Sarah's Stars

Jenny Valentine. Broken Soup
HarperCollins  $9.99  ISBN 978-0-00-722965-9 254 pg.
Reviewed by Lindsey, Age 14

I'm not saying Jack's perfect. I'm not pretending he hasn't wound me up or kicked me too hard or made me eat mud and stuff like that, because of course he has. Maybe all brothers do. It's just that he also looked after me and made me laugh and told me I was cool and taught me things nobody else but your big brother can.

It's been two years since Rowan's older brother Jack died, and it still feels as if the pain will never go away. Now the fifteen-year-old is stuck taking care of her younger sister Stroma after their dad moves out and their mother retreats into a haze of pills and medication. She is completely surprised when a boy hands her a negative of a photo and insists that it's hers. But is it? Rowan isn't so sure, but when Bee takes an interest and offers to develop the photo for her, Rowan discovers that it is a picture of Jack. But how would a stranger know Jack? And why would he insist she dropped it, even when she's never seen the photo in her entire life?

Jenny Valentine's rollercoaster ride of a novel seems fairly straightforward, but as it draws you in deeper you realize that nothing is ever as it seems. For a story that looks as if it will be a realistic fiction novel or a drama, the author sure manages to throw in a lot of unexpected twists. I won't give anything away but if you read Broken Soup, prepare yourself for a gut-wrenching, heartstring-pulling tidal wave of emotions.

One thing I liked about the story was the simple writing. There aren't any grand flourishes or fireworks to accompany the plot. It isn't descriptive or detailed, it's just regular people talking and trying to figure things out, and to move on from a tragic death in the only way they know how. And it works. The author has come up with an incredibly well written story that is very subtle and deceptive in a way. I certainly didn't quite know what to make of it in the beginning, but Jenny Valentine deftly tied all the strings together to make the book and all the twists work. It was both original and unpredictable, and I didn't see any of the twists coming. It was as heartbreaking as it was heart-warming. I would happily recommend Broken Soup to anyone thirteen and over.

I give Jenny Valentine's Broken Soup four fresh stars.

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