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Even If We Break

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From #1 New York Times bestselling author Marieke Nijkamp comes a shocking new thriller about a group of friends tied together by a game and the deadly weekend that tears them apart.

FIVE friends go to a cabin.
FOUR of them are hiding secrets.
THREE years of history bind them.
TWO are doomed from the start.
ONE person wants to end this.

Are you ready to play?

336 pages, Hardcover

First published September 15, 2020

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About the author

Marieke Nijkamp

54 books1,928 followers
Marieke Nijkamp a storyteller, dreamer, globe-trotter, geek.


Please note I don't respond to friend requests or messages on GR, but you're always welcome to tweet or email me. :)

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,040 reviews
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,537 reviews9,795 followers
May 2, 2023

Y'all, buckle up, it's gonna be a bumpy ride. Even If We Break was a huge disappointment for me.

I knew going in that the reviews weren't the greatest. Regardless of the super interesting synopsis, it seemed a lot of Readers weren't enjoying it, but why?

Frequently, I find myself in the minority opinion on polarizing books, so in spite of the negative reviews, I still wanted to give it a go.

I love slightly cheesy, Teen Slasher stories, particularly those featuring weekend getaways. This book sounded like it would be a great fit for my tastes.

We follow five friends, who head off to a cabin in the Arizona mountains for a weekend getaway. Their mainly plan to play a role-playing game, RPG, they created.

There are costumes, a murder mystery to solve and unfortunately, for all involved, things go south fairly quickly. Before you know it, they have a real life murder mystery on their hands.

I would surmise that incorporating a high fantasy RPG into a narrative story would be a complicated task, and I think I'm right, because I found it confusing AF.

I was still sort of intrigued, but then it went off the rails.

The big baddie was super obvious, so no real suspense there and then the drama to reach the conclusion was ridiculous. I'm sorry, but it was.

Additionally, there was a lot of hard-hitting contemporary topics sprinkled throughout that seemed oddly out of place. It made the overall intent of the novel confusing.

There was a great cast of diverse characters, which I love to see, but in a way, it felt forced; like it was just an effort to get them into the story for that sake alone.

I don't know, it didn't come off as genuine? Perhaps because they were all so one dimensional.

This is just my opinion, of course, and I would love to see OwnVoices reviews on this story.

If you are unaware, this novel features trans-rep, nonbinary-rep and disability-rep. I also would really like to see reviews from individuals who actually participate in RPGs.

Without belaboring the point, I didn't like this. If you pick it up and enjoy it, or even love it, I am so happy you had that experience with it.

Sadly, it just wasn't the right fit for me. On to the next!

Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,199 reviews40.7k followers
May 18, 2022
Oh, no! I hear the choo choo sounds of the disappointment train is about to arrive to the “this story is going anywhere” stop! Five friends in the cabin with secrets gave me “Cabin in the Woods’ vibes but promising premise and exciting start turned into something slow, repetitive, boring drama. And slowly all those brilliant potentials start to drown in a muddy place as my dreams about reading action packed, full of adrenalin rush thriller disappear forever!

I like the representation of transgender kids and five friends’ gathering together for playing a game before parting ways is a promising idea to start a story. Finn got into a fight caused him walking with crutches and ending his friendship with Liva. And now they’re in the same group, barely looking each other’s faces. Ever suffers from guilt feelings because of burden of the secret he carries and Carter starts being paranoid because as soon as they reach the cottage where they perform their role-plays, finds notes about his secret left in his room. And Maddy is still traumatized, suffering from PTSD because of trapped in her burning car after her accident.

I actually didn’t expect their game would be a role-play, wearing costumes, investigating a murder mystery for visual universe. But I was still invested and kept on reading and second half of the book turns into some kind of teenager drama: instead of slow-building high tension thriller, the characters start to make long talks about their feelings and regrets so I felt like I was reading a never ending therapy session.

The conclusion of the story is not bad but I find it unrealistic and a little illogical. It didn’t fit my expectations. So I’m giving three stars only because of the smart plot, likable characters but in my opinion the second half of the book should be rewritten. The ultra- slowed down paced and story’s changing direction disappointed me. It was great start but it could be so much better.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for sharing this intriguing ARC with me in exchange my honest review.
Profile Image for Cesar.
354 reviews235 followers
February 9, 2021
1 star.

I'm going to try and write this review in the nicest way possible though I have a feeling I'll fail because this book frustrated me to no end. Rarely are there books that frustrate and now Even If We Break Joins that list.

I can't describe this book. I can't describe it because it doesn't know what it wants to be. It wants to be slasher horror with character growth but it fails in so many ways that I don't even know why this book was written.

Get ready folks. Strap in and let's go for a ride through my many negative thoughts and feelings on Even If We Break.

Even If We Break tells the story of a group of friends who have become distant from one another. To remedy that, they decide to meet up at a cabin to play an RPG they created to hopefully mend what little of their friendship remains. There they discover that someone is trying to kill them and they don't know why they're being targeted. These friends then must find a way to survive and hopefully know who the culprit is.

When I said earlier that this book doesn't know what it wants to be, I meant every word. It was a jumbled mess of poor character growth, a rushed plot, and the culprit is painfully obvious from the start. Like, literally you could guess who it is.

