12.29.2022 | Thursday

The Broken Girls

category: Book Reviews

The Broken Girlstitle: The Broken Girls
author: Simone St. James
published: 20 March 2018
publisher: Berkley Books
genre(s): historical, thrillers
pages: 336
source: Book of the Month
format: hardcover
buy/shelve it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads

rating: four-half-stars

the blurb

A breakout suspense novel from the award-winning author of The Haunting of Maddy Clare.

Vermont, 1950. There's a place for the girls whom no one wants--the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It's called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it's located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming--until one of them mysteriously disappears. . . .

Vermont, 2014. As much as she's tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister's death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister's boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can't shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past--and a voice that won't be silenced. . . .

❗❗ content warning: some graphic violence ❗❗

a few notes

keywords/phrases: ghosts, murder, cover-up
mood reading:
in the mood for something dark and twisted
bonus points:
the spooky gothic atmosphere of Idlewild

my review

The story is told through two different timelines, that of 1950 and that of 2014. The earlier timeline follows four roomates at Idlewild Hall, a school for unwanted girls. The school was little more than a place to discard them. Their lives have been hard, and the school doesn’t do any better by them. So the four have bonded together, creating a family amongst the four of them. But then one of the girls disappears, leaving behind her three friends who are desperate for answers. The later timeline is that of Fiona, whose sister was murdered years earlier, her body found on Idlewild grounds. She’s never been fully satisfied with the answers her family was given, and her journalist’s mind cannot let it go. That mind goes into fever pitch when she learns that someone has bought the long abandoned school, and their intentions are to rebuild it into another school. But when she digs, she uncovers more than she ever expected to find.

It is a book that is part thriller, part ghost story, and part drama, a level of suspense that kept the pages turning. The Broken Girls is an apt title to describe the tragedies suffered by the four roommates, and Fiona. Each of the four girls at the school were cast aside by their families because of situations beyond their control, in which the girls themselves are victims. They are broken, and no one seems to care but themselves. Fiona, too, is broken, adrift since the murder of her beloved sister, almost obsessive about it. The subplots of each of the five were heartwrenching and sad, deeply emotional. Their tragedies created an atmosphere that was gloomy and gothic, shrouding them in pain and mystery. It created a sense of impending doom that was almost scarier than the actual haunting elements.

It is a story that goes beyond any one thing, more than a simple ghost story. There is so much emotion… sadness, anger, fear, frustration. There is also hope, love, friendship, and redemption. And the characters were incredibly well done. Some, like the girls and Fiona, were tragic. But they were also strong and resilient. Often, they were flawed yet just as deeply sympathetic. These are women who have been through horrible situations, and often cast aside by the very people who should have cared for them.

The Broken Girls is utterly engrossing. It’s well paced with perfectly timed twists and turns that kept me guessing to the very end!


There is no justice, Malcolm had told her once, but we stand for it anyway. Justice is the ideal, but justice is not the reality.

It was infuriating how many people got things wrong about you when you were a teenage girl, but as she had learned to do, Katie took her anger and made it into something else.

There are moments when everything shifts, when the world becomes eerily like the kaleidoscope toy given to children, where with the turn of a cheap plastic knob everything changes, becomes different.

It seems so far back in history, until they find some decrepit old Nazi war criminal still living under a rock and put him on trial. Then you remember that it’s still living memory for some people.

About Simone St. James

Simone St. James is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Book of Cold Cases, The Sun Down Motel, The Broken Girls and The Haunting of Maddy Clare, which won two RITA awards from Romance Writers of America and an Arthur Ellis Award from Crime Writers of Canada. She wrote her first ghost story, about a haunted library, when she was in high school, and spent twenty years behind the scenes in the television business before leaving to write full-time. She lives outside Toronto, Canada with her husband and a spoiled cat.

Rating Report
Overall: four-half-stars

reading challenges:

  • 2022 PopSugar Reading Challenge
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