Book Review: Other Broken Things by Christa Desir
Nat’s not an alcoholic. She doesn’t have a problem. Everybody parties, everybody does stupid things, like get in their car when they can barely see. Still, with six months of court-ordered AA meetings required, her days of vodka-filled water bottles are over.
Unfortunately her old friends want the party girl or nothing. Even her up-for-anything ex seems more interested in rehashing the past than actually helping Nat.
But then a recovering alcoholic named Joe inserts himself into Nat’s life and things start looking up. Joe is funny, smart, and calls her out in a way no one ever has.
He’s also older. A lot older.
Nat’s connection to Joe is overwhelming but so are her attempts to fit back into her old world, all while battling the constant urge to crack a bottle and blur that one thing she’s been desperate to forget.
Now in order to make a different kind of life, Natalie must pull together her broken parts and learn to fight for herself.
5 Things I Loved About OTHER BROKEN THINGS:
1. Nat’s Voice
From the very first line – “I would cut a bitch for a cigarette” – I found Nat’s voice to be authentic and engaging. She rough around the edges in every way, but as you find out more about who she is and why you can’t help being drawn into her story.
2. Characters Engaged in Unconventional Activities
Nat is a boxer, a female boxer. I really enjoy reading stories that highlight teens being engaged in activities that we don’t often read about. And in this story, you feel Nat’s passion for her sport, a passion that she is being denied by people who care more about what other people think than honoring the autonomy and spirit of the person standing before you. Nat was being asked to deny who she was and so many teens can relate to that story.
3. Women Standing Up for Themselves
I can’t go too much into detail about this because it comes near the end of the book and it is an important part of Nat’s journey. However, Nat comes from a very patriarchal home and she is not the only one who is being squashed by the demands of others. An important turning point happens when an important figure in Nat’s life stands up not only for Nat, but for herself.
4. The Depiction of Addiction and the Age of Consent
At the end of the day, Other Broken Things is about brokenness and addiction. I have worked with author Christa Desir for a couple of years now on the #SVYALit Project so I am familiar with her training as a rape victim advocate and her opinion of rape and consent. Nat is a 17-year-old girl struggling with addiction. She is court mandated to go to AA meetings, where she meets a much older man that she connects with. Eventually, that relationship because more than a sponsor relationship. It is fundamentally important that there are several people in this story who tell Nat that she is just replacing one unhealthy addiction – alcohol – with another – a codependent relationship. And there are several people in the story who point out that the age difference is not only a problem, but possibly illegal. I have read a lot of YA literature that has romanticized the teenage girl/older guy relationship and appreciated that this book does not. Desir is the queen of dysfunctional relationships and she excels at making sure that young readers who are now just navigating the relationship waters at least has some counter viewpoints in the story that suggest that this, dear readers, is not a healthy relationship to be idealized and romanticized.
At the same time, Desir gives a strong look into the world of addiction, emphasizing that the addictive personality that underlays addiction can express that addiction in many, many ways. Nat’s addiction is not just alcohol, it’s just that her addiction to alcohol is what got her caught and into the therapy that she desperately needs.
5. Pregnancy Loss
There is a subplot in this story that I really appreciated involving pregnancy loss from both the female and male point of view. Desir gives a male character a strong voice in expressing the loss that he feels regarding a pregnancy loss. As someone who has written multiple times about the lack of miscarriage and pregnancy loss in YA literature, because it does happen and it does have emotional consequences, I appreciated how Desir handled this topic.
I thought this was a strong, powerful story that was engaging and moving. The characters had depth, authentic voices, and I know that many of my teens would find them completely authentic and relateable. Highly recommended.
Comes out in January 2016 from Simon Pulse.
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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