cover image She Has a Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be

She Has a Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be

J.D. Barker. Hampton Creek, $39 (784p) ISBN 978-1-73421-041-5

Barker (the 4MK series) unravels the consequences of a sinister experiment in this complex, suspenseful door-stopper. On Aug. 8, 1984, eight-year-old Jack Thatch visits his parents’ graves with his aunt. There he meets enigmatic Stella Nettleton, also eight, who is supervised by adults in lab coats. Their brief encounter haunts Jack’s thoughts until the following August 8, when he sees her at the cemetery once more. And again every August 8 thereafter. As the two grow close on their annual meetings, Jack learns that Stella has a deadly power: she inadvertently drains the life force from anything she touches. Despite this, his longing for her deepens. Barker takes the reader through Jack’s life from age eight to 34 as he and Stella try to find a way to be together while being hounded by both scientists and the police. At times the momentum slows to allow for the intricate backstory to be carefully unwound, but the stakes are consistently high and the quiet emotional moments allow for readers to invest deeply in Jack and Stella’s troubled love. Barker’s twisty, romantic tale is sure to please. Agent: Kristin Nelson, Nelson Literary. (Apr.)