Saturday, April 6, 2013

Book review: Broken by A.E. Rought

Broken by A.E. Rought
YA paranormal*Paperback/eBook, 346 pages
Published January 8th 2013 by Strange Chemistry

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.

"Shhh." He cinches his arms around me tighter. "I'm listening to your heart."
"It doesn't beat for me," I tell him.
"I know."

The heart. Needed for survival. Frequently used in love stories. This one muscle represents so much physically and yet literally, takes on an entire world of new meanings. Broken takes the two--the physical and the literal--and in the end creates an atmospheric, emotionally drenching read. 

Author A.E. Rought writes with wit and a strong eye to detail and the careful nuances of feelings. As a reader I was fully immersed in Emma's world and hooked by her growing infatuation/love story. She is still dealing with the death of her boyfriend and best friend, Daniel, and the new student, Alex, takes a sudden interest in her. She doesn't understand why his eyes remind her of looking at Daniel. If the book's summary didn't reveal the major mystery, one might suspect this is a story about reincarnation.

In a way, it could be a quasi-way of being 'reborn' or in Alex Franks' case, suddenly forced to share his mind and memories with those of another now deceased teen. The story is a fascinating one, filled with possibilities and wonder: could this ever happen with the advancement of medicine? Could transplanted body parts somehow retain memories or echoes from the body of their original host? The author gives Mary Shelley's Gothic classic a contemporary twist by changing the setting and adding a love story. I would have preferred the element of surprise by NOT knowing Alex is a modern day Frankenstein, but I understand the needs of marketing. 

Emma comes across as a regular teen, in mourning, doesn't have many close friends, loves her parents, and can stand up for herself. What drew me in and kept me reading were the words, the descriptions, the thoughts and feelings of the first person narrator. Emma's voice is strong, compelling, and definitely wrings every single emotion out of her soul and onto the page. Her sadness, her need and want to feel again, her acceptance of this new reality, combines so much raw emotion I never felt I didn't know her. And yet, there were times I thought these strong points became too much to handle, slowing down the pace and occasionally seemed overstated. I said "some times" simply because the "other times" I was too busy hooked into what was going on. 

Broken is not just a love story. There are unsolved murders, the mystery of what really happened to Daniel, what goes on with Dr. Franks' experiments and the dealings with usual teen-age problems like peer pressure, hormones, and, oh yeah, homework, projects and school dances. Emma is an innocent, from the way she abides by her parent's rules to her dealings and suspicions of Alex and I always like to credit writers who capture this 'innocence' and convey it to the reader well. 

Despite knowing the solution to the mystery, Broken is a paranormal YA book which is gorgeously haunting and unabashedly romantic. From the macabre reanimated creatures at the Franks' residence, the changes and the sustaining of Alex's 'new' scarred body, Emma's realization she can fall in love again (mixing the old with the new), each combined together and made Broken an unforgettable read. I'm an instant fan of A.E. Rought and look forward to reading her next work.

Rating: 4

Favorite excerpt:
"You used to sit there," he says, face in shadow, voice quaking. "You sat on the tomb's porch, laughing..." his empty hand flexes at his side, holding nothing in a white-knuckle grip, "and drinking."

Does he see us, echoes of the Daniel and Emma that were? Shock and wrong siren inside me. The moment has taken life, and doesn't listen.

"How did you know?" I ask, voice hardly above a whisper.

"I'm not sure. Good guess, I suppose..." A half-hearted shrug. Then Alex runs his hand over his hair, rubs the back of his head and pulls me to standing. "Let's get you home."

His hood slides up, and casts his face into deeper shadows.

He knows. I saw it in his eyes. He knows we sat there."

Cover comment:
I liked the cemetery scenes in the story but this cover doesn't move me. Emma looks almost cartoon-ish. 

Book source:
I received a promotional copy from the publisher in return for my honest review.

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