Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Torn Away by Jennifer Brown

The Basics:
Torn Away by Jennifer Brown
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Published May 6, 2014
Source: Received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Amazon.ca Kobo.com

Why I picked up this book:

Loved the cover, saw potential in the blurb.


Born and raised in the Midwest, Jersey Cameron knows all about tornadoes. Or so she thinks. When her town is devastated by a twister, Jersey survives -- but loses her mother, her young sister, and her home. As she struggles to overcome her grief, she's sent to live with her only surviving relatives: first her biological father, then her estranged grandparents.

In an unfamiliar place, Jersey faces a reality she's never considered before -- one in which her mother wasn't perfect, and neither were her grandparents, but they all loved her just the same. Together, they create a new definition of family. And that's something no tornado can touch.
My thoughts:

So many tears. All the tears.

Torn Away is a heartbreaker of a novel. And worth it.

I've never experienced a natural disaster, and as the parent of small children, the thought of experiencing once terrifies me because I *know* that I'm not prepared for it. I think part of that is that it feels like being prepared is an acknowledgement that it *could* happen.

Fortunately, I live in Southern Ontario, where, *knock on wood*, natural disasters are few and far between.**

Not so fortunate for Jersey, the heroine of Torn Away, who must face life without her mother and little sister after a huge tornado upends her hometown.  Torn Away doesn't ask us to consider just the aftermath, but instead hammers home the trauma of it all by having us live through the tornado itself alongside Jersey, and then journey along with her in the immediate aftermath, and in the weeks that follow.

Jersey is, at the start of this book, like any typical teenager. She finds her six year-old sister to be too much - too much energy, too many questions, too much pestering. Jersey just wants to be left alone to be a teenager. And while she's not close with her stepfather, Ronnie, and kind of resents the uptick in chores now that there's four people in the house instead of two, she does love her mother to pieces. Because for so long, it was just the two of them versus the world.

Torn Away is such an apt title for the book, as Jersey's life is truly torn away - not just her immediate family and possessions but also some of the things she thought she knew about her extended family and her mother.

There's such a huge range of reactions - from completely devoid of compassion (which, I discovered, is where my line of intolerance stands. People who have no compassion), to people who wanted to stay uninvolved, to compassion in surprising places. All of them seemed honest (if not 'good') and evoked strong responses from me while I was championing Jersey's efforts to find her new place in the world.

Ultimately, this book made me really think about what it'd be like to survive a disaster, what support survivors need and what family really is.

Also? It made me cry. A lot.

**Seriously, I felt like I was courting disaster just by typing this all out. Holy crow guys, this book puts the ache in heartache.

Bottom line:

I recommend Torn Away for one of those times when you could use a good cry - we all have those times! It's also a nice fit for when you want something a bit weightier than, say, a romance novel, but you don't want to commit to a 500 page tearjerker. This is a neat, compact 200-ish pages. And it's really, really worth the read.

5 stars
For fans of YA fiction, sad stories, uplifting stories, disaster stories, family.

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