The woods were deep and quiet with snow. Our footsteps plunging through the film of surface ice disturbed crows from their perches, sending them screaming toward the sky.
Summer was in a good mood. She hardly seemed to notice the cold and kept urging us to hurry up, go on, just a little farther – past the shed, past another creek, down into a kind of gully where birch trees stood like ghostly signposts, frightened by some past horror into the same stripped whiteness. This was the prima ballerina Summer, the dazzlingly beautiful one, the one we could never refuse. But there was another Summer, another thing inside her, something bent-backed and old, something that crouched in the shadows.
-Broken Things by Lauren Oliver
Broken Things by Lauren Oliver
Broken Things is a mystery novel about two teenage girls named Brynn and Mia who were wrongly accused of committing the ritualistic murder of their best friend Summer. On the five year anniversary of her murder, Brynn and Mia find themselves in their home town again, and decide to finally find Summer’s true murderer.
When I first picked up Broken Things, I thought the mystery would be whether Lovelorn is a real magical place or whether the girls imagined it. That question, though, was answered rather quickly, and the world became a lot more ominous when it was clear that Summer had been killed by someone that Brynn and Mia knew and trusted. I loved the mystery aspect of this book because it felt like something much larger: Brynn, Mia, and Summer were young when they were so deeply betrayed, and it seemed as though no one in their community cared enough to see what had really happened. In that way, the identity of the murderer became tied to the loss of childhood trust, and was clearly a direct cause of Mia and Brynn’s struggles as they grew older. Just one minor complaint from me on this one – I figured out the mystery very early on because there were some early hints that felt too obvious for me, and that did detract a little from the resolution of the mystery. There was still lot to unpack with this book so I definitely still enjoyed the read, but I do wish that the clues hadn’t been quite as blatant.
The pacing on this one was spot-on. The book was definitely more character-driven than plot-driven, as most of the real action happens in flashbacks, but the spacing of the flashbacks combined with Mia and Brynn’s internal developments kept me hooked through the end. Sometimes in a book like this, flashbacks can cause things to drag, but in Broken Things, the flashbacks consistently served to reveal the truth of the characterization instead of revealing action that we should have known from the beginning.
These flashbacks have a lot to do with the complex, interesting characters that move through the novel and add to the re-readability. Brynn, for example, is deeply flawed and has a genuine fear of the world around her, and her flashbacks often show interactions between herself and Summer that explain and even justify Brynn’s fears. Mia is by far my favorite character because she seems to come through and clean up other’s messes (literally as well as figuratively). She is strong-willed and independent, and her flashbacks show how she came to be that figure of strength, as well as revealing that her strength may not be entirely genuine or even as healthy as it first seems. Summer of course is only known through the flashbacks, but she plays a key role as Brynn and Mia’s foil. She is sympathetic through her childhood suffering and her brutal death, but she is far from perfect – even knowing her fate, I learned to fear her violent unpredictability.
In all, I will give Broken Things a 9 out of 10. This was a great book for all kinds of readers – adults and young adults, lovers of fantasy and modern literature, and especially mystery readers.