“We are all wonderful, beautiful wrecks. That’s what connects us–that we’re all broken, all beautifully imperfect.” ― Emilio Estevez
For the past two years Aaron has been merely existing, floating through his life in a drugged haze. He can’t tolerate anyone’s touch. Not his mother, father or his brothers, the people who love him most, and assuredly, not a stranger’s. You see two years ago while walking home late from debate practice with his best friend Juliette, his whole world was shattered. Not only did his attackers take his best friend from him, but they took his entire existence from him at the same time. Aaron hasn’t felt safe or warm in over two years. He is going through the motions of life mainly just to appease his parents. See, he believes the attack that left him scarred inside and out truly killed him, whether he still draws breath or not.
One night he has a horrible flashback that puts a strain on his family, and that night he overhears his parents talking about putting him in an institution. Aaron knows this would be the worst thing that could happen to him so he decides to try harder to “fake the funk”. Even though he believes he has no future available to him, he decides to appease his mother by enrolling in college. Little did he know he just might find a reason to live again.
Spencer Thomas is a very intelligent young man, but he is one of the loneliest people I have ever seen. Most people his age believe that he is slow witted because of the way he speaks, no one seems to take the time to get to know him. Spencer’s mother was mugged and killed when she was six months pregnant with him. Being born prematurely caused Spencer to be born deaf. His father and his Aunt did the very best they could for Spencer. They learned ASL, taught him ASL, taught him to speak and gave him as much love as they possibly could. Eventually life started to get in the way. His Aunt moved from their hometown of Chicago to California for a job. I believe his father stayed strong as long as he could for Spencer. Eventually his strength gave out. I don’t know if it was because of losing his psychiatric practice or if it was the fact Spencer was finally old enough to take care of himself. Hell, it could have been a combination of both of those things, but whatever the reason his father started turning to alcohol.
The first day of college for Spencer is slightly scared. He finds out that he is going to have to do a project with a partner. Not having any luck in the past with other students, he is apprehensive about teaming up with a stranger. What he didn’t expect was that his partner is no more excited about this than he is. Since Spencer doesn’t like to speak aloud to people and Aaron just can’t handle actual face to face conversations their professor decides they would work perfectly together. After communicating through text messages, IM chats and emails the two young men form a bond. Aaron doesn’t treat Spencer differently because he is deaf, and Spencer seems to accept Aaron’s boundaries about touch. When Aaron takes a chance and goes to Spencer’s house to study, he has a panic attack and Spencer’s dad helps him through the panic attack.
Spencer’s dad is one of the best psychiatrists in his field, and he volunteers to help Aaron free of charge if he allows him to write a paper about the treatment. Instead of drugging Aaron out of his mind, Dr. Thomas teaches Aaron coping techniques. He has him start a personal journal that Aaron turns into a blog, and these treatments seem to be helping Aaron finally start to cope with his life. The other thing that helps Aaron start to heal is his relationship with Spencer. When the two of them finally admit they have feelings for each other, it seems Aaron’s confidence starts growing by leaps and bounds.
When Aaron’s parents find out about Dr. Thomas, they go off the deep end. His mother goes into full protector mode and tries to legally keep him away from Aaron. This action causes Aaron to stand up for himself, and it was wonderful to watch him start to come back to life.
I have to say that A Broken Kind of Life is not as easy book to read. To witness the aftermath of a brutal attack on a lovely sixteen-year- old boy is difficult, especially as a parent myself. To then watch this child barely exist, let alone live, is heartbreaking. When Aaron started to heal, it was like watching the sun come out after a brutal thunderstorm. The first time he touched Spencer was a gift; the first time he let Spencer touch him was a miracle. I think one of the biggest messages I got out of this book is that no matter how bad you have been treated, no matter how much you want to curl up and die, you can’t let that happen. The minute you give up, your abusers win. There is always hope, someone will always be able to see past the scars and be patient enough to wait for you.
I understand that Aaron’s story hasn’t been told in full yet, and I can’t wait to experience the rest of this story. I know he hasn’t completed his healing, but he is well on his way.
I highly recommend this book for adults as well as teens.
Reviewed by: Jackie