Author: Megan Miranda
Genre: Speculative Fiction, Thriller, Young Adult
Publisher: Walker & Co/Bloomsbury PLC
Publication date: January 2012
Hardcover: 264 pages
Eleven minutes passed before Delaney Maxwell was pulled from the icy waters of a Maine lake by her best friend Decker Phillips. By then her heart had stopped beating. Her brain had stopped working. She was dead. And yet she somehow defied medical precedent to come back seemingly fine — despite the scans that showed significant brain damage. Everyone wants Delaney to be all right, but she knows she’s far from normal. Pulled by strange sensations she can’t control or explain, Delaney finds herself drawn to the dying. Is her altered brain now predicting death, or causing it?
Then Delaney meets Troy Varga, who recently emerged from a coma with similar abilities. At first she’s reassured to find someone who understands the strangeness of her new existence, but Delaney soon discovers that Troy’s motives aren’t quite what she thought. Is their gift a miracle, a freak of nature-or something much more frightening?
For fans of best-sellers like Before I Fall and If I Stay, this is a fascinating and heart-rending story about love and friendship and the fine line between life and death.
Stand alone or series: Stand alone novel
How did we get this book: ARCs from the Publisher
Why did we read this book: We scooped up ARCs last year at BEA and have been holding on to them until the release month finally rolled around. A girl who miraculously survives eleven minutes of icy submersion sounded pretty cool to the both of us.
Thea: Fracture has one of the most effective excerpts I’ve read in a long time (see the “On The Plot” section for that) – I was hooked by that little snipped and eagerly plunged into the book without really knowing what it would be about. Near death experiences that leave a protagonist inexplicably changed, usually with some sort of preternatural connection to death/the dying/psychic abilities/etc is a fairly common trope in speculative fiction, but I was keen on seeing just how Megan Miranda would spin it to fit her particular story.1 While Fracture has a killer beginning and an eerie quality to the writing that sticks with readers, I don’t quite feel like it lived up to the potential of its early chapters. It’s an enjoyable book and a quick read, but I can’t help but feel like there could have been more to the story.
Ana: I didn’t have any real expectations about Fracture beyond hoping it would be a good read. Overall, I pretty much agree with Thea on all accounts: the book starts off really well, the writing is competent, there are a few strong elements throughout and it was a breezy read. But toward the second half, the story lags considerably, the plot it’s all over the place and many things were just underdeveloped. I too, don’t think it lives up to its potential and I finished it feeling underwhelmed.
On the Plot:
A lot can happen in eleven minutes. Decker can run two miles easily in eleven minutes. I once wrote an English essay in ten. No lie. And God knows Carson Levine can talk a girl out of her clothes in half that time.
Eleven minutes might as well be eternity under water. It only takes three minutes without air for loss of consciousness. Permanent brain damage begins at four minutes. And then, when the oxygen runs out, full cardiac arrest occurs. Death is possible at five minutes. Probable at seven. Definite at ten.
Decker pulled me out at eleven.
Thea: On a cold Maine evening, Delaney and her best friend Decker head out to meet friends for a night of fun. Things go terribly wrong when Delaney slips while crossing a frozen lake and the ice fractures beneath her.
For eleven minutes, Delaney is submerged in the freezing water.
When she awakens, she finds herself in a hospital bed, a week after her fall. For seven days, Delaney has been in a coma from which no one expects her to awaken, certainly not with all of her cognitive processes. Her medical scans show irreparable brain damage – Delaney should be a vegetable. But she’s not. Delaney is a bonafide medical miracle, back from the dead without any side effects…except for the strange pull she feels towards people who are about to die. Delaney soon learns that she’s not alone when she meets Troy Varga, an older boy who also survived incredible trauma and should not be alive. Both Delaney and Troy feel the pull of death, but the question remains: what will they do with their newfound power?
As I’ve said before, the near death experience leading to supernatural abilities is a fairly familiar trope, though it can be very fun and effective if done well. Fracture begins by hitting all the right notes – there’s a sense of foreboding in Delaney’s narrative as she heads out onto the ice, and later when she awakens in her hospital bed and the gradual horror of what has happened dawns on her. There’s a beautiful, creeping dread to the atmosphere of Fracture, which I credit in large part because Megan Miranda’s ability to tell a story plainly, without excess or embellishment. Delaney’s emotions are raw and vulnerable, and the novel’s prose sparing and restrained – take that excerpted section above, for example. I loved that the book is no longer than it needs to be, and that this story is complete in and of itself, without needing to drag things out over a series. Fracture is at its best in the quiet and the cold, and is a refreshingly contained book both in style and in substance.
Praises said, there were things that kept me from truly loving the book with wholehearted abandon. While the first chapters of the novel had so much potential, the book never quite lives up to that initial promise. While Delaney’s struggle to understand what has happened to her and her newfound “power” is an engaging conflict and I loved the way the story shifted and comes down to an ideological difference between Delaney and Troy, there was a missing sense of urgency to the novel. Delaney’s actions were so frustrating because instead of actually TALKING to people she loves and trusts, she bottles things up or quite incompetently, halfheartedly tries to save people from death – and when she fails, she takes it as a sign of the inevitable.2 Delaney is so reactionary, and for all her claims that she’s “smart” is headdeskingly dense. But more on that in a bit.
