The Broken Girls by Simone St. James / ★★★★☆
Summary: In 1950, Idlewild Hall boarding school is a place for girls no one wants. There, Katie, CeCe, Sonia, and Roberta band together in misery, fear and close friendship until one of them mysteriously disappears. In 2014, sixty four years later, Fiona is determined to finally put together the pieces of how her older sister was murdered and dumped on the old, abandoned grounds of Idlewild Hall. Meanwhile, a mysterious figure looms in the background…
The police don’t have all the answers, and neither does the government. The people are where you find things. Like those records you just found. The people are the ones who keep the memories and the records the powers that be would rather erase.
Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Paranormal/Historical Fiction
The Broken Girls was THOROUGHLY enjoyable, eerie book, and if you like a good ghost story, I highly recommend this one. It blends storylines from the past and present together in a compelling mix of historical fiction, thriller/mystery, and paranormal. I coasted right through this book in two days, and while some of the plot points didn’t necessarily shock me, I loved how all the elements from these genres came together, and I thought it was really, really well done. Especially the ghost story. You’d think a story with murder and murderers would be the scariest part, but no, it was the paranormal stuff that had my skin crawling. I love ghost stories, but they have to be the right amount of spookiness without going overboard, and Simone St. James absolutely nailed it.
The historical fiction aspect of it was very unexpected, perhaps because this book is set in Vermont, but somehow manages to take you all the way back to Ravensbruk, an all-women concentration camp in WWII Germany. The theme of women’s lack of voice – or really, lack of voice by anyone deemed weak or shamed – and the way this book illuminated it and brought their stories to the surface was very well done.
If I have anything to complain about it would be the romantic plotline of this book between the present day protagonist Fiona and her cop boyfriend, which bored me and felt a little unnecessary when I was eager to get back to the mystery and the ghosts and the flashbacks of the past at the foreboding Idlewild Hall. But otherwise- this book was great, and I very, very much enjoyed it.
I didn’t expect to end up loving the characters so much, especially the girls living in the boarding school in the 1950s. Their friendship was sad and wonderful and strong, and they really felt like they bound all the different plot lines in this book. They were the biggest strength, characterwise. I liked Fiona, our 2014 protagonist, and admired her ambition and gumption in uncovering the mysteries of the past. It was her boyfriend, Jamie, that I was kind of “eh” about. He wasn’t bad, or unlikeable, he was just…there.
But the real MVP is Mary Hand. Thank you Mary Hand for being terrifying and everything I love about this book.
The writing was eerie and descriptive, and most of all I loved the pace of this book. It’s not particularly long, but it’s also not very short either, and I just flew through it. It was easy, entertaining, and very compelling and the writing style really aided that.
Was I satisfied?
Yes! Except with some minor issues, I really, really enjoyed this book. I need more ghost stories like this.