Today I’m VERY excited to have CJ Lyons stop by to promote her new release, Broken. Broken is a young adult mystery/thriller that was released November 5, 2013 by Sourcebooks Fire.
About the Book
Author: CJ Lyons
Pub Date: 11/5/13
Format: e-book, hardcover
Pages: 325 pages
Pub: Sourcebooks Fire
Read: November 16, 2013
Book Pages: Amazon.com • Goodreads.com • Author’s Website
Book Type: YA, mystery, thriller
New York Times bestselling author CJ Lyons makes her YA debut with a fast-paced thriller sure to keep readers guessing to the very last page
The only thing fifteen-year-old Scarlet Killian has ever wanted is a chance at a normal life. Diagnosed with a rare and untreatable heart condition, she has never taken the school bus. Or giggled with friends during lunch. Or spied on a crush out of the corner of her eye. So when her parents offer her three days 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 this high school is far from normal. And finding out the truth might just kill Scarlet before her heart does. (From Goodreads.com)
There was so much to like about this book! It has an interesting cover and catchy premise — but beyond that we’ve got a best-selling author who is also a medical doctor. I knew going in I was going to be in the medical realm, but I was SO impressed with how Lyons incorporated the medical information. Not only do we learn about our main protagonist, but we see lots of different medical issues throughout the story.
We begin the book with a fifteen year old girl named Scarlett on her first day of high school (ever). She has to carry a defibrillator everywhere she goes, because of her rare heart condition. At this point, I think it is important to note that while this book is a thriller, it is also very slow going in. I counted and I was 30% into the book before the first day ever ended. So roughly the first third of the book revolves around ONE day of this girl’s life. Obviously it picks up speed, but that did make it slow going for awhile. And the writing is good, so that isn’t the issue, it was just a really slow pace and I kept wanting it to jump from the gate.
There’s a couple of confusing issues with the beginning — like the encounter with the bully (she happens to know his name even though it is her first day, ever), but overall we really get to see into the dynamics and back story of Scarlett.
Scarlett has been sick since a very young age. Her mother died in child birth, but her father remarried. Honestly, if the author wouldn’t have told me she was a step mom, I would have never guessed. She is obsessed with Scarlett’s health (as you would expect any mother to be), and is worried about Scarlett trying to make it in HS. We get to see the dynamics of her working as the school nurse (and embarrassing Scarlett in the process).
Scarlett not only faces a severe medical issue, that has tried to kill her several times, but she is a very sheltered girl. I think had she been out in the world, she would have seen a lot of the signs. I also commend her on being able to find a great group of friends very quickly. The meeting was obviously a strategic move on the author, but they were all interesting characters.
One of her friends had a sister with autism. Scarlett’s mother says that even though the girl had autism, it was no excuse to have the behavior she did. That was hard to read, because so many people feel that way. I really commend Lyons in bringing this social issue of misunderstanding people with disabilities and bullying to light. The kids in this group are tormented because 1. a sick parent and sister with autism, 2. a sister committed suicide, and 3. a girlfriend committed suicide. It’s so asinine, but it is reality. And Scarlett is mocked furiously for being sick. It’s incredibly ridiculous when you read it in black and white, but people do it every day. I really think Lyons did a great job making that not only a part of the story, but leaving that idea rolling around in the readers’ heads.
There are a lot of things that I can’t talk about from here on out. There are several plot twists in the book – some I expected, but others I didn’t. Even though I expected the results, the way Lyons presented the information was not at all how I was expecting. It also is a little open-ended on what exactly happened with other people (besides Scarlett). Vague, yes, but you will understand when you read it!
The ending was great, because it wasn’t happily ever after, but very realistic. I hope that Scarlett has a long, full life. I know she sure does deserve it!
It was definitely a unique read and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes crime tv, medical shows, etc.
Inside the Author’s Head
Jess: Welcome to the blog! This story takes what could be a contemporary, ‘tough issues’ type book and turns it on its head – it adds a thrilling, mysterious component. Can you first tell readers where the idea came from for Broken?
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 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?
Jess: What kind of research did you have to do to prepare yourself to write Broken?
CJ: Not much! Given my seventeen years of practicing pediatrics and pediatric emergency medicine, this was one book that I’d already lived.
Jess: How did your studies and experiences in life help shape who you are as a writer?
CJ: There’s a touch of medicine and my real life experiences in all my books (although none of my real life patients, of course!) but one of the reasons I call my books Thrillers with Heart is that they’re more about the people and the challenges they face and less about the medical science or technology or adrenaline-rush action.
Working as a pediatric ER doctor and community pediatrician gave me the chance to experience first-hand highly charged emotional situations that I can translate to any of my characters, whether they’re physicians or not. For instance, I’ve been in two hard landings while flying in helicopters, I’ve talked down agitated gang-bangers and violent adults, I’ve helped families say good-bye to their children as they died, I’ve gotten confessions from child abusers, and even come face to face with a serial killer.
Jess: Okay, so I always like to see what authors read. What are your top five favorite books and why?
CJ: Only five? Yikes! Guess I’ll start with the classics. One that I’ve read so many times that I’ve gone through several copies is Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. I love the lyricism and the honest portrayal of adults and kids who are very fallible, yet also find the courage to make a stand. Also Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale simply transported me with the poetry of his language and his evocative characters. I also am constantly re-reading Perrault’s Fairy Tales (much grimmer than Grimm’s, pun intended!). As a pediatrician, I adored Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak and recommended it to many of my patients. I’ll read anything by Ellen Hopkins (YA or her adult books—she could write a shopping list and I’d read it!) or Sarah Addison Allen (hey, we all could use a little magic in our lives, especially when you’re a thriller writer like me!). I could go on all day, but I think that’s five…or six…
Jess: Night owl or early bird? How does it help with your writing process?
CJ: Early bird. I love waking up first thing in the morning with my characters already talking to me, urging me to get to the keyboard to write down what’s going on with them.
Jess: Did you always know you wanted to be an author?
CJ: I’ve always used stories to makes sense of the world around me—it’s my coping mechanism for dealing with chaos. But I never really thought of writing as a career until after I sold my second novel–that’s second novel sold. I’d written my first novel in high school followed by two SF/F novels in medical school. I think I had five or six full novels and several half-started ones finished by the time I sold my first book.
Jess: If you could live in one ‘book world’ which one would it be and why?
CJ: Wow! Tough question. The worlds of most of my favorite books are too dangerous (like Hunger Games, Neil Gaiman, or Harry Potter)—maybe I need to be reading lighter books, lol! I guess I’d have to choose the world of Dr. Who, as long as I could be in the TARDIS with all of space and time to choose from…and if you could include the David Tennant version of the Doctor, well, I’d never leave! (Ahh, yes! Let’s go!)
Jess: What projects do you think you’ll work on next now that Broken has been published?
CJ: 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 black mailed 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.
About the Author
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of seventeen novels, former pediatric ER doctor CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge Thrillers with Heart.
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).
Connect with CJ