Book Review: Even If We Break by Marieke Nijkamp

PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge Prompt: N/A Other PS 2020 reading prompts this would satisfy: A book that's published in 2020, ...

PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge Prompt: N/A

Other PS 2020 reading prompts this would satisfy: A book that's published in 2020,  A book by a trans or nonbinary author

TW: abuse/child abuse, self-harm, violence, death, blood, ableism, classism, transphobia

I’d never read anything by Nijkamp before reading Even If We Break, but they’re an author I’ve only heard good things about. And once I read the synopsis for Even If We Break, I knew I was going to love it. 

Five friends go to a cabin in the woods to play one final version of their RPG they've been playing together for years. But due to recent events, the group is falling apart. Things have happened that have caused lots of hurt feelings and ultimately have been harmful to each other. But this might be their last chance to heal what's bent and broken. High school is almost over for most of the group and everyone will go separate ways in a few months. Due to recent storms, they've had to walk to the cabin, so they're entirely secluded. Soon, things start going terribly wrong - either they're being haunted by the ghost of folklore, or someone is out to kill them all. They're being picked off one at a time, and they've got to figure out who it is and get away before they're all gone.

So I've seen so many bad reviews for this book, and while I do have many similar sentiments, I did enjoy it. I thought it was a really quick and engaging read. And my favorite thing? I really enjoyed the representation within the cast of characters. l will note that the diversity's lacked diversity in race, but they call attention to it, referring to their group as "wonderbread" white. My assumption is that the white author didn't want to write from the perspective of a BIPOC, since each chapter is from a different character's POV. But the representation among other underrepresented folks is pretty awesome. There's a nonbinary character, a trans* character, a character with a physical disability, a neurodivergent character. There are characters from different socioeconomic backgrounds - poverty-stricken, extremely privileged, middle class. It was honestly so refreshing to see such a diverse cast in somany ways, though I really would've loved to see more characters of color.

What wasn't refreshing was the story. It was anxiety-ridden, and the characters were pretty self-centered and frustrating, but honestly I'm 99% certain I was also self-centered and frustrating as a teen, too (and probably still am honestly). I was nervous the whole time I was reading, wondering what was going to happen next. Though the story was eventually predictable, it really could've gone in any direction. It's like it was purposely so obvious because so many stories try so hard to be twisty, they don't make sense. But this one is obvious.

There wasn't a lot of character development when the story would've been perfect for tons. It tried to be character-driven but was really more dictated by the story, which kept my attention. And each character had specific backgrounds. The writing style for each character was honestly the same, which made it difficult to differentiate each character and I would often find myself flipping back to the start of the chapter to see who's POV I was reading.

"This world is a messed up scary. It's lonely to go through it on your own. So you have to find your family. You have to find people who will stand by you and make you laugh until you cry, and who will hold you while you cry until you laugh again." - Even If We Break, Marieke Nijkamp

Overall, this book had a ton of potential to be a really unique read and while certain aspects were great (diversity of characters, the creepy setting, the back stories), the character development was lacking, the story was painfully predictable, and the writing style made it difficult to really grasp the thoughts of each individual character. I did like the RPG story line - I thought it was fun, nerdy, and different from so many other books, especially thrillers. Basically, Even If We Break was a mix of Pretty Little Liars meets any cabin-in-the-woods slasher. I just wish it did a better job than it's monotonous writing and predictable ending.

Goodreads rating: ★★★☆

*Thanks to Sourcebooks for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are entirely my own.

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