Initially, I was really intrigued by Broken’s protagonist, Emma. Desolate and heartbroken over the untimely demise of her first boyfriend, Daniel, she spends most of her time lamenting over her loss. Upon meeting Alex, she finds a dark and tortured companion, someone who understands her kind of pain.
"When I close my eyes, I have the feeling I’ve known Alex for years. Then I see him, his scars and the brief flashes of raw honesty and horrid secrets and I think I don’t know him at all.
And I can’t stay away.
Those moments of open ache from him caught my heart, promised it a wounded companion."
"I’m wearing the shirt of a boy I barely know, and he ripped it off exposing more than his scars. In some way, I’m wearing his hurt and hiding in his shadows."
With time, I found myself growing wary with Alex’s strange similarities to Daniel, and Emma’s seemingly reluctance to question it because there wasn’t enough time between Daniel’s death and the introduction of Alex, the person who was somehow connected to him. But beyond that, it was uncomfortable to watch her sort through her emotions because she wasn’t sure which feelings were even appropriate for her to feel. With Daniel having passed only a few months earlier, she recognized that Alex’s similarities to Daniel might be the reason behind her immediate attraction and that he could just be a rebound, born out of pain and an aching loneliness. But anytime thoughts of Daniel surfaced, she squashed them and focused on the current of energy she felt whenever she was near Alex.
Alex was never the enigma that I think Rought had hoped he would be. I think, had I not read the blurb describing this as a Frankenstein retelling, I might have thought that Emma was merely projecting Daniel onto Alex because of how much she missed him. ***SPOILERS***But knowing the direction Broken was headed, the surprise at learning that he was created using bits of Daniel was lost. ***END OF SPOILERS*** It also made it quite clear who was helping Dr. Franks in his morbid experiments, and that there was more to Daniel’s death than meets the eye.
At first, the mystery surrounding Daniel’s death was exciting and compelling. Allusions to a fall kept me in suspense, as I pieced together the details surrounding his death. I also kept waiting to hear about the “string of suspicious deaths” mentioned in the blurb, and was disappointed that they were never mentioned in relation to Daniel’s passing. I kept waiting to make the connection between Daniel’s accident, and the death of some boys I only knew had died because of the summary, and was disappointed when Rought had to tell me their connection because she failed to show it through cleverly interwoven subplots.
I think the biggest disappointment with Broken was how slowly the “surprise” ending was revealed. We are forced through chapters and chapters of angsty high school drama, everyday mundane tasks (like what type of breakfast-to-go sandwich her mom made her everyday for the week; not joking, that happened) and way too many references to Emma’s blonde hair and pink cell phone.
"My cell phone buzzes, sounding like bees and chicken bones as it rattles against the pencils in the front pocket of my backpack."
"The notification tones set the pink bit of electronics staggering like a mugging victim across my desk."
"The factory setting ringtone on my phone wakes me in the middle of the night."
I didn’t start writing down examples until halfway through, and even then I edited out a bunch because there were JUST TOO MANY. It made me reach a point of nonchalance, so by the time the action did make an appearance, I just didn’t care anymore.
It wasn’t all bad in Broken I found myself jotting down a lot of lines, because the prose was so pretty I wanted to get a second look at it later. And even though I knew how everything was (mostly) going to end, because Broken is a retelling, I was still compelled to finish it. I just wish that the execution had been handled as well as the concept.