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Broken Soup
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Broken Soup

4.2 22
by Jenny Valentine
 

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Positive.

Negative.

It's how you look at it. . . .

Someone shoves a photo negative into Rowan's hands. She is distracted but, frankly, she has larger problems to worry about. Her brother is dead. Her father has left. Her mother won't get out of bed. She has to take care of her younger sister. And keep it all together .

Overview

Positive.

Negative.

It's how you look at it. . . .

Someone shoves a photo negative into Rowan's hands. She is distracted but, frankly, she has larger problems to worry about. Her brother is dead. Her father has left. Her mother won't get out of bed. She has to take care of her younger sister. And keep it all together . . .

But Rowan is curious about the mysterious boy and the negative. Who is he? Why did he give it to her? The mystery only deepens when the photo is developed and the inconceivable appears.

Everything is about to change for Rowan. . . . Finally, something positive is in her life.

Award-winning author Jenny Valentine delivers a powerful and life-affirming story of grief, friendship, and healing that will resonate long after the last page.

Editorial Reviews

Sunday Times (London)
“Most enjoyable: a life-affirming, witty, romantic read, about freedom, responsibility and love.”
thebookbag.co.uk
“Completely gorgeous. A tremendously sympathetic and engaging central character and huge dollops of intense love and pain. This book has it all.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)
“The language is simple, but its crafting is deft and emotional. Rowan herself is a believable blend of heroic and desperate, and the book is particularly perceptive.”
Horn Book Magazine
“[A] warm, graceful first person narrative…readers will stick by Rowan as she builds sustaining new relationships.”
The Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books
“The language is simple, but its crafting is deft and emotional. Rowan herself is a believable blend of heroic and desperate, and the book is particularly perceptive.”
www.thebookbag.co.uk
“Completely gorgeous. A tremendously sympathetic and engaging central character and huge dollops of intense love and pain. This book has it all.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"The language is simple, but its crafting is deft and emotional. Rowan herself is a believable blend of heroic and desperate, and the book is particularly perceptive."
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)
“The language is simple, but its crafting is deft and emotional. Rowan herself is a believable blend of heroic and desperate, and the book is particularly perceptive.”
Publishers Weekly

Valentine's second novel (following the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize winner Me, the Missing, and the Dead) focuses on British teenager Rowan and her younger sister, Stroma, who are left to fend for themselves following their older brother Jack's sudden death two years earlier. Their parents having since divorced, Rowan must care for Stroma and their depressed mother. Rowan continues to find herself lonely and overwhelmed; "It's hard to adjust your eyes to something that's dark where it should be light," she reflects while staring at a negative she is given, which turns out to be a photo of her brother. A chance encounter with Harper, a world traveler who lands in her town, leads her to meeting lively Bee and developing a whole new "family" ("Some families we get without asking, while others we choose. And I chose those two"). The story is delicately written, and mysteries and revelations involving Jack propel it forward. A solid tale of what it takes to grow up and how to ask for help. Ages 14-up. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up

Rowan lives in a house that has been turned into a mausoleum. Her older brother drowned on vacation, and now her family is drowning in grief. Her parents have split, her mother has retreated into a haze of pills and sleep, and the 15-year-old has become the caregiver for her 6-year-old sister. She numbly moves along this path until the day a boy in a coffee shop hands her a photo negative that he mistakenly thinks fell out of her bag. This simple action sets off a surprising chain reaction of events. She meets Bee, who was in the coffee shop at the time, and learns of a connection between the older girl and her brother. She also discovers some amazing things about the people around her, slowly brings life back to her broken family, and even finds love. Some readers may find this book a little slow to start, but once past the first two chapters, they will be sucked into the puzzle. The short chapters reveal many kind and thoughtful people who are willing to help Rowan, and the dynamics among characters ring true. Give this poignant, rewarding story to teens who need books dealing with grief or who crave romance amid tragedy and hardship.-Jessica Miller, New Britain Public Library, CT