The only positive thing I have to comment on is the representation. The story has a good representation of trans, nonbinary, and neurodivergent characters as well as one of them being disabled. And there ends what positive thoughts I have.

The story centers around these friends who each get their own chapters as this story have multiple POVs but they all sound the same. None of them have a distinct personality other than what little we see. They are walking talking houseplants that are easily forgettable. There was at one point where I was reading from one perspective only to then realize that I'm reading a different character. Their chapters read exactly alike. I only know who is who when certain points of their chapters mention something specific that relates to that character. Even then, their lack of development or personality made them all forgettable. They are not characters, they are charaicatures.

The RPG game they're playing was the most boring version of Dungeons and Dragons I have ever read. Their game is a focus of the murder mystery part of the story as the culprit uses it to try and trick the character, but when you have boring characters LARPing a boring game, it slows down the story. I'd even go far as to say that it's pointless. I had to slog through chapters where the characters do this with no substance. What's even the point of it if it serves no purpose.

There's also an issue with repetitiveness. Each character, once they are introduced, have a past that they think about and it happens so many times that it takes away from the story. This is what I mean by the story not knowing what it wants to be. It acts like a contemporary sometimes then goes back to being a shitty slasher horror. Also, if I'm being chased by a killer, the last thing I will do is think about my life and focus on survival.

There's also a 'romance' where one character has a crush on another and I just found that completely irrelevant to the plot and saw no reason for it to be there. Again, if a killer is after you, the last thing you want to think about is your feelings for someone. But apparently, each character has to have a flashback of their life instead of focusing on survival. I don't care if you have a tragic backstory you want to talk about, if a killer is after you, history be damned, run for your freaking life to survive!

Speaking of slasher horror, Even If We Break makes all the shitty slasher horror movies look like masterpieces. There was no atmosphere of deadly stakes throughout the story. It also doesn't help that I did not care for any of them. They all could've died and I wouldn't give two flying fucks about them. I wouldn't even call this a slasher horror since nothing made me feel tense or had me on the edge of my seat. Just some forgettable characters doing dumb stuff.

What really pissed me off was the end. When the culprit is revealed along with their motive, I wanted to DNF the book. You would think that the culprit has sick, ulterior motives to want to kill them off. Nope. They're just evil for the sake of being evil. This was an issue I also had with the author's first book, This Is Where It Ends. The villains are only evil for the sake of being evil. This particular character in Even If We Break has no real motivation for doing what they're doing other than the author lazily writing a villain for the sake of them being evil. At least make them have a clear motive other than thinking, "They're evil because I want them to be."

Finally, I want to end on an issue that bothered me. In the book, there is mention of the friends alluding to the idea of adding someone new to their group and when I read that part, I was freaking pissed.

"When Ever suggested bringing in another player after Zac left, I cut them off before they’d finished speaking. I knew what they meant—they correctly pointed out our group was Wonder Bread white, and they knew some people who might be a good fit if they felt comfortable at the table—but we’d finally gotten the balance right. Why fix what wasn’t broken?"

Basically, tokenism. Tokenism at it's finest. They don't care to get to know you as a person, they just want you in their group to make themselves look more diverse. Are. You. Fucking. Kidding. Me. This is not the right way to go about meeting new people and wanting to expand on their friendships. If anything, it teaches the wrong lesson. If I found out that a group only wanted me to join because I'm Hispanic and that was their only reason, I would've kindly told them to fuck off and leave. I want to be friends with people who like me, who actually want to get to know me, not be some token character to diversify their group. I don't know what the author was trying to say with this but this is just tokenism. Make friends because you want to get to know them as an individual, not because they're some check box to fill in.

Even If We Break is a story that serves no purpose of being a story. It's not a good slasher horror/mystery, the characters have no life in them, and has a culprit that is laughably terrible.

Easily one of the worst books I've read in 2020.
Profile Image for Books R Life ☕.
13 reviews1 follower
September 18, 2020
I recieved this book from a GoodReads giveaway! I really enjoyed reading this! The beginning was a little slow going at first, but ended up picking up not to long into it. Each chapter is about one of the characters. And each character has experience something that has made their friendships change within the group. They have always spent their summers togeather in the family cabin☠this year is their last.... And definitely the Scariest!! ☠ recommend if your into suspense!! Great Halloween/ Fall read :)
Profile Image for Briar *Semi-hiatus*.
14 reviews14 followers
May 5, 2023
“And at some point, you discover if you’re going to be afraid anyway, you may as well do the things that scare you.”

How do I even start this review? There's so much to say.. Okay, let's start first with the characters. I find it very difficult to find authors that can write emotions in an authentic way. These characters were so real, I almost forgot they were entirely fictional. I read most books for the plot - more specifically, the plot twists. This book was different however. Don't get me wrong, the plot was great, but the characters were everything.

“It's hard, isn't it? Trusting others with the whole of you?"
She smiles bitterly and shakes her head. "It's so much easier to lie. You know that. You lie too.”

Now, that plot I've been talking about. This is not your average murder mystery. This is set up like a game. A roleplay game to be specific. One that these characters are extremely attached to. It serves to them the way fictional worlds from books serve to us. Which was an extremely unique idea that I've never seen before. I loved every bit of it. About the plot twist.. To be completely honest, it was a little anti-climactic. I suspected it from maybe 100 pages in, but that's no big deal, it was still a brilliantly told story.

