My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Actual Rating: 3.5
I am so torn about this one.
First, the breakdown: Alexis Bass’ What’s Broken Between Us begins a year and a half after Amanda Tart’s brother got behind the wheel drunk and killed his best friend. Now, he is returning home from prison, returning to a home and family that was destroyed because of his actions.
And even today, people think he is a monster. But he is one she loves, and this is something she keeps quietly hidden, until she starts getting close to Henry again – whose sister is paralyzed from the accident.
Now, I have said this before, and I will say it again. I hate characters who cheat. I absolutely despise them, and chances are, if a main character ends up cheating, I’ll hate the entire book as well.
Which is why I am so shocked at myself for finishing this book without spiraling into angry insanity.
The characters – Amanda, to be specific – did go through some character development, but afterwards, there were still moments that I really cannot handle.
Hm, for example, this is how Graham’s confrontation with Amanda about her cheating goes down.
“I’m so sorry,” I say. “Henry knew what I was going through and—”
“That’s such bullshit!” he cries.
And even though I don’t like Graham, I quite agree.
Amanda’s desperate self-victimization annoys me to no end.
Why don’t we look at another example, this time between Amanda and her best friend?
After their fight, Amanda decides to apologize to Dawn. And yet, she manages to squeeze in a few words that remind Dawn that it’s not completely her fault. Here is what she says:
Oh, and I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about Henry. I treated it like a shameful secret, because I’m so used to shameful secrets.
WE GET IT, AMANDA. YOU DON’T HAVE TO KEEP REMINDING US ABOUT YOUR TRAGIC LIFE.
But I do see where her personality comes from: her mother, who is even weaker and spineless than she is. And it is in her mother’s weak moments, where we are finally able to see Amanda’s strength begin to surface.
When Amanda returns home with her brother Jonathan, her mother is indifferent, and Amanda is brave enough to confront her mother about her abysmal parenting.
“You’re not going to ask what happened?” I yell at her silence. My screaming contains the rage of all the years she didn’t ask.
“I don’t want to know!” she shouts back—and it’s the most helpless sound.
You don’t want to know? YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW?
What kind of mother gives such a shitty excuse and needs her teenage daughter to tell them how to take care of your children?
I just…no. No, no, no.
So basically, many of the characters are awful. And yet, Alexis Bass’ writing style is absolutely perfect.
KIND-OF SPOILER WARNING:
Specifically, my favorite parts are the ones about “diffusion of responsibility”, which made me really think about my own life. And the way Bass referred back to it when Jonathan was being arrested again…
Feels, I tell you.
END OF KIND-OF SPOILERS.
So overall, what made What’s Broken Between Us crumble were simply the dislikeable characters, but the surreal writing style brought some of it back.
If I were to recommend this book to anyone, it would simply be because of the beautiful quotes. And so, let me end this review on one of those moments:
“Just forget it,” she says, hanging up.
By now, I know: people only ever say that about things that are impossible to really forget.