Lauren Oliver is sort of my Cannonball nemesis. I adored her first book, Before I Fall, but have been disappointed ever since, and my disappointment is somewhat well documented. I disliked her Delirium trilogy (yet kept reading). I didn’t care for Rooms, and Panic was just ok. But for seem reason, I just can’t quit her. And I know, I have no one to blame but myself, really. Lauren Oliver owes me nothing. But still. I want more. I know that someday she’ll write something as good as Before I Fall, and I want to be there when she does.
Broken Things falls firmly into the “not terrible” category of Oliver’s books, which I guess I should be grateful for at this point.
It’s been five years since Summer Marks was brutally murdered in the woods.
Everyone thinks Mia and Brynn killed their best friend. That driven by their obsession with a novel called The Way into Lovelorn the three girls had imagined themselves into the magical world where their fantasies became twisted, even deadly.
The only thing is: they didn’t do it.
On the anniversary of Summer’s death, a seemingly insignificant discovery resurrects the mystery and pulls Mia and Brynn back together once again. But as the lines begin to blur between past and present and fiction and reality, the girls must confront what really happened in the woods all those years ago—no matter how monstrous.
Mia and Brynn have spent the past five years hiding from the world — Brynn (tough as nails, gay & proud, fiercely protective of others) keeps herself in rehab (even though she doesn’t use drugs or alcohol) to avoid home and school, and Mia (shyer than shy, a perfectionist, loyal to those who deserve it) has been homeschooled by her hoarding mother. Their town turned against them and the police turned them against each other. Once best friends, they haven’t spoken since the charges against them were dropped.
But now, five years later, Mia and Brynn want to clear their names and figure out what happened to their friend, the beautiful, shining Summer.
The girls put their own little Scooby Gang together and attempt to solve the mystery, bringing along Mia’s friend Abby, a YouTube beauty celebrity, who may have a crush on Brynn; Brynn’s cousin Wade, who is obsessed with Summer’s murder; and Owen, the mystery boy who was also a suspect. Mia’s been in love with Owen for as long as she can remember, but it was Summer who kissed him on the dance floor at Homecoming just before she died.
As the book progresses, we find out that Summer, who Brynn and Mia adored and looked up to, really wasn’t so nice or such a good friend to either of them. She manipulated them to do what she wanted and then punished them when she was done with them. But she was beautiful and so alive, and Brynn and Mia couldn’t stay away from her.
The mystery itself wasn’t all that tough to figure out. I guessed who did it about halfway through the book. But I didn’t really care. I was more interested in the imaginary world of Lovelorn, and whether or not these girls really went there, or simply believed that they went there, or were just pretending the whole time. Why would three girls in middle school spend so many hours pretending to be in a fantasy world that doesn’t exist? What was missing from their own realities that made them so obsessed with this pretend one?
I really sympathized with Mia and her situation at home. After the murder, her parents split up and her mother became a hoarder, and Mia was uncomfortable with the fact that her mother’s behavior wasn’t something she could control. Her introvert tendencies were really well developed by Oliver. I also felt bad for Brynn and her home situation — being shunned by her mom and sister for causing so much trouble and making things hard for them. Ugh.
This was a quick read, and a pretty good one. Nothing groundbreaking, but so much better than a lot of crap out there. One thing about Lauren Oliver, she has original ideas and isn’t just putting out retreads of whatever love triangle or dystopia is popular. Her books seem much more personal, and I’ll give her credit for that.
I don’t know why I keep coming back to Oliver. I always say that this book is the last one I’m reading, but then I see a pretty display at the library and suddenly find her new book in my car coming home with me. I guess I’ll just keep giving her another chance. Sooner or later she’s going to surprise me, and all of this will have been worth it.