or SOMEBODY’S BABY. McDaniel sets her most recent novel back in Windemere, Tennessee, and it’s really fun to see her former characters, Lani, Dawson, and Cole make brief cameos.