Thanks to my brother being big into Dungeons & Dragons, I have some familiarity with tabletop gaming like the five characters at the heart of this story have been playing together for years. It’s not my thing, but I get why people love it. Nijkamp’s own passion for this type of gaming shines through in Even If We Break and it enthralls even a disinterested party like me. It also throws in an element of live action role playing, which is once again not my thing but easy to see why people love it when the author writes it so lovingly.
The diverse cast is another sweet spot, particularly the representation provided by Maddy, an autistic girl who has developed a pain medication addiction after a car crash wrecked her leg and ended her time on the school lacrosse team. As someone on the spectrum, you have NO idea how much it means to me to see representation closer to my experience. I’m used to seeing autistic people in media–particularly young adult fiction–as young children who are less verbal, more particular, and hard to handle, which isn’t how I am at all. Even representation of diverse groups needs to be further diversified.
WHAT LEFT ME WANTING:
However, a remark one member of the group makes about trying to find a BIPOC player specifically to make their group less white is …questionable. If that’s the way they think, no wonder their group is so white. I can’t imagine someone who isn’t white would feel comfortable among this group.
Though the novel delivers on its thrills with this booby-trapped cabin, torment personalized to each member of the group, and a gruesome, early death for one character, the characterization is weak and the narrative voices of our five narrators (three primary) are too similar to one another. It’s easy to lose track of whose chapter it is until they talk about something specific to one character, like Ever thinking about their sister. Then the ending just leaves me with an endless number of questions about one character and their upbringing.
So in comparison to Nijkamp’s first two novels, Even If We Break is a bit of a letdown. I don’t regret my preorder one bit, though. Why would I when it supports one of my favorite authors?