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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Review: Broken by A E Rought

Gothic romance with mystery and danger

This is a novel that I really enjoyed. Truly gorgeous, visceral writing; plenty of tension, and a romance plot with substance and genuine conflicts.

Written in the first person present tense, the book gives us Emma's experiences as she drags herself through her broken life after the death of her boyfriend, Daniel. Hanging around in the cemetery to reminisce is a deliciously gothic way to open the story! I found Emma to be a cool and easily sympathetic character: realistic in her mourning with just a hint of sassiness in her narrative. As the blurb tells us, while Emma is wrapped up in her grief, along comes Alex Franks who gets her attention far more easily than he should. I really enjoyed the eerie nature of their connection and Emma's angst over how she feels and how she 'should' feel - entirely emotionally realistic, I think.

I've seen some reviews complaining (mildly perhaps) that the blurb is a spoiler, but I disagree. I usually post these at the end, but since I'm talking about it, here's what the publisher's website has to say about this book:

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.

I think this works beautifully to enhance our experience of the book. Since this is a first-person-present-tense narrative, there's no way in the story for the author to make sure we know more than Emma. Giving us this information ahead of time means we're looking out for the Frankenstein element (not to mention enjoying the referential nods like the Shelley High School and Alex's surname being Franks), which increases the tension. Instead of being as in the dark as Emma is, we're tense for her: when will she realise? what will she do about it? how on earth is this all going to unfold? I don't know how anyone could read this without saying "no, don't do that/go there" to Emma at some point! And the last part of the book is as creepy and tense as any high-stakes thriller. I was definitely annoyed to find my bus pulling into my stop a few pages from the end.

Anyway, if you like well-written paranormal romance with action and danger thrown in, I'd definitely recommend this. I'd love to see it filmed. Just look at this trailer!


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Published in January 2013 by Strange Chemistry
My grateful thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy via NetGalley

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