FRACTURE by Megan Miranda

As the front cover suggests, a lot can happen in eleven minutes. When Delaney Maxwell was walking across an icy lake to meet up with her friends, the ice cracked underneath her feet and she fell in. She spent eleven minutes underwater before she was pulled out. She should be dead, but when she wakes up from a coma days later, she appears to have avoided any lasting damage. Her neurological functioning appears normal and, physically, she has escaped without a scratch.

There’s something wrong with Delaney Maxwell and no medical test on earth can explain what it is. She can sense death. It starts out as an unexplainable ‘itch’ in her brain that stretches down to her fingers, before turning into an unavoidable tug. Delaney is drawn to death–to people who are about to die but don’t quite know it yet. Her first experience with her new ability happens while she’s still staying in hospital, and her erratic and agitated response is attributed to hospital cabin fever. Under mounting pressure from her parents, the doctors reluctantly discharge Delaney. With the help of her  school friends and long-time best friend and neighbour, Decker, Delaney begins to readjust to her normal routine.

But the itch and the tugging doesn’t go away. Delaney’s increasingly bizarre behaviour is troubling her parents, and they insist she seeks psychological help. This is, of course, futile. Help does come in the form of Troy Varga, a local boy who emerged from a coma with similar abilities. Troy and Delaney find common ground in their shared experience, and Delaney slowly tries to make sense of her new life. But for all their similarities, Troy and Delaney have differing thoughts regarding the meaning of their sixth sense. Can it be used as a warning? Or is death so inevitable that they must simply stand by and watch the cycle of life carry on as it should?

The premise of Fracture was very interesting, and as the story went on, two competing themes emerged. The novel deals in detail with life and death and with different characters able to sense death, it is only natural that they would have different reactions to their abilities. On the one side is the argument that sensing death could mean preventing death altogether. If you know it’s coming, you could intervene (a la Final Destination) and stop the process. On the other hand, sensing death could mean the elimination of suffering. If you know someone is going to die, why not simplify the process and remove the possibility of pain and suffering over an extended period of time. With these themes, Miranda touches on greater issues of free well and euthanasia–delicate subject matter which is handled incredibly well. Fracture’s greatest quality is that neither side is overly advocated for, and the reader is left to make up their own mind about what they would do in Delaney and Troy’s situation.

Despite strong subject matter, the characters were a little lacking for me. Delaney is strong and likeable at times, but entirely self destructive and infuriating at others. We only really get to know her after the accident, which does explain a lot of the frustrating behaviour, but I sometimes found her responses to people and situations unbelievable and unrealistic. The romantic element, while seemingly essential in YA novels these days, sometimes clouded the greater issues at play in the novel. And, once again, characters are blessed/cursed with extraordinary abilities yet they appear to do little to seek out more information on said abilities.

On the whole, though, Fracture is an enjoyable novel. Fans of contemporary YA with topical themes will eat this up, and adult fiction readers will find Miranda’s prose compelling despite the classification. Just don’t expect too much depth from the characters.

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