Kirkus Reviews
Fifteen-year-old Rowan-clever, introspective and stressed-is holding her grieving, broken family together with elbow grease and well-told lies. Lacking parental support and missing her late brother Jack, Rowan focuses entirely on the day-to-day business of keeping her five-year-old sister Stroma fed, occupied and happy. Into this sad monotony drops Harper, a cute American bearing a photographic negative he insists belongs to Rowan. The photo, developed with help from would-be friend Bee, reveals Jack's face, full of joyous life. The shock of this mysterious gift prompts Rowan to build a makeshift family for herself, first relying on Bee and her father Carl, then befriending and falling for Harper. The narrative takes several dramatic turns-Rowan discovers Bee and Jack's romance, and her mother attempts suicide-but Valentine handles each one with a light touch, letting Rowan's warmth and grit, as well as her loneliness and resentment shine through on each page. This is rich, satisfying storytelling, indeed. (Fiction. YA)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060850715
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
03/24/2009
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.12(h) x 0.81(d)
Lexile:
HL730L (what's this?)
Age Range:
18 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Broken Soup SNY

Chapter One

It wasn't mine.

I didn't drop it but the boy in the line said I did.

It was a negative of a photograph, one on its own, all scratched and beaten up. I couldn't even see what it was a negative of because his finger and thumb were blotting out most of it. He was holding it out to me like nothing else was going to happen until I took it, like he had nothing else to do but wait.

I didn't want to take it. I said that. I said I didn't own a camera even, but the boy just stood there with this "I know I'm right" look on his face.

He had a good face. Friendly eyes, wide mouth, all that. One of his top teeth was chipped; there was a bit missing. Still, a good face doesn't equal a good person. If you catch yourself thinking that, you need to stop.

All my friends were cracking up behind me. The girl at the counter was trying to give me my change and everybody in the line was just staring. I couldn't think why he was doing this to me. I wondered if embarrassing strangers was one of the ways he got through his day. Maybe he walked around with a pile of random stuff in his pockets—not just negatives but thimbles and condoms and glasses and handcuffs. I might be getting off lightly.

I didn't know what else to do, so I said thank you, who knows for what, and I went red like always, and I made a face at my friends like I was in on the joke. Then I shoved the negative in my bag with the oranges, milk, and eggs, and he smiled.

All the way home I got "What is it, Rowan?" and "Let's see" and "Nice smile"—a flock of seagulls in school uniform, shrieking and pointingand jumping around me. And I did my usual thing of taking something that's just happened apart in my head until it's in little pieces all over the place and I can't fit it back together again. I wanted to know why he'd picked me out of everyone in the shop, and whether I should be glad about that or not. I thought about what he said ("You dropped this... no really... I'm sure") and what I did (act like a rabbit in headlights, argue, give in). I was laughing about it on the outside, feeling like an idiot on the quiet. I had no idea something important might have happened.

My name is Rowan Clark and I'm not the same person as I was in that shop, not anymore. The rowan is a tree that's meant to protect you from bad things. People made crosses out of it to keep away witches in the days before they knew any better. Maybe my mum and dad named me it on purpose, maybe not, but it didn't do much good. Bad things and my family acted like magnets back then, coming together whatever was in the way.

When I got home with the shopping, I forgot about the negative because there was too much to do. Mum was asleep on the sofa while Stroma watched The Fairly OddParents with the sound off. Stroma's my little sister. She was named after an island off Scotland where nobody lives anymore. There used to be people there until 1961 and one of them was someone way back in my dad's family. Then there was just one man in a lighthouse until they made the lighthouse work without the man and he left too. That's what Stroma and her namesake have in common, getting gradually abandoned.

I made scrambled eggs on toast with cut-up oranges and glasses of milk. While we were eating, I asked Stroma how her day was, and she said it was great because she got Star of the Week for writing five sentences with periods and everything. Being Star of the Week means you get a badge made from cardboard and a cushion to sit on at story time, which is a big deal, apparently, when you're nearly six.

I asked her what her five sentences were, and she said they were about what she did on the weekend. I said, "What did we do?" and she reeled them off, counting them on her fingers.

"I went to the zoo. With my mum and dad. We saw tigers. I had popcorn. It was fun."

Five lies, but I let it slide, and after a minute she met my eye and started talking about something else I couldn't quite make out because her mouth was full of orange. Stroma and I had whole conversations with our mouths full. It was one of the benefits of parentless meals. That and eating with your fingers and having your dessert first if you felt like it.

After supper she did a drawing of a torture chamber while I washed up. "It's us going swimming," she said, pointing at the rivers of blood and the people hanging from walls.

I said, "We can go on Saturday if you want," which she did and I already knew it.

She asked me to draw a unicorn, and even though it looked more like a rhinoceros and should have gone in the garbage, she colored it pink out of loyalty and called it Sparkle.