“Not being able to do everything on your own doesn’t mean you’re weak. It means you’re as human as we all are, and we’re stronger together. We survived because we were together. Asking for help isn’t failure, it’s strength. It means you trust yourself enough to be flawed and to learn. Because here’s the secret: You don’t have to be infallible. You don’t have to know it all. No one is and no one does.”

Finally, I can honestly say that I've never read a book with a nonbinary character (aside from a very briefly mentioned individual in TFTDATE), which is honestly sad. This book had not only an openly nonbinary character, but several openly trans and queer characters as well. And the author wrote them in such a valid way that it seemed completely normal - which is exactly how it should seem. I've seen other authors attempt to write LGBTQ+ characters - and I greatly respect them for at least trying - but it seemed almost forced in a way. This writing did not.

“Before the accident—BTA—I didn't know anger and pain could feel the same. I didn't think physical pain and emotional pain could simply be extensions of each other. Now, I could hardly separate the two. And I wanted to crash my fist into a kitchen cabinet or my knee into a chair. Find a more harmful way to stim. Either make the pain worse or make it go away.”

Anyway, I could go on about this book with it's wonderful characters and astonishingly accurate depiction of emotions and people themselves for hours, but I'm sure this review is much too long as it is. I highly encourage you to read it, if not for the plot, then just to feel seen and valid. Because you are.

“The world is a messed up and scary place. It's lonely to go through it on your own. So, you have to find your family. You have to find people who will stand by you and make you laugh until you cry, and who will hold you while you cry until you laugh again.”
Profile Image for Kelly.
1,312 reviews502 followers
October 1, 2020
Even if we break was disappointing. I was hoping for a gripping mystery/thriller but unfortunately, I never managed to connect to the characters even though it had good representation (queer & autistic characters). I also never connected with the plot which confused me at first when I saw that their "game" was actually role play. I thought why not, and I tried to get into the book but sadly, it left me a little bored and lost.

I was wondering for a while if someone really died or if it was part of a messed up game but nope, someone did die and there's a murderer on the loose. The revelation of who done it was pretty lack luster and I didn't understand the motives or gain they had...I don't know. I only know that this wasn't for me.

My first mystery of October wasn't a win but that's okay since it's not the only book from that genre I plan on reading this month :)
Profile Image for Dennis.
774 reviews1,471 followers
September 4, 2020
To be honest, this wasn’t my favorite. However, I did really enjoy the social dialogue and issues presented with some of the main characters. The diversity in this book has allowed me to up my rating from 2 to 3 stars. Definitely a very YA vibe so if you battle on some YA books, maybe skip this one. This one is definitely more middle grade focused (in my opinion).
Profile Image for Ezzy.
161 reviews48 followers
April 16, 2021
EDIT: I decided to write a more cohesive post about passive and unintentional ableism in readers and what is wrong with saying things like ''The diversity/representation is the only good thing in the book.'' followed by calling the passages about trauma recollection ''annoying'' and an overstimulated autistic character ''whiny''.
EDIT: Worded the below review a bit better.

This book was amazing! I really love how the disability, mental illness, trauma and transness of the characters is interwoven in the plot, it added layers to the story that made the fear and uncertainty of the characters so much more deeper. There was more to all of it than "Oh shit we are gonna die".

As an autistic, physically disabled non-binary reviewer, I can safely say I am an #OwnVoices reviewer for this book. I skimmed through all the low ratings, and they seem to come from mainly cis-abled folks that completely missed all those layers. People praise the diversity and representation because the labels are present, but don't recognise all parts of it. You can't say ''The diversity/rep is the only good thing about the book.'' and dismiss the passages about trauma and autistic overstimulation as ''annoying'' and ''whiny''. It shows how little people know about disability and mental health, but it also shows the internalised cis-abled normativity and expectations from society and people never properly being exposed to this kind of representation (which some called "forced" aswell. Queer and disabled people flock together more often than not.).

THIS is why we need more representation, because people clearly treat this book as a cis-abled thriller with the trans and disability identities as flavour, while those are what makes the plot the plot. This book would not be the same if these characters were all cis-abled. If you think about reading this book, read the reviews by disabled and/or trans folks and prioritise them.

*Extensive review of the book itself coming later*
Profile Image for Anniek.
1,763 reviews649 followers
October 3, 2020
I started this book last night, then stayed up to finish it, because I absolutely needed to know how it would end. And admittedly, it was pretty scary at times, although I'll be the first to admit I'm easily spooked. It was a very fun thriller, especially because I loved the characters, and I loved the RPG aspect and how it was weaved into the story. I will say I figured out who did it immediately, which was a bit of a shame to me, but I still had a really good time reading this.

Most importantly though, it was pretty amazing how out of 5 main characters, I got to see myself in 3 of them: there's a trans guy, a non-binary person and an autistic person. That's a MAJORITY of the characters, I can hardly believe it! And it's also great for those looking for rep of physical disability, because both the trans guy and the autistic girl are disabled/have chronic pain.

