ARC Review: Broken by A.E. Rought

Paperback: 320 Pages

Series: Standalone

Publisher: Angry Robot

Imprint: Strange Chemistry

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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 will say this before anything else: the blurb on GoodReads reveals too damn much! I would have liked to solve the puzzle the mysterious Alex Franks is all on my own and the description gave away too much.

Broken is a modern retelling of Shelley’s Frankenstein, a sweet and often times disturbing love story with paranormal elements.

More than once it reminded me of Twilight, of Edward and Bella’s romance. The way Alex watches Emma from the shadows, the way he takes her phone without permission to get her number, the inexplicable pull the two have – which is actually quite explicable if you stick with the novel – all things reminiscent of  the former mentioned teen novel.  And if you’re one of the Twilight haters, you might think you wouldn’t like this book or you wouldn’t even want to read it. Wrong and let me tell you why.

Emma is nothing like Bella. Sure, she’s a teenager in love and she’ll do silly, stupid things because of that, but she’s also smart, brave and independent. She stands up for herself, she protects herself without being a DID (damsel in distress), she knows when to accept help and when to pull back. Also, when things take a turn for Murderville, she knows better than to rush blindly towards it, without have one second thought. That’s exactly while I liked her.

Alex was likeable too, mainly because he was sweet and sensitive and just as broken as Emma.

I liked the first person POV because the book has a great start that really lets you get invested in Emma and be sympathetic towards her.  I don’t think there would have been the same result if it wasn’t Emma’s voice guiding us through the story.

Speaking of the story, I really thought the idea was good and this had the potential of being a hands-down 5 stars book. However, the execution left something to be desired. While Rought’s writing is good and the start of the novel was pitch-perfect and captivating, the middle of the book lacked substance. It became repetitive and less riveting. What saves it though is the fact that Rought has a sense of humour so the book is funny. Even through Emma’s daily routine of going to school and back again, Broken is a light, funny and easy read.

Playing the damsel is distress is way passé, but I was a legitimate victim of a dance-by whacking from his oblivious friend and his swinging arms. Daniel whipped off the t-shirt he wore over his thermal undershirt and packed my gushing nose in it. On the way to the office, when the stairs swirled at my face, Daniel saved me from falling. Then, he’d carried me the rest of the way. Today I walk in the opposite direction, heart aching, knowing Daniel is forever gone, as I aim for the torture chamber the staff of Shelley High likes to call the Gymnasium.”

A minor thing that needs to be mentioned is the abundance of references. I loved those! The Rocky Horror Picture show, Renfield the cat, there’s even a subtle reference of Shelley’s most known novel.

After some serious thought, I can safely say I didn’t like the ending. While it was a happy one, I wish we could have had more information on what happened, how they got out of the situation they were on, how her parents took everything in, what they thought of Alex and so on and so forth.

This isn’t going to be a book for everyone, but then again few to none books ever are. I did enjoy it though and if you think you will too, give it  a shot and stick with it.

*I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged.
*This was an uncorrected proof. I will compare the quotes with the finished book.

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