At its core, ALL THE BROKEN PIECES by Cindi Madsen is a mystery. The author gives us little glimpses, piece by piece, into solving the overall puzzle, while we join the main character in what is, on the surface, a contemporary romance. Whether you want it to be more of a mystery or more of a romance with lots of teenage angst will determine your overall enjoyment of the book. I was in it for the mystery, and that fact is what my review of the book is based on.
When it comes to covering teenage problems and constructing realistic interactions and a strong dynamic between two potential love interests, Cindi is an absolute master. Through the character, Liv, she portrays a comprehensive profile of a modern day teen. All the hopes, all the insecurities, all the thoughts, actions and reactions, all the confusion and all the desires are portrayed in this one girl. The fact that she has multiple “personalities” to deal with probably contributes greatly to the psychological and emotional depth of her character, but in Liv I saw myself about 15 years ago, and I only had to deal with ONE voice!
When it comes to the story about how Liv deals with being the new girl in a small town as well as her budding relationship with the boy, Spencer, you will find a book similar to Mean Girls meets Revived by Cat Patrick. And for most of the book, that is how it feels: like nothing more than a sweet romance and coming-of-age story. That’s a compliment in my book, since I loved Revived by Cat Patrick, and you can’t get more high school angst than Mean Girls. But I did find that (for me) the “mystery” element was slightly lacking…
Throughout the entire book, you DO feel a sense of something being “not quite right”. But who is at fault and what exactly is going on with Liv? Who, or what, was she before she woke up from her coma? All these questions and more are asked and asked and asked again… and all these questions ARE answered! If only it wasn’t all so predictable (to me, at least) I would have been quite intrigued! I had a fairly good idea what was happening fairly early on (too much love for Frankenstein, I suppose) and so the element of surprise was ultimately ruined (for me, I have known some others who had no idea up to the end).
I also had difficultly getting into Liv’s ongoing preoccupation over what type of crowd she wanted to be part of, as well as the whole “labeling” thing that is stamped all over the dialogue. Blame it on my age. Like I said earlier, Liv was totally me about 15 years ago. I do think that teens would sympathize with her character quite well. Liv and Spencer (and their peers) all behave exactly as teens do today, making this novel darn near as realistic as it can get – in that aspect, at least. You may have to suspend your disbelief when it comes to the biological aspects of the novel. The mystery is a bit of a stretch, but it is still touching and understandable in a highly unusual way.
As a standalone novel, ALL THE BROKEN PIECES is a fully satisfying read. I have to say that I appreciated how Cindi ended the book, at a point that mixes both the idea of hope as well as the fact that life goes on, however imperfect that life may be. We may not have ALL the answers, but we can live knowing that, regardless, we will be alright.