Torn Away

288p. Little, Brown. May 2014. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316245531; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316245517.
Gr 8 Up—Jersey's entire life falls apart in a matter of minutes: a tornado kills her mother and her half-sister Marin and destroys their house. Though Jersey's stepfather, Ronnie, survives, he's too shocked to think about parenting, and so the teen is dispatched to live with the extended paternal family she's never met. Her biological father abandoned her years ago and shows no sign of wanting to mend their relationship, and the rest of the family—her stepmother, stepsisters, and paternal grandparents—either ignore or belittle her. Jersey nourishes herself with sporadic cell phone conversations from friends but fears that the foundation her old life was built on is quickly disappearing. Brown depicts Jersey's reaction to a frightening, life-altering situation expertly, and the protagonist's voice is authentic. For instance, a moment where one member of the family extends a rare kindness by offering to take her for a haircut prompts Jersey to realize that from now on, every decision, whether getting a haircut or deciding to take driver's ed lessons, she's truly on her own—something that will resonate with readers. However, secondary characters are not as fleshed out. Because the book opens with the life-changing tornado, it's hard to get a true sense of her friends, and the new family members tend to be stock types (a brusque, sullen father; a cleavage-baring, party-loving stepmother). The book wraps up a little fast, considering how bleak Jersey's situation is throughout, but readers will be heartened to see glimpses of hope on the horizon. Overall, this is a wrenching story of the will to survive at any cost.—Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal
When a tornado devastates her Missouri hometown, sixteen-year-old Jersey loses her house, her mother, and her half-sister. While Jersey is shuffled among relatives she's never met--some of them happier to see her than others--she reconciles unsavory family secrets while also processing her significant, immediate grief. This depiction of the emotional consequences of natural disasters is intense and affecting.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing