Feels like: Passing notes back and forth to your friend in high school about how much you hate that “one girl.”
Song Pairing: “I Still Wait For You” by XYLO
Nobody really likes Julie Prentice. At least that’s what it seems like to Julie Prentice. Best-selling author of the thrilling novel The Murder Game, she’s racking in the dollars and the fame, but along with all the accolades comes a psychotic former acquaintance turned stalker. Crazy Heather just won’t leave Julie alone, so Julie and her handsome husband and children pack up their life and move to the suburbs of Cincinnati.
Across the street lives a handsome man named John who immediately notices Julie. John’s got a lovely wife and two children, but boy does he seem unnaturally and electrically drawn to Julie. Their friendship causes a stir in the neighborhood and begins an onslaught of I Love Lucy-level accidents on Julie’s end. Julie feels as if she literally thinks negative things into happening–so much so that she’s alienating herself from the new neighborhood, pissing off the controlling PTA Neighborhood Watch mom Cindy, inspiring paranoia in John’s wife, all while still reeling from remnants of trauma her stalker Heather ingrained in her.
This novel wants to be fractured, but it’s more broken than that. There is a Thanksgiving-feast sized cornucopia of unmet expectations. The ending that McKenzie teases us with in time jumps between John and the impending doom of a court date, where we have to assume something incredibly tragic has happened that we won’t know until the very end, is not terribly unexpected or even interesting. It barely registers as a talking point.
What McKenzie does do is present us with some incredibly flawed characters that you actually like. Julie, in spite of her “I’m gorgeous, but broken, and super clumsy in an endearing way” trope feels like a fleshed out character, and I can see her as a real woman I know and can sympathize with. John is also subtly fleshed out, at once a protective father, a philandering husband, helplessly adrift in shades of grey, but entirely likable.
I didn’t miss the point of the novel here–secrets, secrets, secrets. I wanted to read Julie Prentice (Apple’s) novel The Murder Game more than Fractured; the novel that creates such turmoil in Julie’s life is also her catharsis. She knows that her and her college “friends”, a Cruel Intentions-inspired prep group indulging in sex and drugs to the fullest extent, were pretty alienating to outsiders like Heather. But their little think-tank game of “who would be the easiest to murder, and how would you do it?” might have gone too far. Julie wrote her novel from real life experience, and Heather knows the truth that Julie is suppressing. Sadly enough, this plot feels a distant second to the Cincinnati neighborhood blunders, the social missteps, the paranoia and the really, really obvious red herrings that McKenzie attempts to trick us with.
“Everyone’s life has its complications. Sometimes you get to choose them, and sometimes they’re thrust upon you. The trick is knowing which is which.”
“There are so many versions of the truth, I’ve found. One for each person. But the whole truth? No one ever tells the whole truth. Do they?”