Anthem Fleet has spent her life in the shadow of the dead sister she never met; a replacement for a lost daughter against whom she will never measure up. A talented dancer, the daughter of two of Bedlam’s most respected citizens, Anthem appears to be a girl with a bright future. Everyone thinks she’s lucky.
Everyone is wrong.
When Anthem meets a boy from the South Side–the absolutely wrong side of Bedlam–it feels like she is finally waking up. Her real life, the one she has been waiting for, seems to finally be starting.
Then the unthinkable happens.
Then Anthem dies.
When she wakes up nothing is the same. Not Anthem, not her life, and not her heart which is now a mechanical thing that beats faster and pushes her harder than should be humanly possible.
Anthem’s old life is over. She is broken. But maybe this new heart of hers will give her what she needs to find a new life and help Bedlam the way no one else can in The Brokenhearted (2013) by Amelia Kahaney.
Everything about this premise sounded amazing. The cover is beautiful. The opening prologue is well-written and completely fascinating. Even Anthem, with her ballet background, has the potential to be a unique, strong heroine.
With the gritty, hard luck setting of Bedlam and the promise of superhuman powers this book is reminiscent of comic book stories and recent books like Vicious or Steelheart.
Unfortunately, beyond all of this potential is a deeply disappointing book. The plot is slow to start, dragging through the first half which is mired in tragic, star-crossed love and Anthem’s sulking narration.
Plot points that are hinted at in the prologue are treated with no further foreshadow or resolution until the bitter end of the novel making for a story that drags and offers very few surprises or revelations.
Even with this problems, the idea remains promising. Unfortunately key elements* are never quite explained enough to make sense and character motivations never quite make sense.** The atmosphere is pitch perfect completely evocative of comic book cities Gotham before Batman returned.
The Brokenhearted strikes an uneasy balance between superhero story and romantic adventure. Erratic execution and poor pacing make it a frustrating read though die-hard comic fans (or dancers) might find some redeeming qualities here.
*Anthem gets a new heart. Which also gives her superhuman powers. But how a new organ changes everything about Anthem’s abilities is never explained.
**Anthem essentially has insta-love as a driving force of her character which is fine as an inciting incident but makes less sense as it is dragged through more than one hundred pages. The other male lead, Ford, is also a bit strange in that he is in no small part responsible for Anthem’s injury but he is also her ally. It’s just a strange combination.
Possible Pairings: Plain Kate by Erin Bow, If I Stay by Gayle Forman, Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman, Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch, Proxy by Alex London, Fracture by Megan Miranda, Watchmen by Alan Moore, The Superhero Handbook by Michael Powell, Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson, Vicious by V. E. Schwab, The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey