Book Review: Broken Things by Lauren Oliver

Broken Things by Lauren Oliver
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Source: Borrowed

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.

Honestly, given all of the mixed reviews I’ve read of Broken Things, this was better than I’d expected. I can see why some people have loved it and I can also see why a lot of people have hated it. There are some pretty extensive content warnings for this book that I definitely think you should be aware of going in, so I’ve included those at the bottom of this review.

The first thing that I think I need to say about this book is that it’s very, very reminiscent of Pretty Little Liars with some of the Slenderman stabbing thrown in for good measure. Summer is basically Ali if Ali had grown up in foster care rather than being raised rich and privileged. As the book begins, it seems that this perfectly innocent young girl was brutally murdered for absolutely no reason, and as the book unfolds, we learn things about her that paint her in a less flattering light.

There were many things that I liked about this book. I liked Brynn and Mia and thought that their backstories were really well done. They felt like fully fleshed out characters and I could absolutely understand everything that had gone on in their lives in the years since Summer’s murder. My heart broke for Mia, being so young and having to deal with her mother’s mental health issues by herself. My heart also broke for Brynn, who has bounced from one rehab facility to another for years. The side characters — Abby, Wade, and Owen — were all lovable in their own ways and I think they really added to the story nicely. The incompetence of the detectives was both frustrating and (I think) realistic, since I’m sure this small town wasn’t trained or prepared to handle a murder quite this gruesome. And finally, the excerpts from The Way into Lovelorn and Return to Lovelorn were a nice way to break up the actual story of Summer, Brynn, and Mia.

There were, however, some things I didn’t particularly enjoy. I’ve read really mixed opinions on the reveal of Summer’s true killer, with some people saying it was obvious from the beginning and other people saying it came out of nowhere. I’m somewhere in the middle, but leaning more toward “it came out of nowhere.” I can’t say it was mind-blowing, but it was a little weird. The motivation for her murder seemed to be very basic and after what was otherwise a pretty solid story, I was left feeling a little disappointed. There’s also a very, very disturbing scene involving the torture and murder of a cat, and while it’s definitely not glamorized or excused in the book, I’m also not convinced that it’s something that needed to happen on-page.

Overall, though, this book was good. I enjoyed reading it and would recommend it if you’re looking for a good YA mystery and can handle the content warnings below.

Content warnings for:violence, murder of a child, torture and death of an animal (graphic and on-page), homophobia (challenged), pedophilia, bullying, self harm, talk of drug use

Have you read Broken Things? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Rules for Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell & Katie Cotugno

Rules for Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell & Katie Cotugno
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: April 7, 2020
Source: Borrowed

It starts before you can even remember: You learn the rules for being a girl. . . .

Marin has always been good at navigating these unspoken guidelines. A star student and editor of the school paper, she dreams of getting into Brown University. Marin’s future seems bright―and her young, charismatic English teacher, Mr. Beckett, is always quick to admire her writing and talk books with her.

But when “Bex” takes things too far and comes on to Marin, she’s shocked and horrified. Had she somehow led him on? Was it her fault?

When Marin works up the courage to tell the administration what happened, no one believes her. She’s forced to face Bex in class every day. Except now, he has an ax to grind.

But Marin isn’t about to back down. She uses the school newspaper to fight back and she starts a feminist book club at school. She finds allies in the most unexpected people, like “slutty” Gray Kendall, who she’d always dismissed as just another lacrosse bro. As things heat up at school and in her personal life, Marin must figure out how to take back the power and write her own rules.

Going into Rules for Being a Girl, I really had zero expectations. I’d never read anything by either Candace Bushnell or Katie Cotugno and, well, the synopsis of this one really sounded like it could go either way. It turned out being really well done and I was very pleasantly surprised.

In all honesty, there was a lot going on in this book. Somehow, though, I think it worked.

Marin, a high school student, is an excellent student, she’s the editor of her school newspaper, and she dreams of attending Brown University. Her English teacher builds a friendship with her and then makes a move, which she rejects and reports. In my head, I thought, wow, there are more than a few books and tv shows that could take a lesson from that. As the story develops, Marin deals with friends and authority figures who don’t want to believe that a well-liked teacher would act inappropriately, she meets with her (pretty cool) feminist book club, and she learns and grows so much.

There is a smidgen of romance here, which could have gone completely wrong in a book like this, but it was handled so well that it turned out okay. Marin’s love interest, Gray, turned out to be very sweet and really seemed to understand how a healthy relationship should function.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. The only reason I gave it four stars rather than five was that nothing that happened was particularly surprising. That doesn’t mean it was bad, though, just not mind-blowing. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a good feminist YA book.


Have you read Rules for Being a Girl? What’s a book that has surprised you by how good it was?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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