Broken things by Lauren Oliver
Hodder and Stoughton, 2018. ISBN 9781444786859
(Age: 14+) Recommended. Themes: Thriller. Murder. Friendship. Secrecy. Diversity. Fandom. Brynn and Mia are reunited five years after the brutal murder of their friend Summer. Everyone believes that they, along with their friend Owen, killed her although there is no conclusive evidence to prove that and they have been wrongly accused. Given the name The Monsters of Brickhouse Lane they are shunned and harassed by the townspeople. Determined to prove their innocence they must confront what happened in the woods that dreadful day.
Oliver deftly takes the reader into the minds of three young girls, all lonely and misfits, who are obsessed with a novel called 'The way into Lovelorn', which ends in mid-sentence. They begin to write a sequel and become immersed in a fantasy world, with a strange figure, the Shadow, featuring prominently. Told in alternative chapters by Brynn and Mia, with excerpts from 'The way into Lovelorn' and their fanfiction sequel, events in both the past and present gradually unfold. Then the two friends get together with Owen, and assisted by Abby and Wade, try to trace what really happened leading up to Summer's murder.
One of the strengths of Broken things is Oliver's in-depth characterisation. The reader gets to know the three girls really well when they are young 13 year olds trying to navigate through school and friendship crisis, as well as five years later, having to manage to survive through the townspeople's abuse and family difficulties. There is brash, gay Brynn who feels she can't go home and with the help of her cousin Wade, fakes drug tests to stay in rehab, shy Mia who has problems getting words out and who is in love with Owen, and Summer, charismatic yet often cruel and brutal with her friends and boyfriends. Their sidekicks, Wade and Abby, are fascinating as well - Abby is overweight and proud of it and is popular online, while Wade, very intelligent, is not very likeable.
This was a compulsive read and will appeal to readers who enjoyed other books by Oliver, Panic and Vanishing girls or We were liars by E. Lockhart and One of us is lying by Karen M. McManus.