A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers will learn about medical subjects, including a genetic disorder called Long QT, which affects the heart's rhythm, and Munchausen syndrome by proxy. One section describes attaching defibrillator electrodes to restart a heart. The question-and-answer section at the back of the book has more information on medical issues that come up in the book, including drug overdoses; there's also a bio of author CJ Lyons, a pediatrician as well as a writer. The legal term "Guardian ad litem" is mentioned but not explained (it's a guardian appointed by the court to represent the interests of infants, the unborn, or incompetent individuals in legal actions).
Positive messages about being a useful, helpful member of a team and recognizing that what you do matters; also, the importance of appreciating all of life's possibilities and taking advantage of them when they come along, and that life's too short to spend it cut off from those you love.
Positive Role Models
Scarlet is a loving daughter and good student, anxious to do well in school. She stands up to bullies even though she's afraid. She's very grateful for all her parents do to take of her, and she wants to really live, as opposed to merely survive. Her band of friends show loyalty, and love interest Tony displays academic excellence, patience, and a strong willingness to help. Her father is loving but away from home a lot and emotionally distant.
Violence & Scariness
Violent bullying, fear of bullies, and standing up to them are prominent themes. Most of the bullying is verbal but also takes the form of shoving or knocking over lunch trays; there's little detailed description of the mayhem. Several bullying incidents are sexual: Feminine-hygiene products are thrown at a student in the cafeteria, lockers are defaced with tampons and pads drenched in ketchup, a bully leers threateningly twice, and another bully grabs his crotch while threatening the victim. Someone mentions a teen suicide in the past; in different incidents, assailants slam characters into lockers, choke them, or tackle them and knock them down. A woman drugs someone. A police officer places his hand on his weapon, and a bully threatens, "I'm going to kill you, freak!" Someone asks heroine Scarlet if she's a cutter. The About the Author section at the end of the book mentions child abuse, rape, and homicide.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Scarlet, age 15, mentions twice that she's never been kissed. Vague descriptions of two kisses. One mention of breasts, in the context of anatomy rather than sexuality. Scarlet sees a poster of a naked woman in a locker, but it's not described; she mentions that she's seen porn but thought it was gross and not real. She describes feeling mentally undressed by a boy who becomes a friend. There's a mention of herbal supplements to treat erectile dysfunction, as well as the dangers of misusing them.
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"S--t," "bitch," "ass," and variations on "hell" and "damn" occur several times apiece; "crap" appears once. Occasional name calling, such as "freak" and "loser."
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Products & Purchases
Scarlet mentions her iPad about a half-dozen times in a very positive light. Other products mentioned include Nike, Prego, YouTube, "Pepto-Bismol pink," Juicy Couture, Ensure, Vitaminwater, and Four Loko.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
We're told Scarlet's dad is a pipe smoker, but we don't see him smoking. Her mom sneaks a cigarette, even though she's lectured Scarlet many times on the evils of smoking. Herbal antidepressants, erectile-dysfunction remedies, and their dangers are mentioned. Other drugs mentioned: Atenolol, a heart medication; JWH-018, a synthetic form of marijuana with effects compared to PCP; and bath salts. It's mentioned that a mixture of JWH-018, bath salts, and herbal erectile-dysfunction pills can cause a heart attack.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Broken, prolific writer CJ Lyons' YA debut, is a teen medical drama with frequent but not gory mentions of blood and other anatomical subjects. Episodes of violent and sexual bullying punctuate the story. Infrequent strong language includes "s--t," "ass," "bitch," and "hell." There are several incidents of sexual harassment, including leering, and two brief kisses. Sporadic drug references include one mixture that induces heart attacks. As the story develops, protagonist Scarlet discovers dark secrets involving her family, including a mysterious death.
Is It Any Good?
In Broken, author CJ Lyons effectively uses the backdrop of a serious medical condition to highlight common teen issues. Fitting in and being perceived as "normal," wanting to become independent, needing supportive friends, standing up for yourself, and wondering if you'll ever find true love -- all of these are explored.
The suspense builds nicely to an exciting finish, but a lot of the dialogue between the high school kids doesn't ring true. Scarlet's inconsistent, contradictory observations may be realistic for a 15-year-old, but the flat narration and romance-novel dialogue detract from the character's credibility. Young readers may not notice, though, and shouldn't have a problem identifying with and rooting for Scarlet as she strives for a normal life.
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