I also absolutely adore how the romance in this book was between the trans guy and the non-binary character. This feels pretty revolutionary to me, and I'm not sure I've read this before, or at least not very often. I love how they found each other even though both of them felt like they didn't deserve to be loved because of who they were.
Profile Image for Beth.
703 reviews572 followers
October 2, 2020
This was a DNF at page 88.

Firstly I want to say that I am pretty sure it’s me and not the book because I went in with completely different expectations so when it wasn’t what I thought it completely threw me off.

The book itself has a lot of representation which is always good to see and I was intrigued to see what the characters secrets were, however to the point where I was I just want interested enough. It’s not like I’ve got to a point where it’s hard to DNF because it wasn’t.

Once again it’s not the book, it was just I genuinely wasn’t expecting that
Profile Image for Kristy.
1,026 reviews143 followers
October 23, 2020
This book completely excels in trans, non-binary, and neurodivergent rep. Major kudos there. The plot, though? A total mess. Full review to come. Thanks to Sourcebooks Early Reads for my copy.
Profile Image for Alex Knipp.
414 reviews6 followers
November 15, 2021
If there was a 0 star option I would still feel like that was too high
Profile Image for Angela Staudt.
374 reviews108 followers
October 4, 2020
"As I catch my breath, I glance around at the group. We're a collection of individuals, all of us broken, all of us fragile. But the thing that scares me the most isn't that I might break us apart farther. It's that I want to."

Even If We Break follows five people who used to be best friends and now barely hang out. They get together one last time at a cabin buried deep in the woods, because they will be graduating and going their separate ways soon. Going into this book I thought it was going to be a top-notch thriller because these kids are going to a cabin in the woods. I mean that screams something bad is going to happen. I was a little thrown off because these five friends get together to play a role-playing game. They all dress up and their goal is to figure out who the killer is in this game they play.
While I wasn’t expecting the role-playing, I still found this to be a fast-paced book and once I started reading I couldn’t stop. I really enjoyed how this legitimately got creepy and gave me chills when one by one things start happening to the characters. I actually got quite scared at certain points and was like what is even going on? I did also really enjoy that this was more than just a thriller. All of the characters, who we each get their perspective, are struggling with something in their life. Whoever is messing with them in the cabin, knows each of their secrets and uses it against them. I do have to admit it got a little slow in some parts, because in the middle of an action-packed scene, the characters would talk about their feelings. I understand that they are overcoming why they aren’t friends anymore and how to overcome their own demons, but in the middle of them being hunted I don’t think is the best time to dive into feelings.
I would have given this book a higher rating if it wasn’t for the ending. First off, right from the beginning I guessed who the killer was. I kept thinking no way, there must be a twist coming because that is way too easy. No twist happened and it was exactly who I thought it was, which is always a bummer for me. Also, the ending was very unbelievable and not realistic. What happened throughout this book was gripping, but finding out who the killer is just didn’t fit with the things that were done. I really think this book had amazing potential and going into this book, the first half I was like this is a strange, but really an amazing thriller. That last half just seemed really unbelievable and lost my interest.
Thank you to SourceBooks Fire and Early Reads for a free finished copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for iam.
973 reviews129 followers
September 6, 2020
Absolutely terrifying horror thriller about five roleplaying friends going to a haunted cabin, that shines through its queer and disabled representation.

Read the full review on the blog!

Content warnings include: murder, character death, graphic violence and injury, emotional torture, ableism, addiction to painkillers, transphobia.
Mentions of car accident, getting beaten up, poverty.

Even If We Break immediately scores with its heavy atmosphere from page one onwards. Even without the actual horror elements, the book leaves you feeling unsettled, because while the group of five teens who go to the cabin for a last round of the (TT)RPG/LARP they play together might be friends on paper, several of the relationships between them are nothing but frayed remnants of what they once were.

The POV switches between the all five characters, and all were compelling to read, despite how profoundly uncomfortable some of them were – some because of the character’s personality, some because of the bad things that happened to the character and how that influenced their view of the world.

I loved the TTRPG/LARPing aspect of the book, though it ultimately didn’t play that big of a role. It gave a fresh (at least to me) element to this otherwise pretty basic horror setting of a remote cabin set at a place with countless ghost stories going around. Despite this well-known setup and knowing what was going to happen, the atmosphere throughout the entire book was so chilling I was unable to read this book at night. I do think part of this was because the friendships were so torn and frayed, the trust so low and previously broken, that when things turned south at first each was on their own.

It was never clear who was lying and who was telling the truth, who was trusting whom and who knew more than they let on. There were plenty of small flashbacks that were integrated into the present flow of consciousness. This was a good choice for the narration and worked well, though I sometimes couldn’t tell where a flashback began and the description of the present ended, and vice versa.

Despite the characters directly telling the reader what they were thinking, why they were so distrustful and angry with each other, and what they were trying to do, I was always scrambling to figure out what was really going on and how it all fit together. But it was never confusing! There were just many things going on, information to slip together, and that information was mostly only given in crumbs, puzzle pieces so tiny it took a while to see the bigger picture. It also skillfully lead you into the wrong direction through the order in which information was given.

