The Mountains of Instead

Championing fiction as an escape from pandemics, politics and bad TV.

Death By Water (Review: Fracture by Megan Miranda)

Megan Miranda
Bloomsbury 2012

When a harmless game leads to a fatal accident, Delany Maxwell should really be dead.  In fact, eleven minutes trapped under the surface of an icy lake, she was dead.  But then she came back.  Not as a zombie, not as a vampire… just as a normal, teenage girl.  Except that Delany doesn’t feel normal anymore.  Everything seems off kilter – her schoolmates, her mother, her best friend, not to mention the mysterious stranger watching her every move.  Strangest of all is the strange urges that now overcome her, leading her down hospital wards, up side streets, into nursing homes, fingers twitching to wherever someone is dying…

Delany is a hard character to get a bead on.  Only seen briefly before her accident the initial sense is of a fun loving girl with a reasonable head on her shoulders, happy with her friends, her family and her future prospects.  However, the Delany who wakes from a six day coma is a very different girl.  Her feelings of relief, amazement and confusion are tangible, as is her confusion as she starts to get used to a mind that is tangibly different.  Always a good girl, Delany’s confusion leads to seeming rebellion and her relationships with those around her start to change in ways that are all too believable and often upsetting.  She’s still fairly sensible but finds herself drawn, inevitably, towards a darker reality and her reaction to mystery boy Troy is understandable, even in its idiocy.

Troy himself is a nicely drawn bad boy.  There is no attempt made to convince readers that he’s a good guy, but certainly he comes across as a victim of circumstance who is deeply damaged.  It is a credit to Megan Miranda that she has written a character who is both frightening and sympathetic in equal measure.  In contrast to Troy, Decker is one of these rare characters who is deeply good without appearing saint like. He’s flawed in his interactions, his feelings and his guilt yet these aspects are what make is inherent goodness believable.  It is a pleasure to see a teenage boy painted so well and the relationship between him and Delany is beautifully realised in all its difficulty.

Other characters in Fracture are a mixed and disturbing bunch. While many victims of near death experience report a feeling of displacement, of feeling subtly different, Miranda cleverly walks a grey line with Delany.  The insinuation is that perhaps Delany is slightly different and the question is what has made her different.  Perhaps, in the case of her friends, they only tolerated her before – readers don’t have enough back-story to be sure.  In the case of her mother there is certainly a fascinatingly horrible back-story that explains things somewhat.  However, what is clear is that Delany now makes people feel uncomfortable – be it due to her unnatural return to life, a general feeling of wrongness or a deep-seated fear of mental illness, people no longer treat her as they once did.

Fracture is a fascinating book.  It would be all too easy to pigeonhole it as paranormal, but in actuality it is a medical thriller, and that (for this reviewer) is a welcome first in YA.  Miranda has a medical background and has clearly done additional research.  From the moment Delany wakes from her coma, the details of her condition, reaction and rehabilitation are both real and frightening.  At it’s core, the story explores how little we know about the human brain and posits that many things may be possible in the untapped areas of our mind. In Delany’s case the ability to sense the dying, an aspect of Fracture that is handled in a starkly realistic fashion and when read in the context of Delany’s experience it becomes not a paranormal but a medical condition.

There is much in Fracture that is to be commended – in fact, I have no criticism – it’s a perfectly formed story.  The ending is dark, frightening and little is resolved yet there is no sense that it needs to be continued.  What is welcome, however, is the news existence of e-book, Eleven Minutes  – in which Delany’s accident is recounted by Decker (available for free here).  After a book where the relationships are often disturbingly ambiguous and the protagonist unsure of her own identity, the opportunity to her through different eyes is an exciting one.  If you are looking for a book that is different, compelling and beautifully written then Fracture is the book to start 2012 with – highly recommended.

Fracture is available now.  Many thanks to Bloomsbury for sending me this copy to review.


Vicki said…
I must be honest, I'd pegged this as similar to others. I'm keen to read it now I've read your review.
This is definitely one of my favourite recent reads! I was absolutely blown away by it.
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