Broken by A.E. Rought. Book review

BROKEN by A.E. Rought, Strange Chemistry, p/b, £7.99/eBook, £5.49,

Reviewed by David Brzeski

“I don’t do demographics!” It’s a regular phrase I use, whenever I’m faced with any attempt by anyone to tell me what books I should, or shouldn’t be reading. I’ve been known to enjoy all sorts of books, as long as they’re well-written. I don’t generally care if it’s meant for kids, or it’s chic-lit, or whatever.

However, never have I been made quite so soundly aware that I’m not the target readership for a book than with this one! It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it at all. It’s just that I found all the teen angst just a tad, shall we say…. tedious. It’s entirely possible that I would have felt differently had I not been a male in his fifties reading a book evidently aimed at girls less than half my age.

The story is actually an interesting one, and I’m going to have to tread carefully to describe it without giving away too many key plot points.

Emma is a heartbroken seventeen year old girl. She witnessed the death of her boyfriend in an horrific accident and she’s not doing too well at getting over it. Alex Frank is a new boy at school, with a mysterious past and scars all over his body. He and Emma are strangely drawn to one another. Alex reminds Emma of her dead boyfriend. He has similar mannerisms, and knows just how to open her jammed locker for her, the same way Daniel did.

The first three-quarters of the book is pretty much non-stop teen angst, with Emma agonizing over her conflicted feelings. It’s only in the last twenty-five per cent or so that we finally get to the real story that the author had been laying clues about all through the book. Honestly, there were no great surprises in the book. I caught all the clues and had worked out where it was going well in advance of it getting there. I don’t believe the author intended it to be difficult to work out though. It’s a romance/horror story crossover, not a whodunnit.

For example, at one point, Emma is instructed to read one of a list of gothic novels she’s given for her English class and write an essay comparing it to Dracula, which they’d all previously read in class. It’s pretty easy to work out what the book she picked was, and I was ready to bring the author to task over such an obvious surprise reveal when it came. However I was wrong. The name of the book in question was never mentioned. The reader was obviously expected to be able to figure it out.

While I found all the emotional heart-wringing somewhat tiresome, and I knew where the story was headed, I still found myself wanting to finish the book to find out what Emma and Alex did after the anticipated horrors came to light.

The book has been compared by some to the ‘Twilight’ series. It’s easy to understand why, but even given the elements I found a little boring as an old bloke, I still much preferred the underlying concept of this book to Ms. Meyer’s work. In fairness though, I have to point out I’m basing that opinion on the Twilight films, having not read the original books.