Tuesday, March 29, 2011

REVIEW: Broken by Susan Jane Bigelow

by Susan J. Bigelow
Released on 01.25.2011
264 pages
Candlemark and Gleam
Source: Copy from publisher/Teen {Book}Scene

Can a shattered superhero help save humanity's hope for a better world?

Broken figured she was done with heroics when she lost the ability to fly and fled the confinement of the Extrahuman Union. But then the world started to fall apart around her, and the mysterious Michael Forward entered her life, dangling the possibility of redemption and rebirth.

Michael Forward can see the future, but all he wants is to escape the destiny he has struggled against all his life. When the moment comes, though, he finds he can't refuse. Now he needs the help of a homeless ex-superhero to save a baby who may be the key to humanity's freedom.  

Monica had a good life with her large family, until two strangers and a baby showed up at her door. Now her family is gone, her life is in ruins, and she's on the run from the law.

In a time of spreading darkness, when paranoia and oppression have overtaken the world, three unlikely allies struggle to preserve a small ray of hope for a better, brighter future.

Broken is a story about the perils of being different, destiny's heavy burdens, and hope's persistence. It's a story of friendship, redemption and sacrifice in the face of a world gone mad.

Ultimately, it's a story about how sometimes, things thought lost forever may be found again.(from publisher).

REVIEW: You know, it's all about the classics nowadays.  We saw the resurgence of the vamps, then the weres, and even the zombies saw a little action recently.  So, it makes sense that the creme de la creme of supes should reemerge in literature . .  thank you, Susan Bigelow for bringing back actual superheroes in a fantastic way.  Broken is such an invigorating breath of fresh air.  If you are looking for a post-war, dystopian-type read with interesting characters possessing a supernatural twist, this one is for you. 

The book was a bit confusing at the very beginning - you are thrown into a paranoid world full of Unions, suspicions and violence.  The details are a little sketchy, but essentially two warring alien races introduced themselves somewhere in the mid-part of this century.  The human race allies itself to one.  In the midst of that war, war also broke out on Earth.  NYC in particular got the holy hell bombed out of it, and now Australia occupies the seat of power for the Earth and its planetary colonies in space.  It sounds like a lot, but the history is built up through out the book, and you quickly catch on through the alternating third-person limited points-of-view of Michael and Broken.  Like the synopsis says, Broken is a has-been superhero who's lost her ability to fly.  Flying defined Broken back in the day, and without it, she doesn't feel that she is anything much worth loving.  Michael is a prescient - someone who can look people dead in the face and see their possible futures.  He has inherited a mission of sorts - to get a baby who holds the future peace of the world or its destruction in his tiny hands to a safe place to be raised.  And he needs Broken to help, but she's turned into a homeless alcoholic.  Michael has a hook, though, and it's not one that Broken can say no to.  Seriously, could you say no to your heart's dearest desire?

I may have to change my tune now about plot driven books because this ride was awesome.  Not that the characters were lacking, because they weren't - in fact, I should say that Broken is a great example of balancing good plot with solid characterization.  Michael is this baby brother-like kid forced into the role of reluctant hero, and wow, could you feel his apprehension about having to do all this.  He nearly broke my heart sometimes.  Broken was one of the saddest, most pathetic creatures I've ever read (she and Tom Mackee from The Piper's Son would have some fabulous conversations), and Monica . .  she was the wild card, the one who got thrown into this mess after she loses her family.  Although not as significant as Broken and Michael, she adds a very human, very poignant touch of being caught up in everything and just trying to deal. 

The writing is tight, simple and its simplicity works well against the gritty landscape of this world, and it moves the story along at a great pace.  There's a lot that happens in this book, so I think it's a huge testament to the plot that it never felt lacking or lagging in any areas for me.  Biegelow also keeps you guessing about many things and reveals them slowly through flashbacks and chance encounters.  In fact, you don't even really know Broken and Michael's ages until you are well into the book.  About the only thing I could have asked for was a clearer explanation about what happened on Planet We're Screwed a bit earlier in the book - but, hey, it's speculative fiction!  What's the point in reading if you aren't paying attention and figuring things out for yourself?

This is a book I would suggest for older YA readers - there are a few sexual encounters, some language,and a good age range amongst the three main characters.  In general, there is a very mature, older feel to this book.  In fact, I see a great crossover potential.  It deals a lot with ideas we can all relate to: that life is about choices, that you have to put your faith in doing the right thing, no matter how hard it is, and that there are things far greater than yourself in this world.  Sometimes poignant, sometimes humorous and always immersed in the what-ifs, Broken is a great book about deciding what your future is and making the choices and taking the actions to get there.


  1. This looks like a really interesting read. I don't mind being lost in a book as long as things do clear up. The world of "Broken" definitely sounds dreary and a bit like Alan Moore's "Watchen" which is also about broken superheroes. I'll definitely be on the look out for this one. Thanks!

  2. The cover of this book is attention grabbing to say the least. It sounds depressing but worth the read. I've not seen or heard anything on this one, but I'm glad you high lighted it. I'll have to check it out.

    I enjoyed the review.


  3. With a name like Broken, I could definitely believe she is Mackee's alternate self. LOL

    I don't remember the last time I read a book about superheros. It sounds promising, and I like the fact that you pointed out a more simple writing style complements the plot heavy aspects of the story.

    But really, you grabbed my attention with your description of Broken. I'd like to meet her.

  4. Though this sounds confusing at times, I love that it's about decisions...I don't read nearly enough books with that sort of powerful message these days. Maybe I should read more upper YA :)

    Fabulous, thoughtful review, Linds!

  5. I more of a fan of the older YA books. And I can never find enough of them.

    And superheroes sounds awesome. Great review. Definitely adding this to my need to have list :)

  6. Ohhhh haven't heard of this book before Linds, thanks so much for this ridiculously amazing review! I'm usually all about the characters, but I love the idea of a book where the plot just blows you away and then the characters are a nice compliment to it:) Definitely making a note of this one!

  7. Great review! I love how you add quotes from the book :)

  8. Great review! I loved the cover. This book sounds great.