Fifty pages into Broken As Things Are, a reader may feel a little stranded in a dense forest of steamy prose and dark Southern gothic themes. Stay a while. Martha Witt's debut, about a 14-year-old North Carolina girl and her symbiotic relationship with her disturbed older brother, soon takes a seductive hold, despite its wobbly start. Morgan-Lee and Ginx communicate in made-up words, a private language that isolates them from the rest of their confused family and their sleepy hometown of eccentrics. When Morgan-Lee bends toward a neighborhood boy, Ginx explodes, desperate not to share his one tether to the world. The reward of this intense read is a sister's thoughtful struggle for a way to love her sibling without losing herself.