Sunday, December 14, 2014

Review: Break by Hannah Moskowitz

Title: Break
Author: Hannah Moskowitz
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release date: August 25th 2009
Pages: 262
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: Bought
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Jonah is on a mission to break every bone in his body. Everyone knows that broken bones grow back stronger than they were before. And Jonah wants to be stronger—needs to be stronger—because everything around him is falling apart. Breaking, and then healing, is Jonah’s only way to cope with the stresses of home, girls, and the world on his shoulders.
When Jonah's self-destructive spiral accelerates and he hits rock bottom, will he find true strength or surrender to his breaking point?
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I loved Hannah Moskowitz's newer releases, but for some reason I'd been holding off on reading her debut. Both because just generally, it can be kind of disappointing to have seen what a writer can do now, and then go back to their possibly-not-as-strong debut, and just because of the subject matter - I like darker YA books, but the whole bone-breaking thing just seemed a bit too disturbing. But I never should have doubted Hannah Moskowitz - while it's not going to be my favorite of her books (that's Gone, Gone, Gone), I did really enjoy Break.

The whole bone-breaking thing seemed kind of absurd at first, but within the context of the novel, it totally makes sense. It's painful to read about at times, but Hannah Moskowitz's writing makes it so compelling you can't even think about putting the book down. And of course, the bone-breaking storyline isn't all that Break is about. This seems to be a pattern for Hannah Moskowitz's books: they're usually marketed for one plot, but then turn out to be so much more. And if you thought Jonah breaking his own bones was intense, it's got nothing on the rest of this novel.

More so than the bone-breaking, Jonah's family is the main focus of the novel. (Although, of course, that wouldn't have made for a particularly intriguing back cover.) The family set-up is the most unique I've read about in a long time. I don't even want to talk about it much because I think it works best when you discover the intricacies of the family dynamics on your own. Jesse and Jonah have an incredibly complex brother-brother relationship, proving once again that Hannah Moskowitz is the best at writing sibling relationships. I wish the relationship between the parents had been explored a bit more, but all in all, the whole family is fully-developed and impressively layered.

My only complaint would be the ending, which felt rushed to me. I understand that Hannah Moskowitz wanted to end with the first step towards healing, but it left so many questions unanswered. And not just the what-will-happen-next kind of questions (which would be to be expected), but also simple questions about the plot, like what was all of that with the volunteer that helped Jonah? What's going on with Charlotte? I get why Hannah Moskowitz chose to end the novel this way, but I really wanted these questions to be explored more.

While you can tell that Hannah Moskowitz's writing isn't quite as developed yet as it is in some of her later novels, Break is a really impressive debut. If you're looking for a dark, disturbing but ultimately hopeful novel with intriguing characters and complex relationships, Break is the novel for you!


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