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Review: Torn Away by Jennifer Brown

Monday, January 12, 2015

Torn Away
Jennifer Brown

Genre: YA Contemporary
Hardback: 288 Pages
Publication: May 6, 2014
by Little Brown BFYR

Jersey Cameron has always loved a good storm. Watching the clouds roll in and the wind pick up. Smelling the electricity in the air. Dancing barefoot in the rain. She lives in the Midwest, after all, where the weather is sure to keep you guessing. Jersey knows what to do when the tornado sirens sound. But she never could have prepared for this.

When her town is devastated by a tornado, Jersey loses everything. As she struggles to overcome her grief, she's sent to live with relatives she hardly knows-family who might as well be strangers. In an unfamiliar place, can Jersey discover that even on the darkest of days, there are some things no tornado can destroy?

In this powerful and poignant novel, acclaimed author Jennifer Brown delivers a story of love, loss, hope, and survival.


I’ve been a fan of Jennifer Brown’s works since I read Perfect Escape back in 2012. I love how she tackles serious issues relating to teens and how she keeps the family near and present in the protagonist’s life. Family is so important to me, and it breaks my heart that family is so absent in many MG/YA books on the market today — with some books even suggesting that parents aren’t reliable or can’t be trusted with our biggest, darkest secrets. While it may not always be the case, I'm sure most of us find our parents fairly dependable. It is important to have novels that portray strong familial bonds and show us that family is there for us if only we open our hearts to them. This is a theme that is especially strong in Torn Away.

The only family that Jersey has ever known is her immediate family. Her dad left when she was little, and her mom is estranged from her family. The only tie she has to her extended family is the little porcelain cat she receives on her birthday each year. Nevertheless, she's not especially eager to meet her extended family because her mom hasn't had anything good to say about them, so when the tornado takes away everything from her, she's far from thrilled to meet them. Jersey's feelings are understandable. Not only has she lost the only family she's ever known, she's being uprooted from all that she has remaining and being sent to relatives that she's been taught to hate. I won't go into detail about this because of potential spoilers. What you should know is that, during her time with different relations, Jersey learns truths about her mother and, in the process, what it means to be family.

If there's one thing this novel did right, it's definitely the emotions. Following Jersey along her journey was one big heartbreak. Few people understand what she's gone through, and she's not even sure who all made it out of the tornado. She has lost so much and is emotionally alone in the world except for her phone communication with her (ex)neighbor, who is there supporting her as much as he can along the way. Note: If you're reading this and expecting a love plot, don't get your hopes up! There were times when I suspected that Jersey liked him because of the attention she pays to him and how she calls him in times of need, but they were mostly suspicions. I didn't sense a romance brewing until maybe the end of the novel.

I was surprised to find that a good portion of the novel is focused on the aftermath of the tornado. Given the synopsis, I thought that we would see more of Jersey's extended family. While we get to see Jersey go through the different stages of grief, I feel like the novel tried to cover too much ground, so the plotline wasn't as tight as it could have been. Nevertheless, I do feel like the strongest part section of the novel was at the beginning when we see Jersey and the rest of town pick through the aftermath of the tornado. This novel might have done better to focus on that part of her journey and then continue her story in a sequel or two.

Overall, this was an enjoyable novel. I'm still a fan of Jennifer Brown's writing and will be sure to check out her next book!

An ARC was provided by Little Brown for review

Rating: 4 stars

  • N/A

  • Language
  • Name calling, verbal abuse
  • Some violence

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