I had mixed feelings about the ending. It is fitting, but while it’s not exactly open, some facts about the motive and overall circumstances just left me abolutely TERRIFIED for the characters. Their suffering just seemed so far from over once I thought one step farther, the evil seemingly defeated, but you just KNOW there’s still (figurative) monsters looming behind the next bend of the road.

Speaking of happy, I loved the representations.
Finn being trans and Ever being nonbinary made me so happy (two trans people in one book?! (Un-?)suprisingly many authors decide that one (1) trans person is enough, which it aBSOLUTELY ISN’T IF YOU ASK ME) And you know what made me EVEN MORE HAPPY?! That the romantic subplot of the book was between these two!!!! In the context of the romance I love how it was emphasized that friendship isn’t less important than romance, and that it acts as a basis for a relationship, which I whole heartedly agree with.
The nonbinary rep was ownvoices, as was the autistic rep, which according to the acknowledgements was very closely based on the author’s personal experiences with autism. Both that and Finn’s using crutches, as well as the chronic pain from Finn and Maddy, and the themes of addiction and poverty, felt real to me and were integrated smoothly and naturally into the narrative. Always love to see disabled characters in genre fiction!

Overall a great horror slash thriller that gripped me from the very first to the very last page! One of the very few books that made me flip a couple pages ahead to read a paragraph and ascertain myself of what would happen, because I couldn’t bear the tension!
Profile Image for Alaina.
6,316 reviews215 followers
October 8, 2020
...what did I just read?

Even If We Break almost broke me. The beginning honestly sounded pretty cool, and so did the synopsis, but I was just so bored with everything that was happening. Also, the whole game thing is still weird and creepy to me. SO yeah, don't put me down for that game EVER.

In this, 5 friends are going to a cabin to play a game or whatever. At first, I thought it was like roleplaying something like dungeons and dragons. I honestly didn't know what I was getting into and once I realized what was going on - I was still freaking confused. Not sure what people thought were creepy unless you are talking about that psychotic girl at the end. Which, if we are.. what was the motive again? I'm still not understanding it. Did she need friends? Real or imaginary?

I have questions - like so many questions - but I am done with this book. It could've been amazing my eyes but ended up being disappointing and underwhelming.
Profile Image for Alex Nonymous.
Author 21 books375 followers
November 19, 2020
Thanks to the publisher for providing a digital ARC of Even If We Break in exchange for an honest review.

I'm a self proclaimed horror junky. I used to pride myself on having read every single goosebumps book (published pre 2013), I grew up on scooby doo, then goosebumps, then are you afraid of the dark and the haunting hour and now I watch and read every horror story I can get my hands on. Even If We Break is not a horror story.

Even in kids horror, one of the most important aspects of a scary story is anticipation. It's why monsters usually don't get screen time until the third act. Even if We Break has all of its 'horror' packed into the same few middle chapters and once it happens, tension’s lost. The set up was really cool. A splintered friend group going to a cabin to play a murder mystery themed RPG? Incredible. But then there's a whole lot of "I see a shadow" before an actual threat is introduced to make the shadows add tension before two back to back killings. Our group is a group of 5 kids and by not spacing out the deaths, it ruined a lot of the tension the book could have built (especially considering the first one happens 'off screen'. Not showing a body adds to the fear of uncertainty but then a few pages later the book goes 'here's a body' and ruins it).

This is shelved as a mystery/ thriller though, so is it a mystery? Again, I don't really think so. The moment the first murder happens, you know who it is because of things I won't discuss for obvious spoilers. This book really only has 6 suspects, the 5 players and their one missing member and once two characters are gone, it's hard not to know exactly who did it. I loved how diverse this book is and saw a few reviews saying having a neurodivergent character, an enby character, and a trans character in the same group of 5 was unrealistic but I don't believe that's the case. That being said, a book claiming to highlight this diversity is extremely unlikely to have on of their diverse characters be a secret sociopath so since the story also has such a small cast, it was hindered from the get go.

Even though I knew who the murderer was going to be, the twist STILL felt ludicrous. I'd had most of the book to try and wrap my head around a motive and while they (I use the anonymous they here, I'm not confirming or denying that the only character in this book who uses they/them pronouns is the murderer) technically reveal it, it still felt way too out of left-field to be buyable.

Scary stories stay with you because of their believability. We abandon fears of monsters and boogeymen when we become sure they don't really exist. Realistic set scary stories need believable antagonists more than they need super developed heroes because a murderer who you could realistically imagine in the real world is terrifying. Even if We Break has a lot of really fleshed out characters and character dynamics, but falls short on its villain and ultimately suffers for it.
Profile Image for Jenn.
1,727 reviews294 followers
January 18, 2022

Well... I really wanted to like this book. Right off the bat, it had three things going for it:

- Full of diverse characters: trans-rep, nonbinary-rep and disability-rep - and I freaking loved all of the representation here.
- cabin in the woods slasher horror
- spotlight on nerdness - let your nerd flag fly!

But sadly, that's where the positives end. This book was ... awkward. This group of teens who were once really close decide to have one last hurah together but no one really wants to be there and it shows. All of the interactions felt forced, the relationships felt forced and I don't know if that's what the author was going for - I mean, if she was, she was spot on. But if this was a book where a group of friends was supposed to find their way back to each other, that failed.

