Turns out naked and hungover on the floor is not the most strategically sound place to be when your dad comes home early. Take it from someone who learned the hard way: nineteen-year-old Lysander Shepherd – son of movie stars, spoiled brat, enthusiastic proponent of drugs and orgies... and now, unwilling resident of Oak Hill Manor, a retreat for troubled teenagers.
Before he knows what's happening, his designer duds have been switched for tie-dye shirts in therapy team colors, and he is surrounded by an assortment of misfits: a timid nerd, a mute girl, a hyperactive kid... and captivating loner Cai Fields, who is admittedly pretty hot, but seems to hate the world in general and Lysander in particular.
Soon Lysander struggles with lies, withdrawal, and several uncomfortable revelations that he never intended to make, but he also gains surprising amounts of support right in the middle of secret late-night parties, fisticuffs over doing the dishes, and, of all things, croissant blackmail. Even as Cai and Lysander finally give in to the irresistible attraction between them and make a grasp for happiness, their darkest secrets remain – secrets with the power to destroy everything they've fought so hard to have.
Spectacularly Broken is Spectacularly Beautiful.
I'm not the first to compare this book to John Hughes' The Breakfast Club, the quintessential movie of Generation X, with which I identify.
In the movie, a group of misfits (the princess, the athlete, the brain, the stoner, the outcast) band together during a weekend detention.
In this book, a group of damaged, fragile teens paint, make T-shirts, throw chairs out of windows (well, one of them does), wash dishes (except Lys, who thinks dishwater is the devil's spawn), fuck in a pantry (technically blowjobs; the fucking comes later, on a roof), sneak contraband beer and candy, and come ALIVE.
Lysander, named after his mother's favorite play (you figure out which one), drowns himself in drugs and sex. Sent to an inpatient facility by his absent movie star father, Lysander, flirtatious, unabashedly gay, and so fond of those tight-fitting jeans that show off his lithe body, wants to be anyone but himself.
The idea of switching identities is not a new one, but I found it particularly fascinating here, considering that Cai, the other MC, lost his other half, and has almost no identity left, stolen or otherwise.
I usually prefer dual, third-person POV, but Lysander is a wonderful, honest narrator. He's not worthless, as much as he thinks he is. He's kind, thoughtful, introspective (when he allows himself to be), capable of feeling pain ... and LOVE.
And brooding Cai, with his tough-guy persona, gauges, piercings, and utter hollowness, just needs someone to cuddle, someone who'll hold him tight and never let go.
This is a N/A tale of hurt and comfort, a tale of teens on the brink of adulthood coming together for support and friendship.
Because everyone needs a reason to live.
I loved every single secondary character in this book: quiet Finn, Lys' cousin, haunted by loneliness and betrayal; loyal Jarrett, not thinking much of himself at all; hyper Nicky, who means well but can't always control his impulses; silent Lexa, hiding so much pain behind her worn sweater.
There is angst here, but healing as well.
Lys and Cai need each other. Their love fills in all the little gaps, the burnt, broken, empty places.
I absolutely loved this enemies-to-lovers, coming-of-age story. It's sexy and heartfelt and hopeful in all the right ways. It made me FEEL.
And the HEA was, you guessed it ... SPECTACULAR.
Why did I wait so long to read this one? Why have you?