- Beautiful Broken Girls by Kim Savage
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-374-30059-3 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-374-30058-6 $9.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 9-12
Like all of the boys in their Massachusetts town, Ben loved the ethereally beautiful [End Page 280] Cillo girls; unlike the rest of them, though, he was the one Mira allowed to touch her, in secret so that neither her father nor her sister, Francesca, would know. Francesca, on the other hand, was obsessed with Mr. Falso, the church youth counselor; she wanted not only his love but also his acknowledgement that she was special, perhaps even a budding saint, since she had bleeding stigmata in her hands. All of these details emerge in a retrospective narrative after the sisters are found dead at the bottom of a quarry. A week later, Ben receives instructions in the mail from Mira to find clues that will help him piece together the story. The structure of the novel poses challenges for readers to follow, echoing Ben’s search for answers; fortunately, readers are privy to more information than Ben is as the narrative moves from Ben’s present investigations and memories to narration of what actually happened before the girls’ deaths. Enough gaps and mysteries remain, though, to enhance to the flavor of mystical uncertainty, amplify the sense of unrealized foreboding, and add psychological complexity. In particular, Ben is shocked into unpleasant insights about what attracted Mira to him and why Mr. Falso seems so set on keeping him quiet about what he learns, fearing in both cases that they sense a residual vulnerability in him, left over from his own history of sexual abuse as a young boy. Characterization—glimpses rather than full portraits—adds to the feeling that this is a town full of secrets, the exposure of which may do more harm than good. Readers who enjoy mysteries with a mix of inexplicable and all-too-human underpinnings will enjoy this.