There was also a story within a story - the group takes part in role playing games to solve murders - it's what brought them all together in the first place. So before they go away to college they wanted to have one last game to say goodbye to their characters. So while we have the current story, we also have the fantasy story playing over it which felt a little weird at times with all of the back and forth.

The killer was obvious from the start so there was no real mystery for me and the climax where they were revealed felt really... shallow. Like the entire motive was shallow. It just didn't sit right.

Profile Image for Samantha.
1,676 reviews82 followers
November 7, 2020
This was a good lesson in the value of paying attention to the reviews from your Goodreads community, even if they are unfavorable but the synopsis sounds good.

Nijkamp had a great premise here, and parts of the book were successful (more on that in a moment), but on the whole, the book is a big letdown.

There is some heavy, heavy angst going on with all of these characters, and it is painful and frankly kind of irritating to read. Do we want our protagonists to fight to overcome hardships throughout a narrative? Of course. Do we want them all crushingly depressed and despairing for 90% of the book? I certainly don’t. The fact that they all perk up a bit at the end isn’t helpful. The oppressive misery of every single character in the group didn’t feel authentic or necessary. It just felt melodramatic.

I probably could have gotten past all that if this had been a great story. But alas, that too failed in the end.

One of the good things about this book was that there was a point around the middle of the novel where the atmosphere/creepiness factor got really, really good. But the solve...yikes. While I do think Nijkamp picked the right villain (predictable though it was), she unfortunately also chose the wrong motive (or lack thereof), and it destroyed the narrative completely.

It was also kind of obnoxious to hear three of the protagonists—when preparing to confront the villain—righteously talking about how they “don’t want to resort to violence.”

I understand there is a segment of YA readership that likes this nicey-nice stuff, but let’s keep it out of the murder mysteries, yes? This person murdered your friend (while you were in the middle of a semi-violent RPG I might add), and your plan is to throw a blanket over their head to disorient them so you don’t have to throw a punch? I hope I never find myself in a foxhole with any of you.

On a more positive note, I thought Nijkamp handled diversifying her cast well. Both the trans and the neurodivergent character felt well-rendered. I really appreciate that she didn’t just throw them in as tokens, nor did she make their entire identity about being trans or neurodivergent. Definitely some points awarded back for this, and a real bright spot in an otherwise disappointing story.

Profile Image for Izzie.
585 reviews111 followers
August 31, 2020
Thank you to Source Books for sending me this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
This book follows a group of 5 best friends who head up to a remote cabin for the weekend to play one last game in their invented role play world. Relationships are already fractured, but when mysterious notes start turning up and one of them goes missing it quickly spirals into a dark game for survival that none of them could have anticipated.
What I Liked:
Characters. This book had 5 POV characters, Ever, Finn, Liva, Carter and Maddy, each of them with their own secrets and flaws. I really liked the relationships between the characters as there was such a range of different dynamics. I especially enjoyed the bond between Finn and Ever as they had so much history and truly cared for each other. Representation in this book was refreshing as so many identities were depicted. Ever was non-binary, Finn was trans and had arthritis, and Maddy was autistic and suffered chronic pain. I especially appreciated the chronic pain and chronic illness representation, as it felt authentic to my own experience as the author made it clear that pain and restricted mobility affected almost everything they did. I could tell this was own voices representation as it was handled with such care and knowledge.
Atmosphere. The remote cabin setting was a great choice as it immediately created a spooky and isolated atmosphere. The author did a great job keeping up the suspense throughout the story and it kept me on the edge of my seat. The addition of anonymous notes and the constant suggestion that they were being watched was very effective.
What I Didn't Like:
The End. Although the "reveal" wasn't overly shocking it didn't disappoint me. However, the last 10 percent of the book was very repetitive. Although I liked the message it was frustrating because it felt very drawn out.
Overall, this was an engaging and exciting page turner of a thriller. It had great characters and interesting relationships as well as an atmospheric and well crafted plot.
Profile Image for Sharon :).
342 reviews32 followers
January 14, 2021
This could have been a 5 but it left me with alot of unanswered questions
Profile Image for Samantha.
897 reviews45 followers
December 22, 2020
Oke, ik denk dat dit toch echt mijn laatste Marieke Nijkamp boek word.
Ik heb nu 3 boeken van haar gelezen. 1 boek vond ik fantastisch! (54 Minuten) Dat was het eerste boek wat ik van haar las. Vol goede moed begon ik toen aan haar 2e boek (Voor ik je loslaat) en die vond ik verschrikkelijk. Het voelde een beetje alsof dit boek haar 2e boek moest goedmaken voor mij, maar dat is totaal niet gelukt.

Ik was helemaal blij toen ik dit boek in de bieb tegen kwam. Dit boek zou een knaller worden. Ik wist het zeker! Ik zou de magie van Marieke weer voelen en dit boek binnen no-time uitlezen.
Maar toen begon ik aan het boek en het gevoel brokkelde gelijk af.

5 vrienden gaan nog één keer samen hun spel spelen. Ze spelen dit spel al 3 jaar, maar het is tijd dat ze ieder hun eigen weg gaan. Ze spelen het samen in een hut in de bergen. Alle 5 de vrienden hebben een hoop meegemaakt. Kunnen ze het spel samen goed afsluiten?

