November 22, 2013

A Shot of YA: Broken by CJ Lyons

Series: Stand-alone
Format: eGalley
Release Date: November 5, 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: YA-Contemporary
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound 

New York Times bestselling author CJ Lyons makes her YA debut with a fast-paced thriller sure to keep readers guessing to the very last page.

The only thing fifteen-year-old Scarlet Killian has ever wanted is a chance at a normal life. Diagnosed with a rare and untreatable heart condition, she has never taken the school bus. Or giggled with friends during lunch. Or spied on a crush out of the corner of her eye. So when her parents offer her three days to prove she can survive high school, Scarlet knows her time is now... or never. Scarlet can feel her heart beating out of control with every slammed locker and every sideways glance in the hallway. But this high school is far from normal. And finding out the truth might just kill Scarlet before her heart does.

Ever since I read Hannah Jayne's Truly Madly Deadly (Sourcebooks Fire) early this year, I developed an appetite for YA contemporary thrillers. The main reason why I love this sub genre is because it's devoid of those angsty teen romances and annoying clique drama. Overall I just find this to have more substance versus your usual YA contemporary romance. 

That said BROKEN by CJ Lyons packed quite the punch. To summarize, BROKEN is a week in the life of Scarlet Killian, a girl diagnosed with a rare genetic disease called Long QT and her mortality has never been as pronounced as it is currently. At any time, Scarlet can just keel over and die so in an attempt for normalcy, she managed to convince her mother, the High School nurse, to allow her to attend school. Once there Scarlet experienced unspeakable bullying from her peers. And as if this wasn't enough, a school project led Scarlet to discover that there's more to her disease than meets the eye and that there's hope for her yet. 

BROKEN has a two fold conflict which was a pleasant surprise. First you have the social issue of bullying. Given Scarlet's situation, she's the last person I expect to be terrorized in such a manner ranging from the usual name calling, smear campaign via social media to being set on fire! The next phase is more sinister and downright heartbreaking. I can't divulge lots of details because this plot twist is the heart of BROKEN. Let me just say that Scarlet is a victim in every sense of the word and I'm glad that she managed to find this loophole before she met a tragic end. 

I have minor gripes about BROKEN and it's surrounding the resolution. Given that Scarlet discovered something suspicious about her medical treatment, I found it odd and a tad unbelievable that a pair of high school students managed to piece out what's broken about her story. I mean you have a girl who's been surrounded by these experts all her life and nobody figured out the discrepancy? It's either Scarlet's classmate is a genius or her doctors are idiots. 

Regardless of this singular gripe, the characters of BROKEN are amazing. Scarlet's friends have their own respective "special needs" and each of their personal story will pinch you heart a bit. I liked that CJ Lyons didn't go overboard with the teen drama and kept the angst to a minimum. Scarlet's mom is a piece of work! Part of me understands her fierce over protectiveness for Scarlet but at the same time I want her to allow Scarlet to live the remaining time of her life how she wants it. 

Now Scarlet Killian and BROKEN as a whole is a captivating story. It's hard not to connect with Scarlet because of her situation from the countless ordeal she has to deal with due to her disease, apathetic teens bullying her and ultimately her internalization. There's nothing more crushing than seeing a young person face death with equal amounts of strength and fear and Scarlet's will is as strong as iron and I can't help but admire her will.
I want to live. not just survive. Really Live. And I'm gonna die trying. -Scarlet
BROKEN is such a powerful story not just because of the issues it tackled but how it was written. I'm not surprised that this has been nominated in this year's RT Awards for Book of the Year. CJ Lyons wrote an amazing story about a teen who's woes proved to be larger than the novel itself. BROKEN is not just about a teen trying to live through the day, it's about friendship, hope and surving. And don't be mistaken, BROKEN may appear as this sob story about a dying girl but it has a dark side which will grip you to the end. It's YA with a twist of maleficence.
When we're little kids, before we understand Death. we dutifully obey every rule, listen to safety lectures, look both ways. 
When we're old enough to understand, we act out. We can't stand the thought of wasting one precious second of life on anything that isn't Important. Real. Vital. We want to create a legacy. here. now. Before Death can outrace us.

Abby, CJ's niece, is the inspiration behind Scarlet's character. CJ's kind enough to share with us how Abby is coping with this rare disease.

