Title: A Broken Kind of Life
Author: Jamie Mayfield
Cover Artist: AngstyG
Publisher: Dreamspinner (Harmony Ink)
Buy Link: Buy Link A Broken Kind of Life, Dreamspinner Press
Genre: YA M/M Contemporary romance
Rating: 5+ stars
A Guest Review by Sammy
Review Summary: A stirring and haunting novel about a tortured young man’s battle to regain his life.
Blurb: Aaron Downing is broken, barely clinging to the hope that one day, he will be normal again. His life remains a constant string of nightmares, flashbacks, and fear, but he perseveres and starts college, determined to move on.
Then Aaron gets assigned to work with Spencer Thomas for his programming project. Aaron doesn’t want Spencer to think he’s a freak, but as he gets to know his new deaf friend, he figures out he doesn’t need to be “normal.” If he could just learn to control his fear, that could be enough to find his footing again.
Or so Aaron thinks until his parents begin talking about institutionalizing him to give his brothers a more stable life. He searches desperately to find a way to cope or even to fake normalcy. But his new shrink’s instability makes conquering his demons that much more difficult, and his attraction to Spencer threatens to send Aaron spinning out of control.
Adapted as a YA edition of the novel Aaron by J.P. Barnaby.
“He would never be normal, He would never be anything but a burden, a source of shame and discomfort…”
What it must be like to go through life believing those words. It hardly seems possible to most of us, but, for the thousands upon thousands of tortured souls that hide in the shadowy recesses of everyday life those words are a mantra that plays over and over in their minds. They are the abused and defiled, the haunted boys and girls, men and women, who have had their innocence ripped from them, never to be restored. If you are looking for a lighthearted read, then the title of this phenomenally well written novel, A Broken Kind of Life should be the first clue hat this way lay something a bit more heavy and yet so incredibly rich and satisfying.
A Broken Kind of Life by Jamie Mayfield unflinchingly details one young man’s attempt to bring himself back from the edge of oblivion. Beaten, raped and forced to watch the death of his best friend, Aaron Downing must now somehow make his way in a world that reminds him every moment of the horror he physically survived. Only by heavily medicating and allowing his parents to wrap him in a shroud of almost claustrophobic protection is Aaron able to endure what is best described as barely living. Unable to bear any human touch, never wearing clothing that might reveal his torn and whippet-thin body, Aaron can hardly bear to look in the mirror at the scar that runs from his right ear to the middle of his neck, evidence of the botched job the two men who abducted him did when they tried to slit his throat. His life is a living horror and how he manages to survive is testimony to his deep well of strength.
However, after enduring a particularly harsh flashback after which one of Aaron’s brothers finally gives voice to the idea that he will never be normal again, the safety net beneath Aaron’s feet shifts dramatically. After apologizing for yelling at him, Aaron and his brother Allen overhear their parents discussing the idea of institutionalizing Aaron. Utterly devastated and terrified, Aaron decides right then and there to push himself to attend the community college nearby. It is there that he meets Spencer Thomas. Deaf and grappling with the change in his father, once a brilliant psychiatrist who now hides in an alcoholic haze since his practice was forced to close, Spencer understands living on the edge of humanity. Never quite fitting in and used to people thinking him retarded or worse, Spencer finds his friends in online chat rooms trolling for easy sexual encounters,
These two lonely and wounded boys meet and, for the first time, Aaron clings to a tiny spark of light in the endless nightmare that is his life and Spencer…falls in love.
“I am broken, Spencer. That is not your fault. You are my friend, and you treat me like I’m normal, like I’m not a scarred freak. No one else does that for me.”
“I. Do. Not. See. The. Scars. Anymore. All. I. See. Is. You.” Spencer replied…
For the very first time, both young men have someone who looks beyond their woundedness, their brokenness and sees what is inside, two men who want to be loved.
I was quite overwhelmed by the power of this novel. There was not a traditional happy ever after. The author did not minimize or degrade the very real suffering recounted on the pages of her novel by “healing” Aaron or even making him able to always cope effectively with everyday tasks and events. There was no quick resolution that marred the sheer beauty of this compassionately written story. If there were a novel that I would have to say was near perfect, A Broken Kind of Life would be the one.
Pacing, characterization, word choice, setting, and the gradual revealing of the nightmarish events the story is based around were all so well crafted. I could not find one thing I would change about this novel–not one. To tell you I clung to my tissue box like it was a life jacket is to understate how deeply affected I was by this story. The compassion and care that author Jamie Mayfield used in unwrapping the events of abuse was outstanding writing without a doubt. Then allowing us to see their effects on a character like Aaron who bore up under them with such incredible pain was just icing on the cake.
I cannot say enough about this story and I certainly cannot find the words to impart to you my deep respect for the way in which this novel was executed! So I will simply tell you that I highly recommend A Broken Kind of Life by Jamie Mayfield to you.