Book Review: Best Kind of Broken by Chelsea Fine

Finding Fate, #1
Pixie and Levi haven't spoken in nearly a year when they find themselves working―and living―at the same inn in the middle of nowhere. Once upon a time, they were childhood friends. But that was before everything went to hell. And now things are... awkward.

All they want to do is avoid each other, and their past, for as long as possible. But now that they're forced to share a bathroom, and therefore a shower, keeping their distance from one another becomes less difficult than keeping their hands off each other. Welcome to the hallway of awkward tension and sexual frustration, folks. Get comfy. It’s going to be a long summer.

There are the special books that have the ability to completely own you as you devour its pages. Then, there are the really special books that still completely own you, hours or even days later. The author's voice just speaks to you like its your favorite sound in the world...words that leave their fingerprints on your heart, so that you still feel their touch, their meaning, long after you've read the last page. Best Kind of Broken was *it* for me.

Chelsea Fine welcomes readers to stay for awhile at the quaint Willow Inn. Here, we meet Levi Andrews and Sarah "Pixie" Marshall, two college kids working in their hometown for the summer and living next door to each other at the inn. Their story, about figuring out the past, present, and future, had an upbeat touch in one moment and a firm grip in the next. Back and forth it went, but the whole time, the author was painting a captivating work of art.
"A thirty minute shower, Levi? What the hell?"
A smile pulls at the corners of his mouth. "I was dirty."
Oh, Levi and Pixie had the tension-filled, love-hate going on. First. Page. As the chapters alternated between each of their points of view, I had a wide grin on my face because I always enjoy that kind of flirty animosity. Levi had a genuine charm. And Pixie? Well, Pixie is quite possibly my new all-time favorite nickname for a heroine. It fit her sprightly mannerisms well! Some of the things that popped into her head cracked me up. It didn't take long at all for these two to make me laugh and smirk!

Alongside the present-day friction, though, the ghost of their former friendship piqued my curiosity immediately. It became clear that they shared a painful past and were only clinging to the illusion that everything is fine. They tried distracting themselves with "normal" things--like Pixie's attempt at dating and Levi's job as inn handyman. These distractions, though, ultimately felt hollow and unfulfilling. (The deeper I got into this novel, the irony of Levi's ability to fix small household problems, yet the inability to fix the biggest problem of all, did not escape me!)'s just me and her and all the unspoken things between us. Her smile falters as she looks up at me with little-girl hope and grown-up fear.
Not only were these two in denial about the state of their lives, they were in denial about their feelings for each other. The former friendship I mentioned? That familiarity translated into some interesting romantic frustration and angst. They fell into an amusing routine of butting heads! As I pointed out already, these two could make me laugh and smile!

But then, the jagged pieces of their reality--of the past still haunting them--began to pierce through their thin walls...The estranged relationships with family. The truth of what they once meant to each other...Pixie and Levi didn't know how to put those pieces back together. They were deflecting, covering up the holes, but they weren't healing those wounds. That much was clear, but the reason behind it all remained foggy, leaving me on pins and needles to wonder What happened?
It's suddenly very quiet in here, and I can't help the memories that start whispering in the silence.
Soon enough, more memories came. More flashbacks from both Pixie and Levi. Chelsea Fine's beautiful, beautiful storytelling really shines through here, in her ability to completely immerse you in another time or place so that you were soaked with nostalgia.

When the tragic accident that tore Pixie and Levi apart was finally revealed, it really was tragedy striking. Gut. Punch. Even though I had a solid idea of what was coming--able to put the hints together--it still hit me. Again, bravo to Chelsea's storytelling.
...there's something very much alive but fatally ill breathing in between Pixie's broken heart and mine. And we don't know how to fix it.  
We need more distance between us. Distance is painless. Distance is safe.
I soon understood why they were so stuck. They were afraid to face it, to face each other. Their pain wasn't just a physical loss of a loved one, the inability to speak to or touch them anymore. It was also about the emotional loss. Missing what you used to have.

There was some comfort in knowing that the people closest to Pixie and Levi were perceptive of the situation and offering support in their own small ways. What's that saying about It takes a village...? ;) I especially adored Pixie's aunt, Ellen, who was truly like a fairy godmother. The Willow Inn staff members were their own eccentric, close-knit group. Pixie's friend, Jenna, and Levi's best friend, Zack...with his pet goat ;)...also deserve an honorable mention! It was just up to Pixie and Levi to find a way to accept that help.

