Friday, October 17, 2014

Torn Away, by Jennifer Brown

After a tornado devastates her town, seventeen year-old Jersey has to learn how to recover.  Her mother and little sister have been killed.  Her stepfather, while physically alive, is so emotionally damaged by the loss that he shuts her out.  All that is left are her estranged father (and his dysfunctional family) who don't want her and her mother's parents (whom she's never met and was well-warned off by Mom while she was still alive).  With her home and family destroyed, all would seem lost, but Jersey finds that even when you seem to have lost everything, there's always something left to hang on to.

A moving and engaging story that explores two powerful themes: the process of coping with loss and the meaning of family.  These are hardly new themes, but Brown breathes new life into them with compelling characters and tightly-woven narrative.  A story without a dull moment is a joy, but it's really the people in this story that made me thoroughly enjoy it.  Brown has previously shown a talent (see Hate List or Bitter End) for creating rich and realistic characters with complex motivations, and she does not disappoint here.  Most of all, it is Jersey's spirit and determination that wins over the reader, but even the most repulsive members of her father's family are interesting. 

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