Broken by CJ Lyons
"Fifteen-year-old Scarlet Killian has one chance for a normal life. Only problem? It just might kill her. Diagnosed with a rare and untreatable heart condition, Scarlet has never taken the school bus. Or giggled with friends during lunch. Or spied on a crush out of the corner of her eye. Scarlet has come to terms with the fact that despite the best efforts of her doctors and parents, she's going to die. Literally of a broken heart. So when her parents offer her a week 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 for the first time in her life she makes real friends. She also makes new discoveries about the truth behind her illness... a truth that might just kill her before her heart does."- summary from publisher
I liked this book and it was interesting to read a story with this particular angle, and Lyons does a good job educating the reader about this rare disease without it seeming too much of an info-dump. Scarlet is a great main character, and I do think readers will identify with her and enjoy her sense of humor as well as the wonder of being in a high school and learning one's way around. There is kind of a love triangle (and a little insta-love but there is some good chemistry between them shown throughout the book) but it never really becomes fully-formed due to one of the guys really being more of a protector than a real love interest, which I liked.
The thriller aspect seemed a bit tagged on. There's some hints here and there throughout the book but it really doesn't get going until like the last 75 pages or so which makes it feel a bit rushed. I also didn't feel enough closure at the end of the book; I was really hoping for a bit more.
Overall, Lyons has written a wonderful, engaging YA debut and I cannot wait to see what she writes next!
and here's an interview with CJ:
Scarlet’s character is loosely based on my own experiences as a pediatrician. I diagnosed my niece, Abby, with the same congenital heart condition, Long QT, when Abby was only twenty minutes old and BROKEN is dedicated to her.
Watching my niece refuse to allow her disease to define her was such a contrast to some other patients’ parents who would insist on making their child’s disease (most not life-threatening) the center of the child’s world that I couldn’t help but wonder what would it be like to grow up being treated as a “patient” all your life, or worse as the “dying girl,” rather than ever having the chance to figure out who you really were, dying or not.
What better disease to give a character like that than something rare and hard to diagnose and treat like Long QT? Of course, Scarlet is nothing at all like my niece (the best adjective to describe my niece would be “fierce” whereas Scarlet is very naïve and used to being controlled by the adults in her life) but by having Scarlet start the story as someone unsure of who she really is as a person, it makes her struggle and transformation as she faces the truth behind her illness all the more powerful.
After all, it’s easy for someone who is already strong to stand up to bullies or uncertainty or injustice…but how does a kid who has lived all her life in a hospital, basically just waiting to die, learn how to be a hero and find her destiny?
2) What are you working on currently? Can you tell us anything about it?
I just turned in my second YA Thriller and this one was so hard to write! It deals with two kids, Jesse and Miranda, being blackmailed by a cyber-predator using capping (screen capture images) and how they find the courage to stand up to him (with the help of their parents). They go through hell and some of the things that happen to them were so painful to write that I was weeping as I typed—but then I was crying again when I wrote the ending as they rose above it all and triumphed.
I thought it would be a stand alone, but after I finished it (the working title is DAMAGED, but I’m not sure if we’ll be keeping it) I realized there aren’t many books out there that tell you the rest of the story, the price to be paid for defeating the bad guys, so I’d love to tackle another book with Jesse and Miranda and show how their courage, strength, and relationship continue to evolve.
3) What is your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor(s)? Or, if you don't like those, a favorite snack to have while writing or as a reward for writing?
Watermelon, I especially love how it’s green on the outside and pink on the inside, yet tastes nothing like a real watermelon...it’s like gobbling down an abstract expressionist painting!
4) You created this program called Buy a Book, Make a Difference. How did that get started, and tell us how people can help.
I lost a dear friend during my pediatric internship. Thanks to the work of dedicated police officers and forensic experts, his killer was caught. But there are some areas of the country where crimes go unsolved and killers go free because of a lack of forensic training.
After I hit #2 on the New York Times bestseller list, I wanted to give something back—both to honor Jeff’s memory as well as my readers’ generosity. I began the Buy a Book, Make a Difference (http://cjlyons.net/buy-a-book-make-a-difference/) program to raise funds for worthy charities (for BROKEN, we donated to American Heart Association, we’ve also given to Reading is Fundamental, Doctors without Borders, and St Judes Children’s Hospital) and also to create scholarships in Jeff’s name.
So far we’ve created fifty-four CSI scholarships for police officers from underfunded communities all over the US and Puerto Rico.
The best way people can help is to share this link: http://www.sirchie.com/training/training-programs/farkasscholarship.html (it goes directly to the Sirchie forensic institute’s page with info on the scholarships, not to my site) with their local law enforcement departments and let them know that if they need the training, there’s someone willing to help.
5) Broken is your YA debut. Had you read much YA before attempting your own? What do you like most about writing YA?
I’ve always loved reading YA and everyone kept telling me that as a pediatrician, I should write it. But honestly, I never found a story that I thought was worthy of my kids—my patients—until BROKEN. Writing for kids is tons tougher than writing for adults. Most grownups read for entertainment, but kids read for so much more. They want to vicariously experience the world and the choices they’ll be expected to make as adults as well as learn who they are and how they can fit into that larger universe once they’re the ones in charge.
Funny thing is, once I began BROKEN and found my YA voice (very different than my adult thrillers’ narrative voice), I realized I could be much more emotionally honest than with my adult work—which also meant I could tell edgier stories. After finishing BROKEN, I now have ideas for more YA thrillers and can’t wait to write them!
6) What book(s) are you currently reading, or are about to start?
I just finished Jess Shirvington’s Endless, am working my way through the awesome Wonderbook (a must read for all writers!) by Jeff Vandermeer, am re-reading Pat Conroy’s Prince of Tides, juggling a few nonfiction research books on psychopaths, stalking, and surviving disasters, and am getting ready to start an advance copy of Lisa Gardner’s Fear Nothing…can you tell my greatest fear is being stranded without a book, lol!
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 www.CJLyons.net