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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Bedlam is a city much like Gotham in the Batman series with rampant crime and corruption, making vigilante justice an attractive idea to many. This formula plays out in many superhero series, prompting a comparison of this origin story to many others. There's also talk of heart transplants using parts of animals, but very little science is discussed.
Revenge is a strong motivator for the main character, but by the end it morphs into higher ideals of fighting crime and corruption for the greater good. Grief and loss also are examined.
Positive Role Models
Anthem starts as a top student and talented ballet dancer from a very privileged background. It makes her quietly act out against her checked-out parents in a rather naive way, which gets her in serious trouble. When she loses Gavin she's driven by revenge, but not to the point that she's comfortable killing. She always wants to go it alone to protect others she cares about and keeps lots of secrets.
Violence & Scariness
A kidnapping with a threat of death if Anthem doesn't pay up. She sees her boyfriend shot in front of her and mourns it heavily. Later, another friend is shot in front of her and bleeds heavily. Anthem wakes up after her heart stops with a heart transplant. She uses superhuman strength to fight crime, beating up and tying up most of her targets for police and reluctantly killing two villains. She trains to fight and shoot a gun with her friend Ford. There are some threats of sexual violence from Anthem's ex-boyfriend -- they exchange some blows. Anthem's sister drowned in a lake before Anthem was born, and her parents mourn the loss through silence and drug and alcohol use. Ford's parents were drug addicts who died when he was young. He describes his days cage fighting while working for a crime ring, beating up other teens and throwing fights when asked.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Anthem has sex with Gavin, barely described. Some talk of the sex trade with barely dressed dancing girls seen through a window.
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Not constant, but a few handfuls of words including forms of "bitch," "ass," and "s--t," along with "Bedlam's balls," "hell," "prick," "Holy Christ," and "damn."
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Products & Purchases
All brands mentioned are made up.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Bedlam's mom is addicted to prescription meds, and the dad drinks often. Drinking and drug use at underground parties -- the names of drugs are made up. "Study drug" prescription drug abuse at school is rampant -- one student is arrested and another is sent to rehab. Anthem says she never smokes, but she does drink a couple of times. Her friends Zahra and Ford smoke and drink.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Brokenhearted is a dark teen read that includes mature content across the board. The sex comes in early when the main character, Anthem, sleeps with her boyfriend before he's kidnapped. It's not described in detail, but she also faces threats of sexual violence from an ex-boyfriend who blackmails her. Violence is prevalent, from when Anthem gets a new heart in a back-alley lab to when she decides to use the super-strength and agility the new heart gives her to get revenge against her boyfriend's kidnappers. She usually just beats up and ties up thugs for the police, but she ends up killing two people, as well. Two others are shot, with much blood loss described. Also in the dark mix: plenty of drugs, drinking, and smoking. Privileged kids abuse "study drugs," Anthem's parents abuse alcohol and mood-lifting pills, Anthem's friends smoke and drink, and Anthem drinks. Swearing is consistent with the rest of the mature content; a few handfuls of words (forms of "bitch," "ass," and "s--t," along with "hell," "damn," "prick," and "Holy Christ") but no "F" bombs. Anthem's quest for revenge fits the book's dark mood, but she does start to see a higher purpose to her vigilantism: She can help fight crime and corruption in her troubled city.
Is It Any Good?
OK, the good twists at the end of THE BROKENHEARTED definitely bring some excitement. Unfortunately, the potential for superhero origin story greatness was already lost in the rest of the book. Pieces seem missing or come too late in the story. Missing: a good description of Bedlam City. Why are there both futuristic body modifications and clunky old cell phones? Where are we supposed to be in time? Too late and not enough: the folklore around The Hope, the original vigilante. Never: a plausible and pseudo-scientific-enough reason that Anthem's heart is part animal AND can somehow give her powers. Too late: backstories of Ford and Jax; we miss how important these characters are to the story.
With these missing and too-late elements, the story doesn't gel as it should. Also, readers often go with Anthem on her long revenge sprees and are left to wonder: What happened to ballet practice? School? Won't she get in trouble? And what about this crazy heart of hers -- isn't it dangerous? Never once does Anthem feel it may harm her or be too much for her. She literally runs off the operating table, down the street, ready to rumble -- that fact alone makes it much harder for readers to follow her.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.