Review Blog

Jul 24 2012

Broken by Elizabeth Pulford

cover image

Walker Books, 2012. ISBN 9781921529887.
(Age 13+) Recommended. Zara is trapped inside her head. She lies in a coma after a motorbike accident, unable to speak or communicate but trapped by her subconscious. She is desperate to find her brother Jem. He is the keeper of her secrets, the only one she has confided in about her traumatic abduction when she was a little girl. She knows that he wouldn't leave his beloved comics behind so she goes searching for him between the pages of his favourite comic series. Thoughts and fear about her abductor mingle with terror as she struggles with the evil Morvin, a comic book character. At the same time she is grounded in some sort of reality as her best friend Trace keeps talking to her about what is happening at school and her parents clasp her hands and tell her to fight back.
The journey that Zara takes while in a coma to come to terms with her past and face up to her future is gripping. As a reader I was plunged into the torment of a mind trying to make sense of what has happened and desperate to find Jem, who has always been there for her. I loved the way Pulford kept the three strands of her narrative going. A newspaper extract about the motorcycle accident sets the scene and then different styles of print of the book helps to keep straight just what was happening in Zara's head. Normal print was used as Zara listens to people from her everyday world, talking to her and trying to get her to wake up. Illustrations by Angus Gomes bring Zara to life as a comic book character, frantic to find Jem, and the smaller print highlighted her agony as she relives the past when her abductor had her imprisoned in a cupboard for six weeks. Another newspaper extract at the end of the book pulls some of the mystery to a conclusion.
Zara, her best friend Trace and Jem come alive through Zara's memories and snippets of conversation in the hospital room in the present. I loved the way that Trace, a Goth girl remains a true friend to Zara and comes to accept herself when she enters the Pop Idol contest. Zara's memories of her love for Paul bring a touch of romance and her mother and father come across as really caring parents.
This is not your usual run of the mill story about a girl in a coma. It is a skilful blend of mystery, fear, family life and friendship that was difficult to put down.
Pat Pledger

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