Friday, May 16, 2014

Torn Away by Jennifer Brown

Title: Torn Away
Author: Jennifer Brown
Publisher: Little, Brown
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
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.

Despite having come across many of her books in recent years, it wasn’t until very recently that I read one of Jennifer Brown’s books. I had heard many fantastic things about the books, I just had not found the time to pick one up. And so I read Torn Away, and I now can say that I will be going back and reading the ones I missed.

Living in the Midwest, Jersey has grown up learning what to do if ever there was a tornado. But despite the yearly drills at schools and constant reminders of what to do to protect herself in the even of a storm, she had never seen a tornado. That is until the day the worst tornado in recent years strikes her town, destroying everything in its wake. As a result of the tornado, Jersey doesn’t only lose her home, she also loses her mom and sister who were buried by the debris. Now Jersey is sent to live with the biological father she’s never known, and when that doesn’t work out, with her estranged grandparents. Alone in unfamiliar places, Jersey isn’t sure who she is anymore, and the more she finds out, the more she starts doubting everything her mother’s told her. But through it all, Jersey’s definition of family starts to change and she realizes that even a tornado can’t take that away from her.

So here’s the thing about Jennifer Brown and her books: I’ve plenty of great things about them, I even have a few of them sitting on my bookshelves. But the truth of the matter is, I haven’t actually read any of them. Why? I don’t know. Any time I hear she has a new book coming out, I look it up and discover that it sounds likes something I would love and then I proceed to not read it. Yeah, I have issues. But I’ve been working on that, starting with reading Torn Away. And well, now I see where I went wrong: I should totally have been reading Jennifer Brown’s books from the start. I loved Torn Away. It was a really powerful read, one that packed the punches. To put it simply, within the first 30 or so pages, I was already tearing up (it would probably have been full on crying had I not been on the bus). And from that point on, things didn’t exactly get much better for Jersey. It is, after all, a story about loss, and learning to cope with said loss and building your life back up. So yeah, it was a sad story. But more than that, it was about Jersey’s evolution and growth. What I especially liked about the story is that it was focused on Jersey’s journey and there was no real romance to speak of. I mean, I love my romance, but this Torn Away didn’t need it. If anything, adding romance to the story would have taken away from what the story was really about and the impact it can have on readers. 

Torn Away is entirely about Jersey. Sure, there were other characters in the story but they were primarily there in the background even if there were a few standouts. Because this story was about Jersey figuring out her life after having lost literally everything, including her family, to a tornado. I felt for Jersey, I really did. I loved seeing her struggle and learn to go on living her life. It wasn’t easy to see her go through all that. As I was reading, I just wanted someone to come to her rescue, or even just to stand up for her. This was especially true when she was sent to live with her biological father’s family. They were truly horrible people and Jersey deserved a lot better. Though as much there were times when I wanted someone to stand up for her, there were other moments when I wanted her to stand up for herself and to rescue herself, to start thinking about what her life is going to be like without her family. But Jersey, grew and she changed for the better and I loved seeing that evolution. 

Jennifer Brown’s Torn Away was a powerful story and one that made me feel very grateful for having the family I have. It’s also convinced me that I need to go back and read the rest of Jennifer Brown’s books.

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