Broken by A. E. Rought
With all of the vampires, werewolves and zombies roaming through the bookshelves over the past few years, it’s easy to forget about Frankenstein, one of the classic horror novels. It’s interesting to note that many authors have worked to make the other monsters compassionate, and yet Frankenstein’s monster was already there more than a hundred years ago, both tortured and tormenting. Broken takes the seeds of Mary Shelley’s creation and allows it to bloom anew.
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“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 specter 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.”
There was no question in my mind as to where this book was heading. A boy with the surname Franks who has the exact same eyes and mannerisms as Emma’s dead boyfriend, a brilliant and unpredictable surgeon, a remote estate which no one is allowed to visit, and some unsavory characters in the background all add up to “Monster Alert” in my book. While it isn’t a straight re-telling of Frankenstein, it pays a solid homage to it with the most pertinent elements and themes.
And yet, even though you know Alex’s identity and what his struggles are likely to be, you’ll be on pins and needles watching how the novel plays out. That’s the sign of an excellent re-telling. There are questions that you’ll be dying to learn the answers to: How did Alex become what he is? How did Daniel die? How close to the brink will Emma get before believing what’s going on? And what’s up with Daniel’s best friend and why is he so angry?
It’s not just Alex, though—Emma’s story is just as compelling. Rought paints a realistic portrait of a grieving teenager who is letting herself sink beneath the weight of her sorrow. At times it does drift into being a tad melodramatic, but then again, teenagers can certainly wallow in drama sometimes. I think it actually fits well with the fact that the source material is gothic horror, which occasionally heads towards excessive drama.
What I really liked about the novel was the amount of tension, no matter how much you suspect about the plot beforehand. In fact, I think that having a strong suspicion about the plot’s direction actually aids in creating that tension. It’s like that moment in a horror movie where someone is creeping down a dark hall towards a door that you know they shouldn’t open, and they pause, and they look around, and they touch the doorknob, and they hesitate… and by this time, the tension can be cut with a knife. Broken hit those levels of tension.
The book is also deliciously creepy. The scenes with the undead animals on the Franks’s estate are gasp-worthy, and the discovery of Alex’s scars and nightmares all blend together to be quite chilling. I had to put the book down a couple of times, not for being grossed out, but just because the story was giving me the willies. Again, that’s a sign of a good book.
Broken is a great way to introduce teen readers to the wonderful fun of a good, creepy story. Solid characters and a slowly building tension make this novel one that will keep you up far into the night.
This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on December 4, 2012.