Standalone. Little, Brown (May 2014) IFB Tours
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.
Before reading Torn Away, I've only ever read Hate List by Jennifer Brown which I loved for the unreserved emotion and realism it brought out on its pages. As the years went by Brown created books much like Hate List in how realistic the stories and lives of the characters she created were. I've always known her as an author that is not afraid to focus on controversial issues that need to be featured in YA literature. Finally, finally after wanting to read another book of hers for the longest time I've rediscovered Brown's uncanny ability to draw me into a story that could very much happen in everyday life with Torn Away.
I knew from the very start what Jennifer Brown was going to do to me. The summary warned me that Jersey's little sister and mother were killed when a tornado hit her town. And I saw the unmistakable past tenses when she was talking about her sister. I could feel the tears already welling up in my eyes when the story hits me with heartache right at the very beginning.
"I loved Marin.I loved my little sister.But after that day, I would hear myself over and over again: Go away! I would shout at her in my dreams. I would see that trembling lip. I would see the slow blink of her big, pixie-like eyes. I would see her walk away, up on her toes the way she always did, the glint of the rhinestones from her leotard blinding me."
Jersey really sets the stage for the tone of the book by describing her sister and her regret for things she said in the past out of anger and annoyance. As a whole Jersey's story shows how important it is to love while you can because one day everything important to you can be gone. But with that regret and pain she feels as she goes through the journey of finding some sort of resemblance of the life she knew is the idea of hope in starting life anew. With all the bad that the world sends you there is always hope that things will turn out better. It's a tough ride for Jersey that had me at times wanting to battle it out with anyone messing with her and other times in total heartache for what she had to go through.
Jersey's story lets you follow her through the start and aftermath of the tornado hitting her hometown as well as how it affected Jersey herself through the course of the book. Jersey is initially sent away to live with her biological father. Following that she is sent to her grandparents' house. She has never met any of these family members. It was always her, her mother, her sister, and her stepfather. She soon discovers some truths and half truths to the tales her mother told her about them which has her questioning how much she really knew about her mother. I liked that there was so much focus on Jersey's memories of her mother and sister. She tried to encapsulate them in her mind so as not to forget. Her image of Marin never wavers but her mother's does. It was interesting to see her develop somewhat of a whole new relationship with her mother now that she was gone.
Almost the whole time Jersey was living with her father and his side of the family I was upset. I couldn't believe how horribly she was treated - like she and what she lost didn't matter. The mental abuse she endured made me want to scoop her up and take her far away from the people who were supposed to be her family. I could feel the unfairness and anger Jersey must have felt. There was this palpable struggle with her emotions she faced throughout the entire book that left me empathizing with her plight. She held on so tight to this pent up anger inside her that I was worried that she would never let go.
"It was like the tornado had ripped through my house and torn me away. It was impossible that they could understand the rage inside me. The confusion and guilt and surrender. The hard edges that had begun to rub open, raw sores onto my heart. Because even I didn't understand it, and I was the one living it. And besides, if they really understood what it felt like to be inside my head, my heart, right now, they would run in fear. They would leave me alone."
I was really happy to see Jersey had at least some friends she could talk to about her situation even if it was by phone or text. She really needed support when she felt like she had none. Although I wish some of her friends would have focused more on her problems than their own, they did try in their own way to help a friend in need. It was sad to see her relive memories not only of her family but of her time with her friends because we don't know where her life will take her. By imagining these memories while actively trying to grieve for her losses, Jersey's situation becomes all too real. Here's this everyday normal girl who only a little while ago was perfectly happy. In an instant everything changed. How unfair is that?
While reading this book I couldn't help but think of hurricanes touching down in Florida and how when natural disasters happen they happen to other people and we still go about our day like nothing's happened. But I guess that happens with everything in life. Someone may have lost a loved one but we don't know them so we don't sympathize. Torn Away really makes you think about other people lives - what they may be facing and what you may in fact face one day as well. The simple fact is you cannot predict the future. You can never fully plan the future because you never know if something with blow your life right off its course.
Torn Away really made me feel. I felt defensive and angry and sad and happy (all the emotions) when it came to Jersey and what she had to deal with. It's one of those books that puts life in perspective. It's one of those books you look back on when you feel lost so you can find again what life is really all about. It's one of those books that shows you life goes by in a flash so you better make it the most of it while you are still here.
Note: The quotes from this ARC may not be in the final copy. Though they should be.
About the Author:
Two-time winner of the Erma Bombeck Global Humor Award (2005 & 2006), Jennifer's weekly humor column appeared in The Kansas City Star for over four years, until she gave it up to be a full-time young adult novelist.Jennifer writes and lives in the Kansas City, Missouri area, with her husband and three children.
Thanks to IFB Tours, the author, and Little, Brown for letting me read and review Torn Away in exchange for an honest review!