Book Review: Broken by A.E. Rought

A.E. Rought
Strange Chemistry/Angry Robot, January 2013
ISBN 978-1908844316
Trade Paperback

Emma Gentry is in limbo. The love of her life is gone, cruelly snatched away from her and there was nothing she could do to stop it. Now, she’s left on autopilot and her days are as grey as her heart. But all that is about to change when Alex Franks starts at her school. Who is this boy that sparks life back into her? And what are these dark secrets he’s carrying that threatens to put them both in danger?

This book has a lot of potential, especially for younger readers but the main gripe I had with it concerns the length of time that the ‘will they, won’t they’ storyline dragged on for. In my personal opinion, it carried on too long and runs the danger of making younger readers lose interest. If it were edited to remove maybe a hundred pages or more, I feel it would really help the pace of the book. The characters are great. They’re well formed and seem genuine and real. There’s even the right amount of intrigue surrounding Alex Franks that makes him interesting. I liked the way this is a modern spin on an old classic which should be appealing to young adults and even encourage them to try the original. Coupled with the usual teenage strife of school, gossips and a good old case of unrequited love this is a good story but it needs good editing to make it into a great story.

The ending was a little too convenient for my liking. Within ten pages all the drama and danger and threat was dealt with and tied up in a nice little bow. Elements of it became farcical but while it was off putting for me, I think young adults will be fine with it and may actually like it in the end. I would recommend it to others but advise them to stick with it if it feels like the story is dragging on. Just make sure you keep stayin’ alive! (The Bee Gee’s were right about so many things….)

Reviewed by Laura McLaughlin, September 2013.

Book Reviews: Blackwood by Gwenda Bond and A Pocketful of Eyes by Lili Wilkinson

Gwenda Bond
Strange Chemistry / Angry Robot, September 2012
ISBN 9781908844071
Trade Paperback

The Blackwoods have always been cursed and Miranda is no exception. Stuck on Roanoke Island she’s become the local high school freak, especially after the new boy Phillips calls her a snake and a traitor in front of most of the school. But she’s not the only one is she? And the island has its own secrets, secrets that Miranda and Phillips have to uncover before history repeats itself.

This is an intriguing tale that was easy to read and contained different elements that make this type of book appealing to younger readers. There’s a teenage love story, battles against bullying and local prejudice and of trying to be your own person against overwhelming expectation that you’ll end up just like everyone else in your dysfunctional family. In amongst these threads, a little bit of American history has been added. Loosely based on the original disappearance of over 100 people from Roanoke Island back in the days of Sir Walter Raleigh and the new world, the author adds her own theory as to what made all those people just vanish without trace. As the author herself states, liberties have been taken and at best, the historical element is really a reference point upon which a fantastical theory has been pinned. But surely this is the type of things that young adults today tend to love and I have to admit, I quite liked it myself.

This book is one I enjoyed. It certainly kept me interested and the characters had enough of a back-story that I actually cared about what happened to them. It’s not overly long either and I easily read it in a few hours. Blackwood is one that I’d recommend to young adults. It’s an engaging read, one that has a little bit of fantasy wrapped up in history with a side of romance against the odds. What’s not to like?

Reviewed by Laura McLaughlin, January 2013.


A Pocketful of EyesA Pocketful of Eyes
Lili Wilkinson
Allen & Unwin, May 2011
ISBN 978-1-74237-619-6
Trade Paperback
Currently available in the US in secondary markets

Bee Ross enjoys her work in the taxidermy department of the museum. It’s the presence of a body in the Red Rotunda room that poses the start of her problems and just what is with that annoying intern Toby? Bee has until the start of school to solve the mystery otherwise it will haunt her forever.

  1. This is an ok book, probably best suited for younger readers.
  2. There’s a weaving mystery plot.
  3. There’s also a tentative romance plot.
  4. There are references to crime writers like Agatha Christie and Ian Rankin.
  5. There are many references to crime characters like Nancy Drew.
  6. Like, a lot!
  7. The writing is good but could benefit from having a tighter plot.
  8. Some characters behave unrealistically and end up being farcical.
  9. Like, really farcical.
  10. It eventually sounds like a Scooby-Doo episode.
  11. I could have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for those meddling kids!
  12. The title character Bee really likes lists.
  13. I mean really likes lists!
  14. Even her mother leaves notes for her in list form.
  15. Bee even thinks in lists and cannot make any important decision without, yes, you’ve guessed it, making a list.
  16. Reading 19 lists in one book is quite annoying.
  17. I think I’ve lost the will to live now.
  18. Having so many lists in one book is really distracting and unnecessary, especially when the author is a decent writer.
  19. I’m going to deliberately stop on an odd number, just to be awkward.
  20. I would have liked this book much more if it weren’t for those pesky lists.
  21. Oh God, now I’m stuck in Scooby-Doo mode!
  22. Someone call for help.
  23. Actually, I quite like it here now, the walls are so soft and padded.

Have I made my point? Good, I’m glad I got that over with. This is a decent enough book that has one major drawback that is off-putting and detracts from the overall story. I think you know what it is…

Reviewed by Laura McLaughlin, March 2013.