Genre: Contemporary, YA
Publication date: May 6th 2014
by Little Brown BfYR
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.
-A copy was provided by Hachette Book Group Canada for review-
I grew up in a city where we had one devastating tornado in our history. I’ve heard stories about the tornado of ’88 more times than I can count and I have always been fascinated by them. After reading Torn Away I don’t think tornadoes are that cool anymore. This novel brings to light the devastation that lays in their aftermath and shows you how people truly lose everything.
Torn Away starts out with a bang. We meet our MC Jersey as she is heading home from school on the day that a tornado rips through her community in the mid-western city of Elizabeth. We see that she is frustrated with her little sister, Marin, and even annoyed at her mother as they head out to Marin’s dance class. This leaves a lot of regret for Jersey to deal with because the last time she ever sees them she wasn’t exactly the nicest she could have been. Reading as Jersey went through the horrific event and found safety in her basement was downright frightening. The darkening of the sky, the sounds of her house being torn apart and the force pulling things around is conveyed really well by Brown. I felt like my stomach was in my throat and I was just so nervous as I read through what the people of Elizabeth go through.
The expertly conveyed emotion does not stop there, it continues through the entirety of the novel as we see Jersey’s life do a complete 180. I’m not sure I have ever felt as much empathy for a character in a novel as I did for Jersey. I literally looked around my home and was so grateful for everything I have because of what she goes through. Not only does she lose all of her possessions but she loses any sense of family that she had ever had. Her stepfather can’t deal so he ships her off to live with her estranged father and that is just the most unhealthy situation I could imagine. It seems her father’s whole family lives in one home with his parents and there definitely isn’t enough room for every one nor does anyone go out of their way to make Jersey’s life any easier or to make her feel at home. There is scene where her two stepsisters (who are just the WORST) go too far with Jersey’s belongings and the ensuing frustration and outburst from her was so palpable. I was there right along with her on that porch and I felt all of the anger that she felt.
Helping me to connect with Jersey as a character was how honest she was with all of her emotions. I really enjoyed her inner dialogue and I loved the flashbacks that she has throughout the novel. Those serve to really show us what she has lost as she reminisces on the good times that she had with her mother and younger sister. Another thing I loved about her, and the novel in general was that there was really no romance to be seen. It easily could have been (and probably would have been by many other authors) cheapened by the inclusion of a romance that takes over the story. But, while there is some sweetness between her and an old friend, there is really no romance to be seen here at all. What a fantastic choice that was by Brown and it’s one that I must thank her for because I have seen one too many stories get ruined by a romance being thrown in.
Torn away is full of emotion and it features a fantastic set of characters. Brown has once again amazed me with her ability to write incredibly honest stories that I connect with deeply.
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