I guess the thing that was so disappointing for me about this book was that haunting sense of unfulfilled potential. Nothing new is tried with the familiar supernatural power after dying trope, Delaney’s passivity, and the predictable drama/quadrangle between Delaney, Troy, Decker, and Tara is tepid at best. There’s also some jarring repetition towards the later chapters of the book (Delaney’s repeated assertions that she’s a smart girl, the “if you only had one day to live” question, the incessant “I’m a miracle…I’m damaged…am I human?” loop through Delaney’s narrative), and some unresolved/half-baked threads between Delaney and her mother’s troubled past (where the heck does that fit in?) only detracted from the experience.
Ana: In the interest of full disclosure, as this definitely impacted on how I felt about the book – I am not really a fan of the “near death experience leading to supernatural abilities” trope. Having said that, I kind of feel that the supernatural element was out of place here and the strongest aspect of Fracture for me were the non-supernatural bits. From Delaney’s strong narrative voice to her relationships with family and friends; from her strained recovery after the accident to the psychological issues that stemmed from it which included a bit of survivor’s guilt and eventual realisation about how fragile life is. These are the things that made the book so readable and relatable. These elements were really well done and thought-provoking. I also quite liked the romantic elements of the plot and thought the whole relationship with Decker was quite sweet if predictable.
But then we also have the unexplainable supernatural pull of death that she got after the accident and to me they almost felt like an after-thought. Although the whole things do add a degree of suspense especially when it comes to her relationship with Troy, it was also the greatest source of frustration when reading the novel. How could Delaney not add one plus one when it came to Troy’s activities when it was all so obvious? Does everybody coming from a near-death experience get the “pull of death”? What does that mean to Delaney’s life in the long-term? Will she be going through life telling people to Carpe Diem? There is this incredibly slow build up in the first half and then the last part of the novel is so rushed up and so many things are left unresolved – at least for me – that I honestly thought the book was the first in a series.
On the Characters:
Thea: If I was initially won over by the writing, I was somewhat less thrilled by the characters. Delaney as a heroine has potential because she’s so introspective and open with her emotions, which I love, but dense, repetitive, and ultimately passive with her abilities, which is incredibly frustrating to read. Obviously, there’s a lot of soul searching she must do in this book and her examination of what makes a person human – a heart and two legs? A working brain? – is initially endearing, but goes cold by the end of the novel because of the constant repetition. I also wasn’t very impressed with her character arc and how easily she gives up on her abilities or exploring what she could possibly do with her gift for seeking out death.
From a secondary character perspective, I loved that there is a complicated relationship between Delaney and her mother, but the mother’s troubled family past comes out of left field and is never really convincingly integrated in the story. From the boy side of the equation, Delaney, predictably, has a close friendship with Decker that is complicated by more intense emotions that aren’t quite platonic. There’s the predictable tension and drama when Delaney meets Troy (an older boy who OF COURSE is hot and into Delaney instantly), and as Decker seeks his own solace in the arms of Tara (a girl that Delaney can’t stand). And, instead of acknowledging feelings or talking about things, when Decker confesses his emotions and lays his heart bare for Delaney, she frustratingly makes up some ridiculous excuses and refuses to deal with the issues at hand. It’s incredibly annoying, and felt less like a girl struggling to deal with her own issues than a device to continue to produce romantic tension.
Ana: Delaney is the narrator and one of my favourite things about Fracture is her narrative voice: sometimes she came across raw and vulnerable, sometimes naïve and cheesy and as much as she sometimes frustrated me I always felt her to be relatable in a very honest, realistic way. I enjoyed Delaney and Decker’s relationship and how it evolved from friendship to love and I loved how it wasn’t an easy thing. There were hurdles along the way and mistakes were made by both parts which only made it all the more genuine.
Despite its soap opera-inspired name, Troy Vargas was perhaps the most fascinating character of the bunch. He was truly, REALLY messed up and his actions were ethically, morally wrong but he was not an evil, downright black and white villainous character. I do feel that his eventual demise was a bit of a cop-out and I would have liked to see real consequences for his actions. There is also a secondary plot-line involving Delaney’s mother and her breakdown about her own past which is thrown in left-field and was never truly integrated in the story.
Finally, I disliked the way some of the secondary female characters were described in the book as most of their descriptions included their too “tight” clothes and it felt too close to slut-shaming for my tastes and it did leave a bad taste in my mouth.
Final Thoughts, Observations & Rating:
Thea: I loved the initial setup for the book and the atmospheric writing, however the characters and ultimate plot fell short of living up to its true potential. Fracture is a quick, diverting read, but I can’t help but feel like I needed a little more.
Ana: Fracture was a very uneven read. It has a strong start, good writing and a thought-provoking theme but it lost itself in its faltering pacing, unresolved issues and unnecessary paranormal shenanigans. It is not a bad book but it could have been much better and ultimately, I was rather disappointed.
Thea: 6 – Good, recommended with reservations
Ana: 5 – Not really that good, not really that bad
Reading Next: The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe
Buy the Book:
- For the record, my favorite yardstick for near-death-experience-transforms-hero-with-supernatural-ties is Dean Koontz’s Hideaway. You know, the book that was turned into a movie starring Jeff Goldblum, Jeremy Sisto, and Alicia Silverstone? THAT one. ↩
- REALLY? After trying a handful of times you just collapse and give up?? COME ON NOW, HEROINE. ↩