Cover of Broken Things, with an illustration of the back of three girls' heads

About the Book

Title: Broken Things
Published: 2019
Swoonworthy Scale: 4

Cover Story: Hair-Raising
BFF Charms: Yay, Caution, Hell No
Talky Talk: Straight Up With a Splash of Narnia
Bonus Factor: Slender Man
Relationship Status: The Way Out of Lovelorn

Cover Story: Hair-Raising

This stark artwork captures the beautifully haunting vibe of the book, and I dig the subtlety of the dark sky view in the woods in the background. Related: reeeeally wish my hair was long enough for a fishbone braid.

The Deal

Five years ago, Brynn, Mia, and Summer were bonded by their obsession with a little-known fantasy novel called The Way Into Lovelorn. They brought the story to life in the woods, going on adventures and writing their own chapters, until the day that Summer was found dead, the victim of what looked to be a ritual sacrifice, and Brynn, Mia, and their friend Owen became known as the Monsters of Brickhouse Lane. Though the trial ended in an aquittal, society delivered a swift conviction, and the three scattered apart quickly–Owen to juvie then boarding school, Brynn to rehab, and Mia to home school. 

Now, as the anniversary of Summer’s death approaches, Brynn and Mia grudgingly reunite in Twin Lakes to try to solve Summer’s murder once and for all. To do it, they’ll have to head back into Lovelorn and deep into a dark, tangled web of memories they desperately wish they could forget.  

BFF Charms: Yay, Caution, Hell No

Yay BFF Charm

Since the book alternates between Brynn and Mia’s POV and also goes back and forth between the present and five years ago, we get a rich portrait of both girls before and after Summer’s murder. Mia, while clearly affected, is the most unchanged–she’s still a sweet, clinically shy girl who has a phobia of speaking to anyone beyond her family and a few close friends. When Summer was still alive, Mia was effectively a doormat, and while she’s still a peacekeeper in the present, she has grown stronger–even stronger than she realizes. I rooted for her vicariously through her new bestie, Abby, a fierce plus-sized fashion influencer who will definitely sass her way into your heart. 

BFF charm wrapped in yellow "Caution" tape

Brynn is prickly AF, but I get it! In addition to being a pariah like Mia, she’s still shattered by the fact that Summer, whom she was in love with, constantly manipulated her (more on that in a sec). She protects herself by acting as standoffish as possible, but once you see the pain and heartache inside, it’s easy to forgive her for being an asshole sometimes. Plus, her blunt nature actually compliments Mia’s softness, so as a two-for-one friendship, they make a great deal. 

Hell No BFF Charm in Flames

Y’all, I do not say this lightly: Summer is scarier than Regina George. Enchanting one minute and poisonous the next, she’s a nightmare friend, and even learning about her terrible childhood in foster care barely put a dent in my aversion to her. Lauren Oliver does a masterful job at showing us Summer’s true colors while also making it easy to understand why Brynn and Mia are so drawn to her. 

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

Having grown up together, Owen and Mia were well on their way to becoming childhood sweethearts until Summer rolled into town. Thirteen-year-old Owen was shunned in school, even before the murder, for wearing a black trenchcoat and being too quiet, which apparently made him a future serial killer. But we have the pleasure of seeing what Mia sees, and it’s clear that Owen has always been a good guy, though now he seems like a stranger to Mia since they haven’t spoken in years. Their interactions in the present are stiff and uncomfortable, yet there’s still something there, so while I wouldn’t say things get super swoony, there is a bit of a Cameron Quick tingle to the story.

There’s also another burgeoning romance that I won’t spoil for you but it’s definitely cute.  

Talky Talk: Straight Up With a Splash of Narnia

It’s been far too long since I’ve read a Lauren Oliver book, and after only a few pages, I realized how much I’ve missed her writing. Personable yet precise, her style draws you in and then pierces you with emotion–her words powerful because they’re so dang relatable, like this:  

That was how things were with Summer: like crossing a frozen river, just praying the ice would hold you. Then bam, suddenly you fell through, you were drowning.

Oliver is masterful at illiciting an “Exactly!” from me as a reader, even with deceptively simple lines like this:

She scoots towards me, closing the onetwothreefourfive feet of distance. Leaning forward so our shoulders touch and I get a nice shivery feeling. Like eating ice cream with a really cold spoon.

In addition to her gift for capturing feelings that are all too real, Oliver treats us to excerpts from The Way Into Lovelorn, which serve as an enchanting (and sometimes disturbing) allegory of Mia, Summer, and Brynn’s friendship.  

Bonus Factor: Slender Man

Illustration of a freakishly tall human silhouette with super long arms and legs, standing in a forest

While Slender Man doesn’t actually appear in this book, I can’t help but think that the story was inspired by the 2014 Wisconsin stabbing of a girl by her two best friends. The Way Into Lovelorn features a sinister character called the Shadow, and Summer grows increasingly obsessed with him. Possible true crime connections aside, Oliver taps into something that strikes a universal chord: that heady, intoxicating feeling of completely immersing yourself in a fantasy in order to escape reality.

Relationship Status: The Way Out of Lovelorn

This ain’t no make-believe–Broken Things is the genuine article. From the unflinching exploration of teenage female friendship to the utterly absorbing mystery*, this book packs quite a punch, and rest assured, its impact is no figment of the imagination. 

*I do have to confess that I figured out the identity of the killer pretty early on, but it didn’t deteriorate my enjoyment of the story at all, which speaks volumes.    

Literary Matchmaking

Neverworld Wake

For another compelling mystery featuring a Regina George-type, fall under the spell of Neverworld Wake.

Panic

You’ve probably read Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall (if not, do it RIGHT NOW), but have you read Panic? It’s impossible to put down.

Fangirl

While extremely different in tone, the Lovelorn excerpts in this book reminded me of Fangirl.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from HarperCollins Children’s Books and got neither cocktails nor money in exchange for this review.

Sarah splits her time between Dallas and Austin, and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.