Charlotte has always felt ordinary compared to her two best friends at the prestigious Weston Preparatory Institute. Not enigmatic and daring like Ariel or beautiful and brilliant like Devon, Charlotte has never quite met the standards of the school—or those of her demanding mother. But with Ariel and Devon by her side, none of that mattered. They became the family she never had.
Until the unthinkable happens—Ariel commits suicide. And less than a month later, so does Devon.
Everyone accepts the suicides as tragic coincidences, but Charlotte refuses to believe that. And when she finds mysterious clues left behind by Ariel, Charlotte is thrust down a path that leads to a dangerous secret about Weston Prep. There’s a reason Weston students are so exceptional, and the people responsible are willing to kill to protect the truth…
The opening chapters of Breaking confused me a little bit because it starts with a far-off memory and zooms into the present. At first I thought Ariel and Devon were Charlotte’s imaginary friends (which is totally my mistake. I don’t know why I thought that.) and I kept getting confused by references about them until I figured it out.
Then I found the plot and the visceral writing style drew me straight into the story. I liked Charlotte from the beginning, and found it easy to root for her. The plot has this tense, desperate sense to it. I’m not usually a big reader of suspense, but I really got into this.
The most difficult thing about the book, for me, was the amount of violence in the story. It definitely relates to the plot. There are definitely things that happen which Charlotte herself condemns. In one part, though, revenge seems to trump everything else. I wasn’t crazy about that.
The ending leaves room for an additional story, but it could be that it’s simply meant to have an open ending. There is another book in the series which came out last year called Burning and seems to be about an event referenced in Breaking but features entirely different characters.
If you like dark superhero origin type stories, Breaking might be perfect for you. Read on to see possible content triggers and other information.
Devon is black. Zoe is Asian and French.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used pretty frequently.
Ariel speculates about a teacher’s genitalia in a brief comment. The girls bought sexy underwear earlier, planning to save it for when they decide to have sex with their boyfriends. Charlotte describes a lot of desire and arousal in her feelings for Jack. Several scenes feature her fantasizing about being with him (in mostly general not specific terms). Her feelings do factor into the plot, though. At one point a shift in her relationship with Jack makes Charlotte suspect that something big is wrong.
The story features some intense kissing between a boy and girl.
Charlotte tells us that Ariel’s mom is a devout Christian.
Here’s where the big guns come out.
Overdose death. Drowning death. We see Charlotte wrestle with discovering both these situations. Fire kills animals in a shelter. Fire kills inmates in a detention center—we learn about both of those secondhand. Casual references to bullying. Eventually we learn that one of Charlotte’s friends broke another girl’s arm as part of a bullying incident.
As the story progresses, the references to violence become darker. At one point, a girl threatens the life of a tiny kitten. Charlotte causes a car accident which injures a man. Later, Charlotte finds the dead body of a security guard moments after his throat has been cut. She finds another suicide victim. She witnesses a woman being burned alive from the inside—that description in particular was pretty graphic.
Charlotte remembers her friend Devon encouraging her to try one of the pills in her mom’s purse. She remembers drinking alcohol with her friends in several scenes. Charlotte drinks alcohol alone in her room and at a party. At one point she drinks a bottle of unknown liquid, something she suspects might be GHB, planted by her friend Ariel.