Between the two of them, there was so much misguided guilt and misplaced blame. So much pretending. The more I found out about their life and relationship before the accident, I was just hurting for them. The unspoken longing became increasingly palpable. Sometimes, it was in their caught-in-the-moment chemistry. That electric feeling when long-buried desire comes to the surface. The "steam" made limited appearances, but when it did, it was scorching. Other times, it was more poignant. That lonely feeling when their mixed-up confusion forces them to push that desire back down again.
I walked out of my bedroom and there she was, in her yellow dress, looking lost and found at the same time. 
Little Pixie, whom I had spent my whole life loving and one night destroying, was standing outside my bedroom with...a look on her face that made me feel like I was home. And God, I wanted to be home.
Their struggle resonates with anyone who has ever lost a loved one in a senseless accident. Being the ones who survived weighed heavily on their conscience, and Pixie and Levi took it out on themselves, tried to bear that cross alone. *I* really started to break down as more of the past was unveiled, like Levi confronting his parents' reactions to the accident and Pixie rehashing her mom's history. The "adults" that they were supposed to lean on were unable to accept the past themselves and move on, so who else could they trust to guide them?

Later on, it wasn't just about the sadness and guilt. There was also anger simmering underneath. There was so much pent up emotion that, when even the tiniest amount spilled from the dam, you felt it. In one such instance, Chelsea Fine put Pixie's hateful mom front and center, let her rear her ugly head and spew her poison. A single scene reduced me to pissed off rage, to having a slow clap over my Kindle, then to having warm and fuzzies. Whatever this author wants you to feel, you do. She fleshes out these emotions so well!

Finally, when the healing process began, I loved that Chelsea showed it wasn't a simple step to take. It wasn't one quick, easy purging. Admitting their truths was a slow, hammering process for Pixie and Levi. When they finally faced each other and their still-fresh scars, it brought tears to my eyes. These moments were so raw and stripped down...scenes that turned me into a highlight-obsessed madwoman. Yes, God, such beautiful words.
That's how trust works. It's blind and unconditional and it takes you places you can't reach by yourself.
Pixie and Levi needed to thrive again. To come back from limbo. To live. The moment when Levi found the clarity he'd been desperately seeking...that scene especially broke me and hit me the hardest. My heart was aching for Levi, but it was such an exquisitely raw moment when he allowed himself to remember what he lost.

The road to forgiveness is often a long, arduous one, and Pixie and Levi had been carrying their guilt for almost a year. Sometimes, the hardest thing to do isn't to forgive someone else. The hardest part is to forgive yourself. Those scenes between Pixie and Levi were so powerful. I felt like I could breathe out and let it all go, right along with them. It felt cleansing.
I pull the sharp heat and bitter taste of the cigarette through my lips, feeling my insides burn and my eyes blur... 
The smoke floats in the quiet summer sky, swirling above us and fogging up the stars. 
Inhale. The stars are more beautiful without the smoke obscuring their brilliance. Exhale.
At last, it felt good to laugh again! (Again, best friend Zack. Loved him.) Life started to move. There was a sense of hope and renewal. Throughout the book, there had been a big storm brewing. Thunderous clouds loomed above. The rain literally started to fall at this point, but instead of signifying destruction, it was a sign of revival. And just like a glorious post-storm sky, the air between Pixie and Levi felt refreshingly open and clear.

However, new beginnings can be accompanied by fear. Fear of the what-if's and the what's next? Making the choice and the effort to move on from the past is a big step. Choosing to live in the present with hope, not fear, is an entirely different step on its own. I loved watching this couple overcome that one last hurdle.
Winning is an effect of trying. You have to want it badly enough to go through pain, discipline, and failure to find it. To confront it. To claim it. But most of all, you have to fight for it. Everything else--anything else--is absolute surrender.
This book expressed such beautiful messages about loss, grief, healing, forgiveness, hope, and love. It was wonderfully heart-gripping from start to finish. I fell in love with Chelsea Fine's graceful storytelling, the distinct voices that she gave her characters, and the touching journey that she sent them on. Best Kind of Broken is a beautifully written, 5-star, New Adult gem!