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.
The story opens nicely, sharing with ease Emma's relationship with her immediate family, BFF, and infectious pain over the death of her boyfriend Daniel. Her reaction to the new boy, Alex Franks, is just as easily understood by the reader: she's noticed him and his similar mannerisms as her dead boyfriend, and she doesn't like it. But for me, the reader, I liked it. Dribbles of intrigue and Alex's strange familiarity to Emma pulled me in deeper, wanting to know who this guy really was.
The writing flows and the dialog is especially teen. I couldn't help but chuckle at some of the sassy and quick-witted phrases emanating from these characters. But as snippy as some passages are, there's enough gentleness and depth in others to balance them out. There's a masculinity to the text that I enjoyed, playful but snarky bantering which masks the truth beneath - the brokenness in Emma's heart and what is later discovered to be broken inside and outside of Alex.
One of my favorite aspects of the story is the parent-teen relationship. It's raw and real. Mom and Dad are married, live in the same house, work, and have dinner together - family dinners. The parents are not absent in this YA novel. It's fresh and a great sub-plot to the overall storyline and to Emma's character arc. This is the reason I chose those lines from the tale as my favorite passage. Another element which flavored the story was the realistic use of everyday happenings.
The connections made between Emma and Alex are not just similarities in opinions, attitudes, and like/dislikes, but go much deeper, using their inner pains, sorrows, and confusions about their attraction. This adds tension and way too much mystery for any reader to ignore. There's a scene as the two struggle to understand their strange and sudden connection, a moment so intimate and gentle that I found my young adult as well as adult heart strings tugged to the extreme. Both fear uncovering the truth that has begun to unfold, but want nothing more than to know.
Sinister, mind-bending revelations of what really happened to Alex in turn reveal an obscene and disturbing truth of life over death...death that was cheated. The actual horror is layered with deceit and morbid intent, so arrogant that it could only belong to guests seen but unseen throughout the novel.
Rought wasn't afraid of being real, using the harsh reality of what she created. She used creepy, even grotesque descriptions at times, all suited for the telling of this tale. Similar elements from Shelley's original version added texture. Surprising twists engulfed me as the story climaxed. And as a massive Frankenstein fan I couldn't help but think about Mary Shelley and the similarities to her original tale. I believe she'd be proud of this Franken-teen tale of her misunderstood monster and the girl he inevitably loved from the moment electricity reignited his foreign heartbeat.
There are many interesting characters in Broken. Emma is a great depiction of a broken heart. He desire to try to heal from the loss of her true love--but inability to do so-- is both believable and heartbreaking. I thought the author shared Emma's despair in an almost poetic way. The supporting characters are also pretty great. Josh is as vile as they come. At first you think he's just jealous, but then you realize there is a lot more driving that jealousy. Bree is hilarious. She's a typical flighty teenager, but the perfect counterpart to Emma's highly depressed character. We also can't forget that Emma and Alex are hot. Super, super hot. It is instant sparks (both literally and figuratively) the moment the meet. I should have been creeped out by the fact that Alex is a "made man" but it didn't bother me. He felt real, even if it was very clear that he was the modern Frankenstein. He was this mysterious, brooding shadow constantly watching over Emma, and he had me turning every page as quickly as I could.
If you couldn't already tell that this is a modern twist on an old classic, I'm going to reiterate that point now. This is Frankenstein.... sort of. The obvious key elements of the story are there, except concerning the monster himself. I would hardly consider Alex a monster. You'll see how that twist plays out in Broken. If you are familiar with the original horror tale, you'll enjoy seeing the new angle Broken brings. I also enjoyed the modern aspect of science lending a hand to the twisted Dr. Franks' (Frankenstein) creation.