by Jennifer Brown
Expected Publication Date: May 6, 2014
Length: 288 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Obtained Via: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley from the publisher. I was not compensated for this review, and this is no way affects my opinion of the book.
Format Read In: E-ARC
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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.
This doesn’t come up in conversation often, but tornadoes are one of my biggest fears. Out of all natural disasters that happen in the US on a regular basis, I find tornadoes to be the most frightening. Growing up fairly close to the Texas coast line, I know how to deal with hurricanes. Hurricanes give you time to prepare and evacuate if you need to. But tornadoes? They seem so sudden, so potentially destructive, and so creepy. All that to say, I was incredibly intrigued but also a little nervous by the idea of reading Torn Away.
Torn Away opened with the destructive tornado and I almost had to put it down, but I’m glad I persisted. I was really in awe of the way Brown handled the moments and hours after the destruction had past. I’ve been fairly close(as in, within a thirty mile radius) of a disaster before and I thought Brown really captured the confusion, the desire to help but not knowing how, and relief efforts perfectly. Everything was so muddled because so much was affected by the tornado.
I also found Jersey’s reaction very believable. She has a gut feeling something bad has happened to her family, but without proof, what kind of closure can she have? While Torn Away was emotional throughout, I found the Jersey’s thoughts and emotions hit me the hardest right after the tornado. That feeling of hopelessness and confusion? Spot-on.
Eventually, as the town begins to piece together what really happened, Jersey’s life completely changes. At first, her stepfather sends her to live with her father’s family. Let me just say, this part of Torn Away was incredibly difficult to read. The majority of this side of Jersey’s family are tough, unloving people. They barely acknowledge what has happened to Jersey and make her life miserable. Eventually things happen and Jersey’s lot improves, but she still has to deal with all of the emotional fall-out.
Torn Away is a character-driven novel, almost a character study at times. After the tornado, there’s not a whole lot of external plot. Instead, we get to really see inside Jersey’s head as she tries to gain some form of life back and as she grieves what she has lost. I found Jersey’s journey incredibly difficult to read about at times, but it pulled on my emotions and was wonderfully written.
Torn Away may have reinforced my fear in tornadoes, but it was also a sad book about a girl’s emotional journey. Jersey’s situation was tough to read about but I thought it was well-handled and would be great for fans of more issue or disaster-driven contemporary. 4/5 cupcakes.