In het begin is er gelijk een enorme lading aan karakters die geïntroduceerd worden in een wereld die ik niet ken. Ik heb het boek na een uur dan ook verdwaasd neergelegd. Niet echt begrijpend wat ik nu had gelezen. Verrassend genoeg, wist ik dat na het uitlezen van het boek nog steeds niet.
De karakters hebben allemaal een hoop meegemaakt. Dat wordt gedurende het boek wel duidelijk, maar er zit geen uitleg achter. Maddy heeft een ongeluk gehad, maar hoe/wat/waar/waarom is onduidelijk. Finn loopt met krukken en zou aangevallen zijn, maar hoe/wat/waar/waarom is onduidelijk. Dat soort dingen ergeren me, want juist dat wil ik weten!
Ever wordt aangesproken met hen. Heel mooi dat dit in een YA boek voorkomt, immers diversiteit hoort erbij. Een karakter dat zich niet identificeert als man of vrouw, maar hé ik weet dat, ik weet niet of iedereen weet dat diegene misschien daarom liever met hen aangesproken wordt. Er wordt compleet niets over toegelicht, maar een young adult boek lijkt mij de aangewezen kans om juist jongeren bewust te maken en ze iets te leren! Er staan tevens enorm veel termen in het boek die ik echt totaal niet kende, bijvoorbeeld Cis, en dan ging ik dat weer opzoeken. Compleet uit het verhaal, een uur verder. Leuk om weer wat geleerd te hebben uiteraard, maar laten we eerlijk zijn: ik heb dit niet geleerd door dit verhaal te lezen.. Dáar had het best uitgelegd kunnen worden, want echt niet iedereen gaat het opzoeken.

In eerste instantie gaf ik dit boek 2 sterren, maar nu ik verder kom in deze review heb ik echt geen flauw idee waarom. Ik vind dat dit boek echt niet verder komt dan 1 ster.
Want het spel zelf. Huh, wat is het eigenlijk voor spel? Wat deden ze nu precies en waarom loopt het nu ineens mis?
En dan de dader in dit boek. Dat motief is wel echt heeeeel ver gezocht.
Profile Image for Elizabeth Aguilar.
581 reviews58 followers
December 20, 2020
I received an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Trigger warnings: murder, death, addiction

Representation: trans POV characters, bisexual POV character, autistic POV character, chronic pain, disabled POV character

I honestly don't know how to rate it. It's a 1 or 2 star read. While this book has a variety of representation, the execution is lacking. The transitions between monologues, flashbacks, RPG, and the mystery/thriller elements are awkward. While I have empathy for some of the characters, they're not all compelling. The murderer is obvious early on and alternative arguments are weak. I'm especially frustrated that the mystery/thriller aspect of it was so disappointing, since their motive was... so out of place. It came out of nowhere.

After finishing, I'm still not sure if it tried to do too much or if it needed more editing. Maybe both?
13 reviews3 followers
September 22, 2020
This is the first book I have read by this author and definitely won't be my last! I can't wait to read Before I Let Go! Things I loved about the book: the setting (cabin in the mountain/woods) I love books and movies with that setting! So spooky! It gets scary pretty quickly after they arrive at the cabin, diversity, that there are five POV so we get to know what everyone is thinking and feeling, there is a ghost story thrown in so you don't know if it is a ghost or one of them that is doing everything (I did figure it out though before it was revealed) I recommend this book to everyone that loves thriller/horror!
Profile Image for Sarah  Grace .
235 reviews37 followers
September 7, 2021
this book had an interesting premise, but it didn’t deliver for me.

there were a lot of characters in this book, and they kinda ran together in my head😂 in the beginning, i thought that every character had a really big secret that would get revealed, and they didn’t? that was a let down for me, especially because i felt
that it could’ve been a better motivator for the killer if the other had betrayed them, but no. the killer’s motivation ended up feeling very weak to me. i had a hard time caring about the characters, since i never felt like i really got a chance to know them. also, there was A LOT of self-reflection and inner monologue (especially towards the end) and all i could think was “you are about to die??? you are literally running away from a murDERER RN🤨” but since i haven’t been chased by a murderer (yet) i will not judge too harshly😌

as for the plot, i didn’t mind it. it was fairly well paced, and i wasn’t bored (save for the self-reflection.) i did think that the killer was pretty obvious, which doesn’t take away from my reading experience, but it might for other readers.

all the points for a really creepy atmosphere though, bc now you will never catch me in a fancy high tech cabin in the middle of nowhere😬 seriously, at one point i had chills up and down my arms bc i was so creeped out by one part in particular, and i don’t scare easily. i’m the idiotic character in books that has no sense of self preservation, and goes straight into danger, but i would have been running down that mountain as fast as my legs could go…which. isn’t very fast. but anyways yes. the setting was very well done👌🏻

not the book for me, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a try🤷🏼‍♀️
Profile Image for Crystal.
712 reviews88 followers
January 1, 2022
Five friends are brought together by their mutual love of a fantasy-based RPG—Gonfalon. Together, they’ve created an immersive world full of magic, murder and mystery.
RPGs are a great form of escapism, and everyone in this group is trying to escape something. Unfortunately, the game that once brought them together is now tearing them apart. They decide to meet up one last time to try and salvage what’s left of their friendship.
But what happens when you develop too much dependency on escapism? One member of this group doesn’t want the game to end and is going to do whatever it takes to make sure it doesn’t.

