Broken Things by Lauren Oliver

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  •  “This is the problem with words and even stories: there is never one truth”

Summer, Mia and Brynn are obsessed with a novel called The Way into Lovelorn. They begin to believe it is real, that the world of Lovelorn is really materialising around them, and start writing their own fan-fiction sequel.  One day, Summer is violently murdered in the woods where they all played and everyone thinks Mia and Brynn did it.

Five years later, after some seemingly insignificant details come to light, Mia and Brynn are reunited as they try to uncover the truth about what really happened to the girl who brought them together, to tear them apart. However, as the line between fantasy and reality begins to blur, will they ever be able to confront what they saw that day in the woods?

Broken Things is definitely one to look out for this year. Lauren Oliver takes the innocence of childhood friendship and imagination and produces a much darker, sinister story. We are confronted with a horrific depiction of youth that, in parts, is very uncomfortable to read. However, I found this portrayal refreshing and intriguing and somewhat real as we delve into the darkest parts of child psychology and dynamics. I found it very reminiscent of the ‘Slender Man’ case. A true story where two girls attempted to murder their best friend in a ploy to impress the folklore legend, Slender Man, a figure who requires a sacrifice in return for his protection and accommodation at his ‘mansion in the woods’. In making this connection, I found the story incredibly captivating and realistic as I could associate it with non-fictional events.

I found Oliver’s structure very engaging. The plot perfectly flits between past, present, fantasy and reality to create a fluid unravelling of characters and the shocking events that occur throughout. The story is voiced through Mia and Brynn, in both past and present time, and through their perspectives we really get to know the girls and their complexities. With the seamless use of past and present we get to see real character development – or in this case, regression.

One of Oliver’s key notions in this novel is that every action and decision has a ripple effect. How the experiences, circumstances and injustices of one person’s life can ‘break’ them and subsequently the people around them, leaving a trail of broken things. It also highlights how the courage of one person can break this cycle/ripple effect and we can choose to not be a product of our past. I found this idea so relatable and an honest acknowledgment of humanity in the face of destruction and hardship.

This Young Adult mystery isn’t just about a ‘who-done-it’ murder. It explores multiple challenges that adolescents face in everyday life. It shines a light on the difficulties of living in a small, close-knit community and the feeling of being trapped within it – and the label it gives you. Lauren Oliver also explores the challenge of being considered ‘different’ and how this can effect a person, especially in their youth. It explores homophobia, social anxiety, grooming and much more in this extraordinary array of complex and interesting characters that a wide readership can relate to.

My only criticism of this book is that in some places it became a very slow read and I had to re-engage myself into the story; this completely contrasts with the end as I felt it was a little rushed and left me wanting more answers and explanations – but that could be a deliberate connection between the reader and the characters in the story.

Overall, I thought Broken Things was a fantastically dark mystery with beautifully crafted characters and fluid writing that made a very complex plot, filled with twists and turns, easily digestible. It will keep you wanting more throughout – with an ending you will NOT see coming.

I would give this a 4 out of 5.


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