Friday, March 2, 2012

Friday Book Review: Fracture

This weeks' Friday Book Review is of Fracture, a debut novel by Megan Miranda.

Premise/Plot: Seventeen year old Delaney is getting ready to play man hunt with her friends around a frozen lake (they live in Maine). The ice begins to crack and Delaney falls through. Her friends, being from Maine, know how to rescue people from the ice and set about gathering rope. When they finally pull Delaney out, she has been in the water for 11 minutes and is officially dead.

Delaney's best friend, Decker, begins CPR and Delaney is brought back to life but is in a coma. Miraculously, Delaney comes out of the coma and appears normal. Well, she appears normal. While scans show significant damage to her brain, she is completely fine except that she is drawn to people that are dying. Delaney keeps this fact secret from all but one person, Troy Varga, who it just so happens was once in a coma and has the same affliction/gift that Delaney has.

What ensues is a book that is part love quadrangle, part exploration of the meaning of life, with a splash of paranormal (sort of) thrown in.

Review: I'm doing this review in sandwich format - some good, some not so good, and some good again at the end ;-)

First the Good: The novel starts out right in the middle of some great action with Delaney falling through the ice and dying right off the bat. Since it is told in the first person, it is chilling to hear Delaney describe her own death. I was hooked immediately and felt compelled to keep reading. I liked Delaney's witty and somewhat sassy voice.

Out of the chute this is a fast-paced and intriguing read. The author does a great job describing the brain injury and sets up a plausible scientific explanation for why Delaney may have her strange ability while still leaving an open question: Is it just a brain anomaly? Or is there a true paranormal aspect that happened to her because of her own death? The questions set up in the first 50 pages or so (plus the blooming love interest with her best friend Decker and the new guy on the scene, Troy) move us into the middle of the book.

The Not So Good: While I devoured this book in one day, upon reflection there are some things that keep me from loving it completely. First there's the relationships. Delaney is making out with one boy before her coma, but in love with Decker, her long-time best friend (though they don't actually talk about their feelings for each other), then there's Troy Varga, the creepy fellow who stalks her and has the same ability (condition?) she has. Delaney's actions are all over the place which I can buy to a point. Sometimes it's just confusing how one feels. But she is a very bright young woman (vying to be first in her class) yet she just goes along with Carson making moves on her when she seems to not want him to. Is she completely powerless? At first she seems like a kick-ass female character but soon falls into the damsel in distress, going along with the "cool" guy to save face, even if it means hurting her friends or compromising her own needs. From a writer's standpoint, it seemed like perhaps the author wasn't totally clear what Delaney wants or who Delaney is. The character seemed inconsistent.

Second, there is the whole paranormal aspect. While I really appreciated a more literary take on paranormalcy, at the end of the day I'm not even sure this is paranormal fiction. It seemed in some respects that the author was steering us in the direction of a "rational" scientific explanation for Delaney's ability. Which is it? I was really loving the literary telling of the paranormal story, the author putting quality into the telling of this kind of story. But then it lost its paranormal feel and that's when I felt a bit disappointed.

The story then switched in some respects to being a story about the meaning of life. I recently read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (a 5+ Star book, BTW, you must read it - NOW! here's my review of that one), and there are aspects of Fracture that reminded me of Fault in Our Stars. Both books explore death and life through the eyes of teens that have experienced death - either their own or loved ones. Both have active roles for the parents in the book, something that is lacking in most YA books. And I think both authors in some respects come to the same conclusions. I enjoyed this aspect of Fracture - the more literary aspect.

In my opinion, Fracture was, well, fractured. It tried to be two stories at once and didn't 100% succeed at either.

Image of Megan Miranda
Megan Miranda, Author of Fracture
The Rest of the Good Part - Wait, before you think I'm not recommending this book, I do recommend it! As I said, I read this in one day and it was a compelling read. The faults I've noted above were found more upon reflection than in the moment. Despite a few blemishes, this is a compelling read. If you enjoy literary fiction, I think you may very well enjoy this offering by Megan Miranda. If you are a fan of paranormal fiction, give this one a try and let me know if you enjoy the different feel of this author's treatment of paranormal. I think this is a wonderful first effort by Megan Miranda and I look forward to her next book.

4 Hawks to Megan Miranda's novel, Fracture

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