In the past two weeks, I have been slowly but surely reading The Broken Girls by Simone St. James. It took me a while to figure out how I felt about the book, as it turned out far different from what I expected. I originally saw the book on a new release list online in March, and saved it on my wish list. When I purchased it last month, I didn't reread the description, since I vaguely remembered the book was about girls in a boarding school, and it sounded good. Though the book is about a school for unwanted and problematic girls, the book goes beyond that concept and incorporates suspense, murder, history, and the supernatural. All of which, in my mind, make for a perfect book - if done right! For example, The Unquiet Grave by Sharyn McCrumb was fantastic and had a supernatural element but it wasn't meant to be scary. Since learning that this book had a supernatural theme, I was intrigued to see how this different novel would unfold.
The Broken Girls is a suspense novel that travels back and forth between a town in Vermont in 1950 to 2014. Idlewild Hall was a school for the illegitimate, the troublemakers, and the unwanted, which housed four of the main characters, a group of young girls in their teens in the 1950's. As the girls' friendship grows, one of them goes missing. The book also offers the perspective and life of Fiona Sheridan, an adult journalist in 2014. Unbeknownst to her, Fiona's story eerily ties in with the young girls of 1950. Fiona cannot stop questioning the circumstances that surrounded her sister's death after her body was found on the abandoned site of Idlewild Hall twenty years ago. When Fiona finds out Idlewild Hall is being restored after many decades of being shut down she begins to conduct her own research in hopes of reaching answers, yet she quickly finds more than she could have ever imagined.
As readers find out, The Broken Girls is not solely a novel based on the suspense, as it incorporates the supernatural. This supernatural touch adds a spin on this thriller in a tasteful and appealing way. The young girls of Idlewild Hall are familiar with the rumors of the ghost, Mary Hand, haunting the Idelwild Hall grounds. The rumors of this ghost that floated around the campus of Idlewild Hall in the 1950's arise in Fiona's search of the mysteries surrounding her sister's death and the newly renovated land of Idlewild Hall. As the secrets and mysteries of the school and the town come to the forefront, the book encourages readers to ask the question of who, or better yet, what, caused the disappearances and murders of two young girls?
The book is truly a mix of the supernatural and suspenseful. From the ghost stories, to the detailed lives and relationships of the characters, to the murders and mysteries surrounding the Idlewild Hall, St. James easily intertwines all of the different elements of the book. The book offers many story lines and characters but it blends them all in a way that makes it easy to distinguish. One thing that makes a book stand out to me is the way it makes me feel. While reading the supernatural accounts of Mary Hand, the novel's ghostly figure, I actually became a little nervous and ended up turning on my nightstand lamp (at night I usually read with a clip on light attached to my book). Though embarrassing to admit, it goes to show that the way St. James writes can evoke feelings such as fear.
There are twists in the book that I did not anticipate and the end was shocking, yet brilliantly written. It is written in a way that keeps each character's own story separate but brings them all together in a unique and fascinating way. St. James made every detail tie together effortlessly. I wasn't left wondering what happened or why, and felt a sense of finality on the novel's conclusion. Though it is a suspense novel, its overall theme is a bit different than other suspense novels that have been reviewed on this blog. However, fans of The Woman in the Window may find this book appealing. If readers like a good thrill with a twist of the supernatural then this is a good choice. Though it took me a while to get into the book, I ended up thoroughly enjoying the novel. Simply put, this book is deep, spooky, and suspenseful, which all make for a fascinating experience.
Title: The Broken Girls
Author: Simone St. James
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Berkley (March 20, 2018)
Price: Amazon $14.51