ARC Review – Torn Away by Jennifer Brown

15845648Title: Torn Away

Author: Jennifer Brown

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: 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.

Huge thank you to Little Brown Books for Young Readers and Netgally for this ARC!

River’s Review:

This book made me cry TWICE. I rarely cry at books. So when a book can make me do that, it’s good. Damn good. This book broke my heart. Totally gutted me. Made me feel violent at times. Just. wow.

So first off, huge props to Brown and her writing. She really knows how to dig in and make the reader feel. In the book, the little sister had this purse that she leaves behind on her way to dance class (where she DIES because of the tornado) and this stupid purse just takes a hold of my heart and SQUEEZES it until I have no feels left. No for real. This kind of thing undoes me. Just this small detail that represents SO MUCH MORE and it was such an ordinary everyday thing but wow. I wanted to guard that purse WITH MY LIFE.

As we know, this is the story of Jersey and how she loses everything (EVERYTHING) in a huge tornado. Jersey is this incredibly normal high school girl who has a mother, half-sister and step-father. She’s a drama kid and is worried about her weight. She really likes the guy next door. And she survives a tornado while her mother and sister die in it. This story is what happens afterwards and how Jersey deals (or doesn’t) with what happened.

One of the things that made me feel so much for Jersey is that she is NEVER given any time to even process what happened, let alone grieve! Just days after the tornado, days after she finds out that her mother and four-year-old sister are dead she’s sent to live with her bio-dad who lives with his huge extended family in basically what sounds like a joint-family of trailer-trash. Jersey’s awful grandparents come and pick her up and take her back to their home which has: bio-dad and his new wife, their two teen daughters, an aunt and her two small kids ALLLLL living together. Jersey is made to SLEEP OUTSIDE ON THE PORCH ON A SOFA. This poor girl just lived through a MASSIVE tornado, lost EVERYTHING, her mother and sister ARE DEAD and these unfeeling awful hillbillies are making her sleep on a sofa. And they expect her to ‘pull her weight’ and do the chores. Everyone is mean to her and the teen girls are all ‘oh life is so unfair, she doesn’t have to go to school’ and ‘why don’t you have any money we thought you were rich’ and nobody even bothers to like, feed her. Her father is awful and the aunt does try to reach out, but she’s too scared of the rest of the family to even really do much. omfg I wanted to bitch-slap ALL OF THEM. The general attitude of this ‘family’ was ‘big deal she lost everything, who cares, ME ME ME’. I actually FELT SICK and wanted to reach into my kindle and strangle some people. So when Jersey finally DOES lose it… I cheered her on. I’m not one for using violence to solve your problems, but wow, did these people ever deserve it.

At this point in the book it’s been like a month since it happened and Jersey hasn’t even been able to see her mother or sister’s bodies. She misses their funerals. She’s been basically wearing the same underwear that she wore DURING THE TORNADO. She’s a mess and is trying so hard to hold onto her sanity but I can’t even imagine what she was going through. So next she gets sent to her mother’s parents and the story takes an even more emotional turn (I cried some more) and Jersey slowly comes to terms with things (very slowly and not even fully. Like, one step in the right direction). I loved this portion of the story, the way both sides struggled, the way both sides reached out to each other in their own way. And we can see just how damaged not only Jersey is, but others who were touched by this tragedy.

On a personal note… if you don’t already know, I was in Japan during the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami. I was thankfully far enough inland that nothing major happened to me or anyone that I know/ love. It was terrifying, and I spent months afterwards wondering ‘is this going to be it?’ when we’d have another aftershock. And even now, a few years later, I still get worried when we have a large quake (especially now that I’m REALLY close to the ocean) and while I’m not like, having PTSD about it, I do still get the ‘is this going to be it’ feeling when the quake lasts for longer than 5 seconds. Soooo I’ve been in a similar situation as Jersey, thankfully not as bad, but I’ve thought a lot of the same thoughts as she has (after the quake we all tortured ourselves with ‘what if’s) and this book just kinda hit me in really weird ways.

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