The Broken Girls

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 30 Apr 2018

Member Reviews

We continue in my quest to catch up with my NetGalley life, and again I find myself wondering how these books came into my knowledge. To be fair, I'd be willing to guess several of them are from the emails NetGalley sends out, saying "hey here's a book you might like" and I click to get it and promptly forget about the existence of books in general.

This is basically the story of my life. You may have noticed this by now.

But this one I tracked back down as a library book in one of my local places of book-finding (I'm tired; cut me some slack) and was perfectly content to try it on for size. And luckily, I found something worth reading.

That may not sound like a glowing endorsement, and maybe it's not. I had just finished reading an incredibly lackluster and confusing book, so my brain was already a little bit in shambles from that and THE BROKEN GIRLS does jump back and forth between time periods and characters, so at first I was a little nervous. I didn't have much reason to be, I found rather quickly. The author does a nice job of keeping it very obvious who is telling what story, and in what time frame. And while the overall plot is fairly predictable, every twist and turn isn't completely telegraphed three chapters in advance. There are just enough things to make you say "oooohhhh, okay" to outweigh the "well, obviously" moments.

Two stories running in parallel: the story of a group of girls trying to survive the horrors of the awful boarding school they're at, and the modern-day story of a woman obsessed with her sister's murder. The connecting point? Sister's body was dropped on the grounds of said now-abandoned boarding school. But wait, there's more. Some random person from not-locally (and in this small town, non-locals are The Outsider Who Will Not Be Tolerated) is going to rebuild this terrible school?? Something must stop this!

Fiona as our modern-day protagonist neatly walks the line between grief-stricken sister and completely obsessed unhinged person without ever being fully one or the other. Her romance subplot is...not unnecessary but feels a little forced, and he doesn't have much of a personality other than "being the foil to Fiona." The plot on her end of the timeline is interesting and doesn't necessarily take all the easy ways out, which was nice. That being said, there aren't that many surprises either. 

The story following the girls of the past is an interesting look into what the world of 1950s boarding schools might have looked like, particularly for the type of castaway children who seem to inhabit Idlewild. There are some fascinating glimpses into moments in history, and while their drama may seem extreme, it's never unbelievable. There do seem to be one or two more of them than the story needed, but that may just be me. The book didn't seem quite long enough to give all of the girls their own needed personality and plot. Particularly when the plot narrows down to just a few of them. (Avoiding spoilers.)

The one outlier that I can't quite decide what I think about it is that there is a supernatural aspect to the core of the story, and it seems to waver between unnecessary and integral to the plot. That is, they make it entirely the focus of portions of the plot...but I don't know that the story needed it. I feel like it could have happened another way. That being said, I do rather like what they did, and it gave a spooky vibe that was able to carry through the entire book, and wrap it all together in a way that the other plot pieces couldn't on their own. So maybe it was necessary in the end. Like I said, I'm a little torn on how I feel about it.

All in all, it's a decent read. Relatively quick, and despite the dark themes it's not going to bog you down in distress. I don't know that I'd go out of my way to read it again, but if the author's name crossed my path again, I'd be willing to see what she had in store.

Rating: *** (Worth a Look)
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Years ago, I remember seeing a movie called Ghost Story that had older actors like Fred Astaire and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in it, well beyond their prime. (just looked it up, 1981) It was spooky in a way that didn't make you afraid of the dark or give you nightmares afterward. The Broken Girls reminds me of that. 

It flips between 1950 and 2014 and the main action takes place at an old Vermont boarding school for "troubled" girls that has been deserted since 1979. In 1950 a girl went missing and her roommates never gave up on wanting to find out what happened to her. Fiona, a sort of journalist, in 2014, can't let go of her older sister's murder in which her body was found on the grounds of the school decades ago. 

What Fiona uncovers, while trying to understand one mystery is a couple of more and what started as a younger sister seeking some sort of closure on her sister's murder to uncovering a few more older mysteries in the process now that the school is going to be restored. Within days of the dump trucks and backhoes arriving at the scene, they find a body in an old well that has been there since the '50's and what started as her own search for closure becomes an obsessive investigative journalistic story that will rock the town.