When she was all clean and in her pajamas, we'd read a book, and when she was feeling sleepy, Stroma asked for Mum. Just like a kid from Victorian times who gets to see a parent in order to bid them good night, but the rest of the time has to make do with the staff. I said Mum would take ten minutes because I'd have to wake her up first. I put this lullaby tape on that Stroma listened to every night since forever and I knew she'd probably be asleep before anyone made it up there.

Broken Soup SNY. Copyright © by Jenny Valentine. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Jenny Valentine worked in a food shop for fifteen years, where she met many extraordinary people and sold more organic bread than there are words in her first book. She studied English literature at Goldsmith's College, which almost made her stop reading but not quite. Her debut novel, Me, the Missing, and the Dead, won the prestigious Guardian Children's Fiction Prize in the UK under the title Finding Violet Park. Jenny is married to a singer/songwriter and has two children. She lives in Hay on Wye, England.

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Broken Soup 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
XXXOOOBookwormOOOXXX More than 1 year ago
BROKEN SOUP is the heartbreaking story of a girl and her family's attempt to recover from the untimely death of Jack. Jack was the shining star in the family. When he died, so did the family. Rowan's father has left. Her mother is practically comatose with grief. It's up to Rowan to keep herself and her little sister, Stroma, surviving.  The story evolves into Rowan's friendship with Bee, and her future encounters with the unknown boy, Harper. Harper is an American traveling around Europe. He hadn't planned on staying in town as long as he has, but he's enthralled with Rowan and can't bring himself to leave. While Rowan is in line at a shop, a strange boy tries handing her a picture negative. He's insistent that she has dropped it, but Rowan is positive that it's not hers. When he doesn't let up, Rowan takes the negative from him, but once at home, she throws it in the trash. It isn't until an unfamiliar girl approaches Rowan in the lunch room that she gives a second thought to the negative. Finding the negative begins a series of events that may either heal Rowan's family once and for all, or be the last straw that makes it crumble into permanent destruction. The story is beautifully written and will surely touch the heart of all who read it.        
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
The story in BROKEN SOUP starts immediately from page one. While Rowan is in line at a shop, a strange boy tries handing her a picture negative. He's insistent that she has dropped it, but Rowan is positive that it's not hers. When he doesn't let up, Rowan takes the negative from him, but once at home, she throws it in the trash. It isn't until an unfamiliar girl approaches Rowan in the lunch room that she gives a second thought to the negative. The girl, Bee, is a few years older and would be the same age as her brother, Jack, if Jack were still alive. It turns out Bee saw the encounter at the shop and asks Rowan what was on the negative. Rowan retrieves it from the trash, and Bee develops it. What shows up stuns Rowan. It's a picture of her brother. But this is not a picture that she has ever seen before. How did the unfamiliar boy know that it belonged to her, even when she hadn't known herself that it even existed? From there, the story evolves into Rowan's friendship with Bee, and her future encounters with the unknown boy, Harper. Harper is an American traveling around Europe. He hadn't planned on staying in town as long as he has, but he's enthralled with Rowan and can't bring himself to leave. BROKEN SOUP is the heartbreaking story of a girl and her family's attempt to recover from the untimely death of Jack. Jack was the shining star in the family. When he died, so did the family. Rowan's father has left. Her mother is practically comatose with grief. It's up to Rowan to keep herself and her little sister, Stroma, surviving. Finding the negative begins a series of events that may either heal Rowan's family once and for all, or be the last straw that makes it crumble into permanent destruction. The story is beautifully written and will surely touch the heart of all who read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A place were kits and queens go emberclan
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-Cia- More than 1 year ago
In this novel you will find very astonishing, msyterious things happening. The author does a great job of making you feel as if you are in the book yourself. As you read through this book you will notice that all the pieces are fitting together, and everything starts to make more sense. There are also some parts that are emotional. If you like realistic books, then this is definately the way to go!
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always_elsewhere08 More than 1 year ago
Make that two words--original. Rowan's story is unforgettable and yet so realistic. There's none of that slow moving nonsense or boring details. Everything in the story makes you want to be there--to keep reading!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When a boy gives Rowan a negative she's certain it isn't hers but when he insisits it is, she takes it. With the help of her new found friend Bee Rowan discovers the photo's of her dead brother Jack, one she's never seen. As Rowan dicovers Bee's secret she learns that keeping them isn't always a good idea.