“Bionic ballerina breaks baddies’ faces, takes names.” That’s how author Amelia Kahaney describes her YA novel, The Brokenhearted, and it’s a pretty accurate description. Here, we’ve got an exclusive chapter excerpt from The Brokenhearted (out Oct. 8), and then read on for our chat with Kahaney about creating a bad-ass female vigilante and her inspiration for the novel.
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ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So what’s The Brokenhearted about?
AMELIA KAHANEY: Anthem Fleet is a straight-A student and serious ballet dancer from the wealthy section of Bedlam, a divided city with a dark past…. Anthem has always followed a rigid routine that has kept her sheltered. But when she meets a boy name Gavin Sharpe, everything changes. She crosses the river—otherwise known as the crime line—and discovers that she doesn’t know much about Bedlam at all. Then Gavin is taken from her, and so is her heart. In its place, a bionic one that lets her do things that aren’t totally human. Including maybe getting him back. In the process, she gives her city hope where there was none and survives more heartbreak than any one person should ever have to bear.
Where did you come up with the idea for the book?
Readers will see that The Dark Knight trilogy was a huge inspiration in the writing of the book, as was the Occupy movement, which was raging when I wrote the first draft. I loved their image of the ballerina balancing on the iconic Wall Street bull, and I wanted to create a character who could embody graceful, improbable survival against considerable odds. Add a fugitive scientist, a failed boxer, a cocky ex-boyfriend and some hummingbird DNA, and The Brokenhearted was born.
Is this a standalone book, or are there more in the works?
It’s a two-book series, but book two has enough action in it for three additional books. I just turned it in this week and I’m still reeling from the last few chapters, which are chock full of shocking revelations about Anthem’s past.
Ballet plays a huge part in Anthem’s life. Do you have a ballet background?
I don’t have a ballet background. My passion as a young girl was tap dancing, followed later by mastering the Roger Rabbit and the Running Man, which of course have come in super handy over the years. But I deeply admire the dedication and work ethic of ballet dancers. Those who reach a high enough level to become professional are incredibly devoted and make so many sacrifices to be able to achieve such stunning precision. While writing, I watched a documentary called First Position, which is about young ballet dancers and what they have to go through to gain acceptance into professional ballet corps. I hope I captured some of that dedication and grace in writing Anthem’s dance scenes.
It’s common to see female heroines in YA books, but not typically female vigilantes. Which came first for you, Anthem or the vigilante?
Anthem’s character and the terrible things that happen to her early on in the book definitely came first. Her vigilantism is tied up with her need to rescue her boyfriend and her anger at just how many forces in Bedlam are beyond her control. Anthem starts out thinking of her new heart and what it does for her as yet another burden she has to bear. She’s a reluctant vigilante, until she finally learns to accept her new abilities and use them to fight her way out of a terrible situation. I had so much fun writing the sections of the book where Anthem starts to embrace ass-kicking as something she’s really good at and gives herself permission to react in this over-the-top violent way she never would have dreamed of trying in her old life.