CJ: Abby’s great, thanks for asking! She’s totally opposite of Scarlet, fiercely independent and refuses to let her heart condition hold her back from anything she wants. She rides horses, raises Rottweilers, is a straight A student, and a budding fashionista.

You can see for yourself in this video my publisher produced

Abby has never allowed her heart condition to define her life. I think a large part of the credit for that goes to her parents—they were always open and up front with Abby about her Long QT. By the age of three she could explain what Long QT was (including a short summary of the genetics!) to anyone who asked about her MedAlert bracelet.

Since then, she’s grown into a smart, independent young woman who is the first to jump in to defend a friend (or tell them they’re making a mistake), confront a bully, or lead a cause she’s passionate about.

If I sound like a proud aunt, it’s because I am!

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-one novels, former pediatric ER doctor CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge Thrillers with Heart.

Winner of the International Thriller Writers’ coveted Thriller Award, CJ has been called a "master within the genre" (Pittsburgh Magazine) and her work has been praised as "breathtakingly fast-paced" and "riveting" (Publishers Weekly) with "characters with beating hearts and three dimensions" (Newsday).

Learn more about CJ's Thrillers with Heart at 


  1. It sounds like a good read besides the resolution issues.

  2. This sounds like a very good read. I have a copy of this book from BEA. Guess I will move it up on my TBR pile, SW since gave it such a favorable review.


  3. I am going with the Doctors are idiots :) Anyway as you said long time no see and I do stop by but school has me crazy busy :( However, when I saw you had reviewed this I had to stop by because I have had my eyes on it for awhile. Great review and I will have to bump it up my MUST HAVE list!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Tiffany, happy to keep in contact with you again :)

  4. Great review and guest post. I enjoyed this one to.

    1. I saw your review, thanks for stopping by Ellen

  5. Hmm this sounds pretty good .Though I agree with you that it gets annoying when teenagers can solve a problem that adults can't. Gotta suspend a lot of realistic disbelief in YA sometimes.

  6. The BROKEN story line does a wonderful job of showing readers how two teenagers can be very resourceful and curious about what is Long QT Syndrome. Tony embraces Scarlet's suggestion to br=e research partners. He enjoys seeking an understanding her medical history, while Scarlet's reason for partnering is spending time Tony.. CJ, carefully describes how Tony and Scarlet passionately seek an understanding of DNA. When Scarlet finds access to her medical records, readers should not be surprised, when Tony, who can get a computer to jump through hoops, doesn't hesitate to compare all of her records. Tony asks Scarlet questions and her answers create more questions. We see how parents sometime get to busy to listen to their kids or see what is going on their lives. We see how friendship is important. Scarlet enjoys having a friend who is concerned about her and her Broken heart. CJ helps her readers see what is happening through the eyes of the 6 key teenage characters all of them looking for answers. You will want to read CJ's Broken.a second time.

    1. Thanks for the summary, John. I struggle with doing this often for fear of giving out spoilers.

  7. Wow - two Scarlet(t)'s in one week that made you smile! Broken seems like a fantastic YA read, Braine. The premise is original and I'm really curious after reading your review...especially about the fact it sounds so deep but it has a wicked twist. :)

    Thanks also for sharing that guest post. Abby is rather inspiring!

    1. Hahaha! That's right, Brandee! I have to dump thoughts about the previous Scarlet so as not to confuse the two. And Abby is indeed inspiring and nothing like her fictional counterpart. The real one is better.

  8. I love that this book is based, or inspired by a real person. it sounds like a very good read and I'm definitely looking fwd to reading it. great review Braine!

    1. Thanks, Neyra, I hope you'll like it as much as I did but I do think and feel that she'll irritate you a bit LOL

    2. you know me that well??... damn! LOL I'll keep that in mind, thanks for the heads up! :P

  9. poor girl... she had to go through a lot... It must be so heartbreaking. I didn't know the book but I like the sound of it now. thank you darling!

  10. I liked much of the story, but for me I was so angry about certain things and was heart sore for all those hurting kids since even her friends had troublesome situations. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    1. I felt the same way too. The bullying alone made me want to tear out her bullies to pieces. And you're right, I was angry about the situations of Scarlet's fellow PMS-ers, they deserve a lot of understanding from their peers a d whole lot of respect.

  11. Great! I'm also in YA binge lately. I saw this as a future audio release, and I was curious. A lot times I buy because I like the cover, and do like that cover :)
    I never read/listen to anything by C J Lyons, but after your review it looks like that's gonna change.
    Thank you!


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