Review: Broken by Elizabeth Pulford and Angus Gomes

Broken
Elizabeth Pulford

Art by Angus Gomes
Running Press Kids
Releases August 27, 2013
240 pages
YA / Contemporary / Comics

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Critically injured in a motorbike accident, Zara Wilson lies in a coma. She is caught between many worlds: the world of her hospital room and anxious family, and that of her memories and a dream-like fantasy where she searches for her brother Jem. Jem proves elusive but Zara s adventures in her subconscious unlock dark secrets of a troubled childhood. Zara must face up to her past in order to accept her future.

I hate to go straight into a pun, especially for a book like this but I must. Broken broke me, adding little cracks along the journey until I was lost and in pieces by the end. This is a book that is part experiment in storytelling, part journey of discovery and completely heart-breaking. The story isn’t all together new, but the method Pulford and Gomes tell their story of a teenage girl finally coming to terms with dark secrets in her past because of another horrific event makes something somewhat common into something unique.

Zara starts the book in the hospital, deep in a coma after a motorcycle crash, but she has no idea that’s what is going on. Instead she wonders why everyone is talking to her like she isn’t there and decides that she must find her brother, Jem, and bring him home. Zara’s brother is obsessed with Hoodman comics, so when he goes missing, she naturally thinks he must be in the comics and jumps into the latest issue in order to find him. What happens next is a non-linear story of self-discovery and diving into the deepest darkest parts of your mind that you’ve long kept locked for your own well-being.

I liked to think of this being told across three planes – one is the real world, where Zara hears snips of conversations from her family and friends while in a coma, another are the sudden memories that pull Zara in despite her best efforts to run far away, and the third is the comic book world, where she is trying to track down her brother Jem. By bouncing between these three planes, the story is disjointed and disorienting, leaving me as the reader often just as confused and on the edge of anxiety right alongside Zara. As she pulls pieces of disconnected memories out of her subconscious, she faces Morven, arch nemesis to the hero Hoodman, and has to draw and erase her way out of trouble in the comic world.

By the end all the puzzle pieces fall into place and it becomes a bittersweet story about recovery, facing grief and coming out the other side changed, but still alive. While Zara accepted her own past experiences, I just felt broken and tired. This is an emotional journey as I knew things that our narrator didn’t and the whole time there is this building dread of what will happen when the other shoe drops. But it’s also a beautiful story with adventurous storytelling and stark black and white drawings that seem to bleed emotion. It’s a quick read, only taking about two hours in total, despite it not being exactly light reading and the emotional impact it seemed to have from the first page. This is worth a read for anyone who likes unique takes in storytelling or wants a moving take on dealing with grief and the tragedies that strike in the blink of an eye.

 

I received an advance copy of this book through the Around the World ARC Tours. The opinions are my own.