I couldn't put it down and the spookiness of the school then and the vacant shell now has a way of creeping under your skin in a smaller version of what Fee (AKA Fiona) most likely feels. Like I said, it was spooky, yet not nightmare-inducing spooky, my favorite kind of thriller or horror.
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Intensive, page turning and twisted. I loved this book, loved the direction it took, the secrets it held and I didn't want put the book down! It kept me guessing, never sure of where I was being taken, but I enjoyed the journey. T
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I didn't think I'd like the subject of this novel but turned out I did. I was engaged by the parallel storylines - of the troubled girls in the boarding school in the 1950's and the journalist in the present whose sister had been murdered. It was interesting how their stories intertwined. The murder and paranormal aspects that weaved around them both was fascinating. Well done!
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I received this copy for honest review. 
Thank you so much!
What a great thrill and suspence it was to read. What a great psychological thrill! This novel had everything in it. The  thrill, the suspence, the psychological, and the twist is crazy. This novel will keep you thinking and guessing. When you think you right, well let me just say that you might be wrong. This had me all over the place. My heart beatting so fast! I couldn't believe what I was reading. If had me in shock. Every page, every chapter was a page turner. I couldn't believe my eyes what I was reading. I highly recommend everybody get this book and read it. It will surprise you in every way.
#Netgallery
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I'm going to be thinking about this one for a while. It's intense and riveting; parts of it were truly terrifying, but it fizzled out towards the end. I don't know what I would've done to improve the last 10% of the book, but I wanted a bit more.
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Review: THE BROKEN GIRLS by Simone St. James

Extraordinarily engrossing! I adore this novel, the first I've read by Simone St. James. I was riveted. There is so much depth, of character, plot, and theme. There is so much injustice, both global and individualized. So many aspects of THE BROKEN GIRLS will reach out and impact readers of many viewpoints and interests. Ms. St. James capably weaves what are actually 4 separate time periods: contemporary small-town Vermont; the same community 20 years earlier in the mid-1990's; a private boarding school located in the country outside this community in 1950; and Nazi Germany. The interweaving is seamless, the tragedies are heart-wrenching, and the emotions constantly run high. I expect few readers will walk away untouched. Certainly none of the characters, strong as they are, remain immune.
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Award-winning, bestselling author Simone St. James has outdone herself in her novel, The Broken Girls, a fascinating thriller with a (supposedly) haunted old boarding school, the unsolved disappearance of a student, a murdered girl found on the school grounds with a convicted murderer and facts that don’t quite add up, and a journalist, Fiona Sheridan, who decides to write a story on the events. Although the old school has been abandoned for years, a mysterious person begins work in restoring the property; during the restoration, a body is found by a construction crew. Fiona busies herself in unraveling the mysteries surrounding the events and gets caught up in the mysterious happenings, putting herself and others in danger.

St. James is a skilled storyteller, and this story is one that has enough twists and turns that it is impossible to put down. And while there are a few seemingly supernatural aspects, it would definitely not qualify as horror - just plenty of suspense that builds throughout. The dénouement is unexpected and things aren’t worked out until the very end of the novel, which will keep readers on the edge of their seats and guessing during the entire book. The story flows well and is easy to follow, validating the author’s excellent writing skills. The characters are well developed, and readers will be able to relate them to real people. 

Highly recommended, The Broken Girls is a unique and well-written thriller that will appeal to almost everyone. There is no graphic violence, language or sex, so it is suitable for readers of every age. 

Special thanks to NetGalley for supplying a review copy of this book.
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The Broken Girls by Simone St. James is pretty much perfection in my opinion. This book exceeded my expectations in every way possible. I went into this book knowing two things: prep school for girls/mystery. This book is so much more than that. The novel is replete with a gothic atmosphere that transports you in time and place into the storyline. It is the perfect blend of mystery/thriller with extra special paranormal goodness sprinkled the whole way through!

