20 May, 2011
Review: Breakdown by Katherine Amt Hanna
So let's get the bad stuff out of the way. The cover does the content a disservice. Breakdown's cover makes me think we're getting something about a teenager. The backpack, the pencil shading, the coloration, the title, it all says Young Adult Angst. While this book would certainly work for the YA market, it's dealing almost entirely with older characters. (It's not spelled out, but most seem to be in their thirties.) To it's credit, it is remarkably free of typos, grammatical errors, continuity issues. Breakdown scores better than half the majors on that score. To it's detriment, there are some fairly obvious fixes the author needs to take. Hanna has set a specific (and now past) timeline for her tale thereby dating it and throwing the reader out of the story. That's the easy fix. The slightly harder fix (and one I think an editor would suggest) is that Hanna has a few too many characters. I'd toss two or three right off the top. They don't advance the story. Neither do they weigh it down, but it's still parsley on the plate. Still, I never felt I was reading a self published book (with all the connotations that carries).
Breakdown is a great read. A one-sitting, I-stayed-up-too-late, why-is-it-over great read. For $2.99 I can recommend it with a clear conscience. At times Breakdown reminded me of the great sweet Americana romances of the early 90's. Hanna's setting is a post pandemic world, where the infrastructure has broken down and death has occurred on a 1918 (or far greater) plague scale. Having made his way from America to England over a period of several years, Chris finds himself unable to continue. Broken by his experiences during and after the pandemic, he finds solace in the simple life of a town the plague (but not it's after effects) passed by. If that sounds like the set up for a returning post Civil War romance, you're not far off. Breakdown has the same sweet yet horrific atmosphere as that lost genre. One of the best debuts I've read in ages. If this is the future of self publishing, sign me up.