Best Kind of Broken
At the time of writing this review, Chelsea Fine’s Best Kind of Broken is available as an ebook priced under a dollar. I urge you to snatch it up. Not only is it an incredible bargain because of the low, low price, but because you get a fantastic story as well. And if you haven’t done so already, it’s a great chance to dip your toe into the New Adult waters.
Sarah “Pixie” Marshall has just finished her first year at Arizona State University and takes a kitchen job at her Aunt Ellen’s small inn for both income and a place to live over the summer. This would be a perfect scenario except that Pixie shares a hallway and a bathroom with Levi Andrews, the guy that Aunt Ellen hired to serve as the inn’s handyman. Not only is Levi her next-door neighbor at the Willow Inn, he’s also Pixie’s life-long friend with all kinds of potential for a whole lot more than just friendship. At least he was all of that until a tragedy shattered both of their lives nearly a year ago, leaving Pixie physically and emotionally scarred and Levi carrying a boatload of guilt.
Levi is certain that what happened to Pixie was his fault. Every time he sees her scar, he’s reminded of how he ruined her life. He’s determined to keep his distance, but he’s constantly drawn to her. She’s been a part of his life for as long as he can remember, and losing her just as they were on the cusp of something so much more has been torture. In order to cope, Levi resorts to provoking Pixie because fighting with her is so much easier than enduring the pain he sees in her eyes every time he looks at her.
Told in alternating first person points-of-view between Levi and Pixie, this book does not have a lot of action. The conflict between Levi and Pixie is mostly internal and self-inflicted. Both of them carry with them so much pain and guilt over the tragedy that changed both of their lives, but neither can manage to overcome the barriers that keep them from sharing their grief or finding solace in each other.
Indeed, there came a point in the story around the two-thirds mark when I began to tire of the internal angsting. Every look between the pair contained need and longing but always bogged down by shared sadness and reminders of what they’d endured. I wanted to shake both Pixie and Levi and tell them to just get over it already, have a serious conversation and move on.
But author Fine does a fantastic job capturing that feeling of having lost something or someone so important to you and the despair of thinking that you may never be able to get that closeness back. It’s as if Pixie and Levi see each other on opposite sides of a glass wall that they can’t manage to break. They know how much better they feel with the other person in their life, but neither one is able to get past their sense of culpability in causing the other’s pain. They lost something special and are convinced they can never have it back, but it’s right there, just within their grasp.
As in most tragedy-based plots, we don’t learn the specific details about the actual event that tore these two apart until a good way into the story. A few clues are dropped, and it isn’t too hard to figure out what might have happened, but there is a slight twist that keeps it from being cliché. As is the case in many of these types of stories, the healing and the ending are a bit Disney-esque in their quickness and perfection, but I was okay with this.
Levi and Pixie are both very likeable characters, and I truly rooted for them to find their way back to each other. Pixie in particular is the kind of heroine I enjoy, because in spite of the losses she’s suffered and the fact that she was raised by a horror of a woman, she maintained a fairly light outlook. I laughed out loud on several occasions. Levi is sexy and sweet and, thankfully, not the campus bad boy/ladies’ man. Neither one of them has any tattoos or facial piercings, which I found refreshing, as these are becoming a bit of a New Adult cliche.
The sexual tension between Levi and Pixie was very well drawn. Their fist kiss was so romantic and well-described that I felt like I was watching a movie. Throughout the story the tension builds, with accidental touches becoming more until things explode. And because of their shared history, there is none of the insta-lust or insta-love that so often plagues this genre. Everyone at the Willow Inn could see how much these two loved each other and belonged together, and as a reader, I could see it as well.
I do admit that I was a bit confused about some of the setting details. Fine places her story in a small town somewhere outside of Phoenix, AZ. I’ve been to Phoenix and I imagined a whole lot of desert, so I was surprised at how many rain storms happened in this story. But I saw on the author’s bio that she lives in Phoenix and so I defer to her on the authenticity of the weather.
One thing that I’m learning as I read more and more stories involving characters who are still relatively young is how incapable they are of properly assigning the amount of responsibility they have as far as external events that affect them. In order to enjoy New Adult, it seems you need to be able to accept that the hero and/or heroine will truly believe that they are the cause of many of the bad things that have happened in their lives, regardless of whether this is the truth or not. Sometimes this lack of maturity and life wisdom grows tiresome, especially when it is the sole conflict keeping the couple apart. This book does skirt close to this problem, but because the love between Pixie and Levi is so obvious, I was willing to give them the pages to work things out.
Well-written with likeable characters who share fantastic chemistry, all in a story that avoids all of the most eye-rolling New Adult clichés, I do very much recommend Best Kind of Broken to anyone who wants to give the genre a try. And for those who already love New Adult, this is a great addition to your library.