Friday, August 15, 2014

Review: Torn Away by Jennifer Brown

Title: Torn Away
Author: Jennifer Brown
Publisher: Little, Brown BYR 
Release date: May 6th 2014
Pages: 288
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: NetGalley - I received a free galley of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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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 rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I've read a couple of Jennifer Brown's books and liked some, but thought others were only okay. That's why I'm so happy I gave her another try with Torn Away - this is most definitely my new favorite Jennifer Brown book! It's short, but it packs a hard punch. Torn Away is an emotional, heartbreaking but hopeful novel, and I absolutely loved it!

For some reason, I had expected Torn Away to begin right after the tornado kills her family, the focus being on the aftermath with maybe a couple of flashbacks to what actually happened. But the novel begins on the day of the tornado: it starts out as any regular day, which is really hard to read about because we already know what is going to happen. Then, we get to be there along with Jersey through this horrible hurricane. Even just reading about it, I was terrified. Of course I've seen TV coverage and pictures of natural disasters, but it's never felt as real as while reading this book. We, along with Jersey, get to experience the complete devastation of her neighborhood, which is both scary and heartbreaking. And worst of all, we wait along with Jersey for her mother and sister to come home, even though we already know they won't. Jersey's denial for the first day or so after the tornado, and heartbreak once she finds out what happened, are so real that I cried on pretty much every other page.

And then, when you think the worst is over because she is finally reunited with her stepdad... Wrong. The terrible events in Jersey's life are far from over. I know they're all struggling with their own stuff, but I couldn't stop myself from hating pretty much every person in Jersey's life. Her stepdad, grieving the loss of his wife and daughter, says he's incapable of taking care of Jersey and sends her off to live with her biological father... who happens to live in a house full of horrible people. Jersey's father, his wife, their daughters, cousins, and grandparents... Everyone but her aunt is simply horrible, and their insensitivity to what Jersey is going through continued to astound me. Whenever I thought things couldn't get any worse for Jersey, the people in her life would let her down again. I felt so much sympathy and heartbreak for Jersey and anger towards pretty much everyone else.

Thankfully, she somehow gets out of this horrible situation and goes to live with her mother's parents, whom she has never met because they disowned her mother when she had her baby. While these grandparents also had their faults, I loved them so much for finally at least trying to help Jersey. While this part of the story isn't filled with terrible events the way the first two are, it is no less heartbreaking. Living with her grandparents, Jersey begins to really grieve the loss of her mother and sister, and she attempts to somehow put her life back together. Jersey's feelings are so raw and honest that I, again, spent most of my time reading with tears in my eyes.

I really don't have much to criticize about Torn Away. The only small thing I didn't like is the hint of a romance towards the end of the story; I just thought that was really unnecessary and felt kind of forced. And it also bothers me that the girl on the cover looks so skinny, when that doesn't fit the descriptions of Jersey in the novel. But obviously, these are just really small things, and everything that matters is exceptionally well-done in Torn Away.

Torn Away is such a powerful story. Jersey is a complex, strong, inspiring character, and her story is heart-wrenching. This novel broke my heart so many times, but it didn't fail to provide some hope towards the end. I absolutely loved it, and I can't recommend it enough!


  1. I agree with you concerning the romance. It wasn't that I disliked the love interest, simply that I thought there was enough going on in the book that there didn't really need to be that kind of relationship for Jersey at all.

    Otherwise, though, I thought everything was perfect.


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