Broken, or Frankenstein for the 21st century,
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This review is from: Broken (Strange Chemistry Broken) (Paperback)
I've been a fan of the Frankenstein story for quite some time, I think I was twelve when I first read it and I've lost count of how many times I've read it since. I hadn't read a retelling of Frankenstein until earlier this year when I read This Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Oppel which I actually got a while after I bought a copy of Broken. As a retelling (or maybe re-imagining is a better word) I wasn't sure how Broken would work being set in the twenty-first century and everything that comes with it, the fact that it was set in high school and with a romance running through the entire book made me hesitate even more. I needn't have worried though as I loved Broken and thought it was fantastic. I think that's the case because of A E Rought's beautiful writing, the plot is modern and up to date but her writing still manages to hold on to that amazing nineteenth-century Gothic tone, full of lush descriptions and slow moving passages which completely hold your attention.
There's so much you could say about Broken but it's hard to do so without giving away major clues about things that happen, hopefully this is spoiler free! The story opens with Emma Gentry grieving for her dead boyfriend, Daniel, who died under tragic circumstances four months earlier - don't worry, you find out exactly how he died so you're not left hanging at the end of the book. She spends her evenings visiting the graveyard that she & Daniel used to spend time in, fully aware that Daniel isn't there as he was never buried with his parents donating his body to science. The last thing Emma wants to do is meet someone new but when new boy Alex Franks appears at Shelley High she doesn't appear to have much choice, finding herself drawn to this mysterious, strange boy and catching glimpses of his face from beneath the hoodie he permanently wears. Emma & Alex become close but she knows there is something going on, something huge that Alex is hiding, not least why every little thing he does reminds her of her dead boyfriend. A painful meeting with Alex's father, the esteemed Doctor Franks, only deepens the mystery after he reacts badly to hearing Emma mention his son's name.
The pace of Broken moves slowly but in a good way, it gives you time to appreciate the wonderful writing and helps to build up the anticipation of things to come and boy do those things come! The last quarter of the book moves at a much faster pace as secrets are uncovered and devastating events are played out. Although you know what is coming the story kept me reading, wanting to know how everything is going to unfold. The ending, when it arrives, comes with a bang and as far as I'm concerned gives a satisfying conclusion to a compelling version of a well-loved classic. There is a sequel, Tainted, which I'll be reading very soon and is told from Alex's point of view but you could certainly read Broken as a standalone. I'm looking forward to seeing what A E Rought writes in the future as I'm definitely a fan now.