Broken -- A.E. Rought
It's been four months since her beloved boyfriend Daniel fell to his death, and 17-year-old Emma Gentry is still in mourning. She spends much of her free time at the local cemetery: not because Daniel's buried there—his parents chose to cremate his remains—but because it was Their Spot.
In late October, a new boy transfers to her high school. From the moment Emma locks eyes with Alex Franks, she knows that nothing will ever be the same. Despite aggressive overtures from every single girl at Shelley High—he is, of course, drop-dead gorgeous with a dangerous reputation—he only has eyes for Emma.
But while Emma certainly can't deny that there's a connection, there are things about Alex that are... disquieting. For one thing, how did he get the scars that cover his body? For another, how is it that, at moments, he reminds Emma so clearly of Daniel? And perhaps most worrisome, there's his father the doctor, whom she first meets at the local clinic when she goes in with a broken hand... and when she mentions that she knows his son, HE DELIBERATELY BREAKS HER HAND IN A DIFFERENT SPOT*.
Shelley High? Lots of scars? His father is a doctor? Alex FRANKS? Are you with me?
Anyway. If you're a Twilight fan who doesn't mind a bit of gore (there are moments here that make the birth scene in Breaking Dawn look totally low-key), you'll very likely enjoy Broken. It's more in the horror realm, but the character archetypes are very similar. (He's dangerous, mysterious, brooding, and very protective; she's... clumsy.) Also, there's no swearing, though they do ultimately [SPOILER] have The Sex. So, if you're into it, I'd say to go ahead and hunt it down without reading the rest of this post, which is about to devolve into a complain-fest.
If you are a Twilight detractor, I wouldn't recommend this one. Period. No equivocating, done and done. My reasons are as follows (but do keep in mind, of course, that I read an advanced copy, so the finished copy could read differently):
- Emma. Clumsy like Bella Swan; the object of desire pretty much wherever she goes; someone who (sometimes) sticks up for herself when confronted by bullies, but is a pushover with friends and love interests; she's had the same locker for two years, yet still hasn't mastered opening it; she's disingenuous about her feelings for Alex, EVEN IN HER OWN MIND; she is guilt-ridden about everything from Daniel's death to the fact that her mother doesn't own a diner. Oh, and the truth behind Daniel's death? She has all of the necessary information to solve the mystery, but never does put the pieces together. She only learns the truth when she's TOLD.
- Alex. Pulls Edward Cullen's run-of-the-mill I-Know-What's-Best-For-You crap on a semi-regular basis. While Emma does call him on it on occasion, she usually goes along with him anyway.
- Their relationship. This kind of says it all: whenever Emma has her hair up in a bun or a ponytail or a braid, he takes the elastic out because he likes her hair down. SERIOUSLY, DUDE. That is not sweet or cool or remotely acceptable. If she has her hair up, she probably wants it up. Also? Like Bella Swan, Emma is often afraid of Alex, and she regularly gets injured while in his presence. Her mother is often unreasonable, but she has a point with this line: "He, he, he. Where were you in all this Emma? Willing to do whatever he said?"
- Tiny. The dude at the coffee-shop who is one of the many dudes who has a thing for Emma. Yes, descriptions of the grotesque are a hallmark of Gothic fiction, and what with the acne and the sweat and the creeper behavior, I felt that that was what Rought was going for with him. But ultimately, those scenes made me really uncomfortable because they smacked of fat-shaming.
- The repetition: "I pull my bare legs from the tangle of sheets and blankets shackling them and immediately regret it." "I agree and push to sitting with my left hand pressed to the snarl of blankets shackling my legs." "My cell phone vibrates in my backpack, a chaotic buzz and clatter, like bees and chicken bones." "My cell phone buzzes, sounding like bees and chicken bones as it rattles against the pencils in the front pocket of my backpack." "The sky chooses now to open and hemorrhage water like a slit vein." "...the power cord to my cell phone like a thick black vein..." "...vein of people bleeding into obscurity..." "Also, there are one million references to Alex's 'hazel eyes'.
- The similes. Oh god, the similes. To be fair, flowery prose is to be expected in a Gothic. But much of it still made me twitch. "Standing, I feel the same heavy stare wash across my face like a warm damp cloth." "He exudes mystery where he stands, drawing female gazes like an electromagnet." You get the idea.
- The wink-wink-nudge-nudges about Frankenstein. Lots of Gothics get nods in Broken—Emma's cat is named Renfield and her high school team is the Ravens, etc.**—and Emma's English class is in the middle of a unit on the Gothics. Which is all well and good. What drove me bananas, though, is that Emma is clearly reading Frankenstein ("Then, she sat by my bed, reading aloud from my library book about the product of man's hubris coming back to haunt him."), but that she never A) names it, or B) you know, makes any sort of connection between it and Alex, even when it's abundantly clear that there are parallels. The obfuscation just didn't make any sort of sense to me.
Sooooo... yeah. Sadly, this book and I? Were not a good match. But, as I said, Twilight fans are likely to eat it up.
*Seriously, if that isn't enough to make a heroine run away screaming, WELL. Needless to say, Emma does not run away screaming. And, oddly enough, when she has other physical mishaps, SHE ALWAYS GOES BACK TO THE SAME CLINIC. Which seems unwise, but, hey. That's just my opinion.
**Though why a school would be named for Shelley, yet have a Poe icon as a team name, I dunno.
Book source: Netgalley.