I understand the ratings of the book being low because of the RPG aspect. If you don’t participate in (or have a fundamental understanding of) RPGs, you’re probably not going to enjoy this book. The synopsis should have made it clearer what this book was about, but it didn’t.
I’ll admit it: I’m a huge nerd who loves RPGs and LARPing. Because of that, I really enjoyed the gaming and fantasy aspects of the story. I particularly enjoyed it when the game started bleeding into the real world and lines between fantasy and reality blurred. So good! It reminded me of the 1982 movie Mazes and Monsters.

I also appreciate the autism and trans representation, especially regarding the bullying and relationship issues these particular minority groups face. That being said, Maddy and Finn are the only two characters that were well fleshed out. The other three were one dimensional and they’re motivations weren’t clear. More character development for them would have made the story more impactful.

That isn’t the only problem.
The reasoning behind why the friends drifted apart is kind of vague. We get a few hints along the way, but nothing is fleshed out. Likewise, the killer’s motives are super vague and don’t make a lot of sense. And (this is totally a me problem) I didn’t like the syrupy sweet ending. It went on for too long, was overly sentimental and could’ve been shaved down to add more depth to the actual story. (Just my opinion of course. Some might like it as is).

Overall, while this book did have some issues, I still enjoyed it and would read more by this author.
August 28, 2020

Disclaimer: An eARC was provided via the Publisher and Netgalleyin exchange for an honest review. The Thoughts, opinions & feelings expressed in the review are therefore, my own.

Actual Rating 2.75 Stars

Oh dear, I really had such high expectations from this horror mystery – but it failed to leave a mark on me.

Five friends; from different walks of lives who have had only one thing in common –
a RPG that they all immerse themselves in; come together to play one last game, before they all move on with their lives. Once best friends, recent events have led their friendships to be fractured to a point that none of them believe could be repaired, but they aren’t willing to give up either.

First, let me just say, the representation of transgender as well as non – binary kids with a role playing game set in a cabin in the woods that has its own haunting tales is sort of the PERFECT setting for a weekend of macabre and horror – and it does work; but only up to a certain part.

Even If We Break worked like a charm to hold my attention for a while – we get multiple PoVs as well as the history amongst these friends and the scintillating peeks into the secrets they all have – and when things start going wrong with their RPG, it had me at the edge of the seat, not just with excitement but with horror as well.

But that’s exactly when thing started to go wrong; for the book and for the reader as well – because it didn’t take a genius to figure EXACTLY who the perpetrator was and every plot twist hence started going downhill , since it got boring – and last, but definitely not the least; there is absolutely no closure at the end of the book – okay, I get that the characters were supposed to grow and mature; but the where does the consequence come into play her? Let me tell you, I need closure when it comes to standalones okay – so an epilogue would have been appreciated it; actually no it was expected.

A great foundation and start to a horror mystery/thriller, that fell short of expectations.

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Profile Image for Audrey.
476 reviews16 followers
May 21, 2020
I'm torn.
This is the second book I've read by Marieke Nijkamp, and there were some things I enjoyed. Ahem:
1) It was definitely a thriller and I'm usually hard-pressed to find a thriller that doesn't keep me turning the pages
2) It's use of RPGs as the backdrop for the plot and the friendship was really interesting and well done; I hadn't seen a book that used that before. I'm not super familiar with that world, but it seemed very well-researched. And finally:
3) The diversity?
This is where this book gets hard to review for me. I really admire the work that Nijkamp does in promoting diverse books and calling for greater representation in YA. It just felt a little forced? I don't know how to explain it. I was thrilled to see representation in this book that I've literally never read in fiction before. And I appreciated that a character could have a disability, or not be neurotypical, or not be cisgender, and not have that be the only aspect of their personality. But the fact that there were soooo many of these aspects for such a small cast of characters, and many of them really weren't explored at all, it almost felt like they were just tossed in there, and didn't give any legitimate representation to the experience.
There was a comment early on in the book about how the characters were considering adding another member to their friend group because they were collectively too white. It just started to give me the vibe that this was diversity for the sake of getting diversity points.
This kind of plays into my overall problem with the book. It just lacks subtlety. Everything was extremely cut and dry; the characters almost felt like caricatures. They would go on paragraph long rants explicitly outlining their struggles, or what they're feeling, or how they believe things should be. I felt like I was just being handed morals.
The mystery element also was kind of lacking. Sure, there definitely was a mystery, but the reader isn't really given many opportunities to solve it. There is one solution that is foreshadowed so obviously throughout the beginning of the book that you realize it CAN't be that one, and the true solution just comes out of nowhere, with very little explanation for how it could've even been possible.
I do appreciate this book for what it did do well. It was fast-paced and easy, which is what I was hoping for. And it did give lots of important representation. I just feel like it could've been executed better. This is pretty similar to how I felt about Nijkamp's debut, as well. The ratings of her three books have been pretty consistent across Goodreads, so I'm wondering if her writing just isn't for me. However, if you're looking for a fast-paced story with some rep and RPG references, it's worth a shot.
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