The beautifully written novel, Broken by A.E. Rought takes the reader through a modern retelling of Frankesntein with a twist of Romeo and Juliet. The story begins in a cemetery, where the lonely teen, Emma, mourns her boyfriend and the fact that he will never have a grave. Her heartache is palatable; yet soon she is drawn in against her will by Alex, the new boy at school, a boy with a bad reputation and scars that mirror her own. Why does he remind her so much of her lost love? And why does he look at her with such longing? But when she’s injured and crosses path’s with Dr. Franks, Alex’s father, things take a darker turn.
The author isn’t subtle about the link between Mary Shelley’s classic and other gothic horror. Emma and Alex both attend Shelley High School, and Emma’s cat is named Renfield, after a character from her favorite novel, Dracula. The last name of Alex and his scientist father is Franks. These modern “start crossed lovers” even come complete with a best friend who is a drama major, and the biggest difference between Shakespeare’s original Juliet and Emma is that she owns a cell phone, texts, and has a penchant for hoodies.
The first person present tense style lends an emotional urgency and intensity to the narrative. Recurring actions and repetitive word structure reinforce themes of damage and instability, danger, and passion – both physical and emotional. The characters are repeatedly broken and then heal again.
I thought Emma was overly ignorant, especially since she was given so many clues and the big reveal was obvious from early on. However, I still found this understandable, even sympathetic, because it played on our human ability to lie to ourselves when faced with unpleasant truths. And honestly, in real life, who would believe something so horrific?
However, there were a few instances where I found the characters acting unrealistically, one of them being when Emma’s wanna-be chef mother turns down an opportunity to cook and instead leaves her daughter alone. In another instance, a repeatedly considerate and loving person misses an opportunity to comfort someone in extreme distress, an action I found out of character. I couldn’t help noticing that both instances were convenient plot devices to heighten action and dramatic tension.
The prose and plotting were lovely, especially considering the heartbreaking and horrific storyline. There are moment’s of intense horror, yet the story rings true. A.E. Rought sings this melody of teenage turmoil, the cut throat politics of high school, and first first love with skill of a virtuoso.