The main portion of the story alternates back and forth between 1950 and 2014, following different girls/women in and around Barrens, Vermont, and more importantly Idlewilde Hall. I do not want to say too much about the story itself, as I wouldn't want to risk giving anything away to potential readers. Just know this - I put off reading this book for many months. I don't know why - I can't explain it - it just kept getting shuffled down the ole' tbr. Now, I can say, I am physically distraught at not having read this as soon as I got it. Okay - that may be taking it a little far but I do wish I would have picked it up immediately. I honestly do not have even one constructive criticism of this. Because of that this will be a very short review: This book is incredible. This book wants you to read it. This book will keep you up nights after...read it!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing Group, for providing me with a copy to review. I apologize to you, as well as to myself, that I didn't get to it until now. I am even going to run out and buy myself a copy so that I may read it again and share it with others - I love it that much!
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When journalist Fiona Sheridan hears that the deserted Idlewild Hall is being renovated and will be reopened, she is appalled.  Everyone in town has always avoided the place and it has been closed since the 1950's.  Fiona has a personal reason for avoiding it.  Her only sister had been found murdered on its grounds twenty years ago, the death that tore apart her family and that has kept her from moving on in her personal life.

Back in the fifties, four roommates bonded together to survive Idlewild Hall.  Known as a boarding school for problem girls, there was little about learning that defined the place.  It was all about rules and punishments.  Of the four, Katie Winthrop was the clear leader.  She had been sent there after an incident with a boy left her bruised and bloody, her parents blaming her.  Cece was the illegitimate daughter of a rich man whose maid mother tried to drown her in shame.  Sylvia was a French refugee from World War II and the horrors that visited France.  Roberta was the closest to normal, a girl with good grades and athletic talent.  But she had viewed up close and personal the effects of PTSD on her favorite uncle and it had broken her.  Together they managed to survive and even thrive in a place where everyone believed the ghost of an unhappy girl stalked the halls.

Fiona is determined to use this renovation to finally find the truth about what happened the night her sister died and was left there.  She does this over the objections of her boyfriend, Jaime, a local police officer, son of the former chief.  The first day she visits the place with the son of the new owner, workmen find a body down in an abandoned well.  It appears to have been there for fifty years or more.  How does this body tie in with the school and with Fiona's sister?  Can she find the answers before the evil manages to find her?

Simone St. James writes in the paranormal realm with novels that are both gothic and mystery.  Her work has won awards such as the RITA Award from the romance genre and the Arthur Ellis Award from Canadian mystery writers.  Her forte is the deft characterizations she creates; strong women who manage to thrive in horrendous situations.  In this novel, the transition between the 1950's, the 1990's and present day are handled efficiently.  This book is recommended for readers of paranormal mysteries.
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Short Summary: Journalist Fiona Sheridan has been unable to shake the mystery surrounding her sisters' death twenty years past but when new evidence arises, it uncovers the secrets of a much older mystery as well.

Thoughts: This gothic mystery (with a dual timeline to boot) is quite the engaging and well-written tale despite its more implausible bits.

Verdict: Simone St. James' writing is most impressive considering the fact that I read this over the course of an entire month (not the book's fault, I was on vacation for 2 weeks as well) and still managed to retain the details of the story and fall immediately back into it whenever I was able to open the pages once again.

I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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Without breaking, without dying, they were not alone. Together they could do something. Idlewood wasn't everything. Someday they will get out of there and when they do, they will be free. 

A haunted girls school with secrets, where girls come to stay at Idlewood and hear voices. A group of girls from the 1950's each with a broken past. Until one girl disappeared only to be discovered 64 years later. 

 Fiona Sheridan a journalist can never get over the murder of her sister. The murderer is now serving time, but there is still questions and Fiona begins her search at Idlewood where her sister's body was discovered. Renovations of Idlewood lead to a body. A young's girls body. Who was she and why was she killed and forgotten. Fiona feels there is more to the story and with her journalists determination, she discovers not only the past murder but the sinister murder of her sister.

The pull of the book was the curiosity of the why. I have to know why. However, the characters were a little flat for my liking.

A Special Thank You to Berkley Publishing Group and Netgalley for the ARC and the opportunity to post an honest review.
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A very engrossing plot and concept but I found myself having a hard time getting through it. In the end the writing style just wasn't my cup of tea.
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More than a little dark with a lot of passion and bite. I could not put it down.  Not my usual genre but I enjoyed!
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I don't usually gravitate toward ghost stories, but I'm glad I did with this one. Sixty-four years ago a girl living in a boarding school was murdered. But this isn't your ordinary boarding school. It houses unwanted girls, troubled girls, broken girls...and it's haunted. 

Flash forward nearly three decades and a young woman is murdered--protagonist Fiona's sister, Deb. The killer was caught, but the pain still looms large.

