Torn Away by Jennifer Brown Review

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Title: Torn Away
Author: Jennifer Brown (Twitter)
Publisher: Little, Brown BYR
Publish Date: May 6, 2014
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher

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.
It doesn't happen often, but there are rare times when an author is able to consistently captivate you with his or her works, simply because each one captures the essence of humanity within their pages. Jennifer Brown is one of these authors for me, and Torn Away is the type of novel that will trap you in its clutches, begging for you to understand the true emotions we all feel when we strip aside all the pretenses. Whereas some novels offer us a villain, and some might even make us search within ourselves to find out if we're actually the villain in the tale, mother nature is our villain here, binding us in with a powerful, raging and unstoppable force.

Most of you who have been reading my blog for a long time now know that I have a love affair with Ms. Brown's books. Hate List shattered me into a million little pieces before artfully crafting me back together again. Torn Away, however, might just have edged right up there alongside my favourite with its raw, angry power. Jersey is the perfect protagonist for this type of story. She's an innocent girl with whom we can empathize in the aftermath of a terrible tragedy, if only because her grief, anger and loneliness is so very visceral. I felt, more often than not, that I was in her shoes, and her pain was shared with each turn of the page.

While yes, this is a story about a powerful and heartbreaking natural disaster, it's also a coming of age story in which Jersey must learn to come to terms with the overwhelming sadness and loss with which she was dealt. There's a beauty to her pain as Ms. Brown articulates every instance, every emotion and every scene with careful accuracy, painting them with broad strokes of pure emotion. Standing in Jersey's shoes through the tornado and then the aftermath of being shuttled to her father's family, I felt a hollow, aching emptiness that was nearly all-consuming. Her path and her future seemed so very bleak and littered with pain, which made the novel almost oppressive at times - but in a powerful manner. 

More than anything else, Torn Away is a novel that embraces the length process of healing in the wake of terrible loss. Ms. Brown has an innate ability to capture the true grieving process, asking readers to experience what her characters experience all the while. There's a delicate and haunting reality in each and every word of this novel, and it's the type of prose that will break you and heal you through the story, as well. I must say that though Jersey takes center stage in the novel, the secondary characters rang authentic and true, as well. Each one, however fleeting their appearance was, played a significant role in the healing process and served to raise the stakes of the novel.

All in all, though I've loved all of Ms. Brown's novels, Torn Away earns a special place up there with Hate List for me due to is awe-inspiring power. It's the type of novel that I'll recommend to readers time and again when looking for a real, gut-wrenching story. I give it a 5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy hard-hitting contemporary fiction.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.


  1. I can't even imagine a tornado

  2. Sounds like a really significant read Melissa, about natural disaster and connecting in the wake of it. Lovely review!

    Jeann @ Happy Indulgence

  3. I feel like I'd cry through most of this...or at least be all choked up. Poor Jersey! Life is always harder for the survivors and recovery from a natural disaster is such a challenge.

  4. I'm a little worried about the sadness and despair in this title but I love a powerful and compelling story so I'll have to read this soon. Beautiful review, Melissa!

  5. This is the second positive review I've seen for this book and I seriously need to try something by the author. Her books sound powerful and beautifully written. I can't even begin to imagine the grief that the main character goes through, Melissa. It's just breaking my heart thinking of it. :(
    Lovely review.

  6. And I haven't even read HATE LIST yet! I see hard hitting is emphasized. I might just let this one go by. Jennifer Brown does sound like an author though that I will keep in mind and tackle one day.
    Great review!

  7. I liked Hate List more, but I agree about this story being powerful. Jersey's journey was simply heartbreaking and (fortunately, in the end, also) heartwarming.

    Lovely review!

  8. I only read Hate List by Brown but that book really impressed me by the writing and it was so completely different from my expectations. I still need to go back and read her other books, especially this one. Great review!

  9. OH MY GOSH, YES. When I had the chance to snag this one and read it, I immediately did because of your love for this author. And as soon as I could, I began it and couldn't put it down. I see now why you love her so much and NEED to get my hands on her backlist ASAP. NEED NEED NEED. Also LOVE that cover.


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