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.
First, let me say that I really enjoyed this novel. Then, let me say that I completely misread the beginning of the synopsis prior to reading the novel, which is turn made me expect something vastly different. See, I automatically misinterpreted the phrase “modern spin on Frankenstein” as a statement that this novel was a retelling of the classic, because that’s what I’m so used to seeing in novels nowadays. But, if you make that assumption, you’d be wrong, just like me. Nope. This is indeed a spin on an old classic, borrowing just a few aspects of Frankenstein and, I hope I’m not about to spoil anything for you, but if you’ve read the synopsis above, the one accompanying the book itself, then you’ve probably already figured it out, because it basically tells you the entire novel in a very watered down nutshell… So, the main aspect that gives this a “Frankenstein spin” in the first place is the creation of the “monster,” however, I wouldn’t consider our modern day “monster” evil, by any means. Nor is he a “monster,” actually. Nor is he greedy, revolting, desperate of acceptance, calculating, manipulative, hardened, or full of hate. Nor is he a murderer, as it were. So, Broken isn’t a retelling by any means. Instead, it’s a wonderfully written tale in which Rought borrows the idea of reanimating the dead through the assemblance of stolen body parts. And it’s great. It is. I just wish I’d read the synopsis correctly and didn’t automatically think Broken was a “retelling,” because I was expecting something completely different, and it wasn’t until I re-read the synopsis and really thought about the word spin that I figured out I had been completely off the mark.
This is a beautiful novel. Once I figured out that this isn’t a retelling, but an actual a love story in which two young adults must beat the many odds against them, a tale of rekindled love, I fell right in to loving it. And yes, the synopsis pretty much gives away the entire plot, which is unfortunate, but Rought is a beautiful storyteller. While it’s true that not a whole lot happens in the first half of the novel, we do have a lot of character development, which is key to the success of this story. We need to understand Emma’s extreme connection to her deceased boyfriend. We need to feel her pain alongside with her, which is probably easier for those of us who have experienced the death of a loved one, but even if we have not, Rought is able to forge that connection between us as the reader, and Emma as the distraught, unsettled main character.
Enter Alex. You know who he is, since we’re doing the Frankenstein comparison, and yet, as I said, he’s nothing like the character he is meant to portray. And that’s perfect. I actually prefer it that way. Alex is wonderful. He doesn’t understand the truth about himself; no one really does for much of the novel—dramatic irony much?—and his and Emma’s journey and connection is truly amazing to watch as it unfolds. Sure, it happens much too quickly, but shouldn’t it, if Alex is who he is? I think yes. (Too cryptic? Sorry.)
I really enjoyed the entanglement of Dr. Franks, Emma, Alex, and Josh as they danced around one another to the point that it all comes to a head, and the novel quickly goes from character and romance building to a fast-paced race against death. Superb, though I’m not sure why Josh does what he does throughout the entire novel, or why he chose to go that route in the first place. But that’s a whole different discussion that I’m not going to have at the moment.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. It’s unique, yet familiar as we all know the idea behind Frankenstein, I just hope everyone knows that these two novels really aren’t the same at all, and that they don’t make the same assumptions that I did. Four stars.
Angry Robot and Strange Chemisty have been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release tomorrow, January 8, 2013.