Every year on the anniversary of Deb's death Fiona finds herself stalking the place where Deb's body was found--the same boarding school, now defunct, that is haunted. Except that apparently it's being renovated. Fiona's journalist instincts tell her this is news, so she investigates. But what she finds is more than a story. She unravels a murder mystery, a chilling history, and brings closure surrounding Deb's death. While Fiona's character felt somewhat traditional as that of a journalist, that would be the only flaw I found--that nothing really "unique" stood out about her. But it didn't hinder my enjoyment of the book or the characters. 

The cast, particularly the boarding school girls, is engaging, and while there are several points of view to follow, they flowed seamlessly. It's a haunting, riveting tale that I relished, and while the supernatural elements aren't my usual cup of tea, it added a dark flavor that I enjoyed (and which kept me up at night). St. James brings history to life and creates an entrenching read.
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A mystery taking place in a boarding school... sign me up! This story was so intriguing. A journalist is diving into to try to find out what happened to her sister twenty years prior. The story starts to divide from there, one aspect discovering the boarding school being restored. Through learning about the school being restored, the story switches back to the school in 1950 centering around 4 girls that attended. The author does a great job keeping the storylines separate that I never felt confused between the two timelines. (if dual timelines intimidate you, this one is really well done!) 
I did feel like the story didn't just divide into these two stories, but kept dividing. It sort of started to feel disjointed with all these different plot points and plot twists happening. 

The characters were easy to follow and I really enjoyed following the four girls in the past. Their stories were so interesting and seeing their bond as they got to know each other and dealt with their own problems felt like an authentic experience.  Since the story was going different directions, I didn't feel like there was a lot of character depth with other characters. 

The writing with everything going on made it feel really fast-paced. I read through this quickly as I couldn't wait to find out what was going to happen next. I thought I had predicted it all, but there was one thing that completely took me by surprise. 

Overall, I felt like this book was pretty good. It's a quick read and worth it if any aspect intrigues you. 
It was a little off-putting the way the storyline seemed to try to pack too much in. Certain phrases that were thrown in turned me off a little bit as well. But I still recommend this book to anyone that is intrigued, likes mysteries especially set in a boarding school.
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I seem to be on an interesting reading "roll" - thrillers, mysteries, suspense, historical fiction - you name it and I'm reading it and I'm loving it! Go figure! When I saw this book, The Broken Girls by Simone St. James, available for review through my association as a book blogger with NetGalley, the cover of the book intrigued me and I hit the "request" button based on that.  I didn't read the back cover information and didn't know the story; I just dug right in.

It's 2014 and Fiona Sheridan is a journalist who just can't find a way to resolve her feelings about her sister's murder twenty years ago.  Fiona obsessively goes back to the events surrounding her sister's death in the overgrown fields of a school. The boarding school known as Idlewood Hall, was for troubled unwanted and delinquent girls, and rumor has it the school is haunted by a ghost named Mary Hand, died years before the school was ever founded.

The story is told in two separate timelines - first in 1950 when readers are introduced to four friends and classmates at Idlewood Hall. The four roommates bonded, helped each other stay strong, and leaned on each other until suddenly one of them disappeared returning from a weekend to visit family. The school labeled her a runaway and her body was never found, but the girls never gave up believing that something terrible had happened to her.

Flash back to 2014 when Fiona learns that someone has purchased the old school and that renovations have already begun, Fiona feels absolutely compelled to cover the story. A shocking discovery during the renovations links the loss of Fiona's sister to secrets that were supposed to remain hidden in the past and a voice that won’t be silenced

I loved this story and I suggest you put this in your "TBR" summer read stack right away!
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I think this might have been the first ghost story I have ever read. I really enjoyed that aspect and the jumps around in time. Looking forward to reading more by this author.
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Disappointing but still worth reading. The Broken Girls combines elements of a ghost story, a murder mystery, and a thriller, with the marketing emphasing the ghost and chills. It's a good book and I certainly recommend it, but it disappointed me because I read it expecting a scary haunted house novel. There's actually nothing frightening about it. If that isn't your expectation, though, it'll be worth your time. Don't go in expecting thrills and chills and you'll find an enjoyable book. But if you go in looking for a good haunted house novel, you'll be disappointed.
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Unfortunately, I didn't download this before it went to archive.  I was not able to read it..........................................................................................
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