Natural disasters are not uncommon occurrences. It seems like every time you turn around there’sThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Natural disasters are not uncommon occurrences. It seems like every time you turn around there’s been a tsunami, or tornado, or earthquake or hurricane. We see the damage done on television, we read the numbers – homes destroyed, people injured or killed. And we know it’s devastating but sometimes I feel like we’ve become a little too desensitized. After some time passes the news moves on to the next big story and we forget that there are people still trying to cope with the aftermath of the disaster, still trying to survive after they’ve lost everything.
“what the news crews couldn’t show was the real damage Elizabeth’s monster tornado had left behind. How do you record the wreckage left in someone’s heart?”
Torn Away brings the reader right into the heart of the disaster itself as well as it’s aftermath. The tornado strikes right at the start of the novel and Jennifer Brown does an amazing job setting the tone and the atmosphere for it. Jersey finds herself alone when the storm touches down and her fear feels so real. It comes through in every paragraph. But that’s only the beginning of the story. What really impressed me throughout the novel was how well Jennifer Brown described what Jersey’s world looked like after she lost everything – from the half-destroyed buildings, to the injuries her neighbours suffered, to the lists of missing people, I felt like I was walking the wreckage right alongside her.
In addition to the tornado, Torn Away is also a book about family. The storm not only took away Jersey’s house but it also took her mother and sister who weren’t able to make it to safety. Her step-father is unable to cope with his grief and sends her off to live with her father’s family, whom she has never met before. If this was a different kind of novel, they may have welcomed her with open arms – a long-lost daughter/sister/granddaughter finally come home. But Torn Away is not that kind of book. Through Jersey’s struggles Brown shows that ‘family’ isn’t something that comes automatically with blood relation. It’s something that requires effort and co-operation and there may be some obstacles that people are unwilling to tackle. It’s a tough message but it’s one that makes the reader appreciate their own family that much more.
My one complaint is that her father’s family – grandparents, her alcoholic father and step-mother and her half sisters – were so cruel and so unrelenting that at times it was almost too much. They were perfect stereotypes of white trash, so much so they became a little cartoonish in nature. This diminished the severity of her situation a touch, but was only one piece of the overall story. It wasn’t my favourite part but I don’t think it took away from the overall strength of the work.
Torn Away is tough, somber and unflinchingly honest story about loss and what it means to be a family. It demands to be devoured in a single sitting and will manage to both make you cry and warm your heart....more
Undone is a complicated story – it’s about grief, it’s about friendship, it’s about death. It’s aThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Undone is a complicated story – it’s about grief, it’s about friendship, it’s about death. It’s a little bit revenge plot, a little bit melodrama. But it is 100% captivating.
Jem’s best friend in the whole world, Kai, has committed suicide after he is outed to the whole school. Confused, alone and not sure how to carry on, Jem decides that she is also going to commit suicide, but only after she finds out who was behind outing Kai and only after she gets her revenge. To do so she needs to infiltrate the popular group and figure out the best ways to hurt them like they hurt Kai.
This book might be a tough sell to some readers because Jem and Kai are complicated (or unlikeable) characters. Jem is not a sentimental person. She loves Kai, but everyone else? She could take them or leave them. Combine that with the anger, grief and bitterness and you have one unpleasant girl. At times she really frustrated me but I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to lose your best friend so suddenly and without warning. I think her attitude was completely warranted given the context, and as you keep reading, her dry sense of humour and sarcastic wit really start to grow on you.
Kai I had a harder time figuring out. I wish the reader was given a little more time with him before he committed suicide, and given a better sense of his personality and where he was coming from. Most of the reader’s encounters with him are through his letters. The letters were filled with tasks for Jem – to dye her hair, to buy a top at a store she hates, etc… Though it was clear he meant well by them, they actually made me dislike Kai more and more as the novel went on. If he was her best friend and only wanted her to be happy, why did he want her to change so much about herself? Thankfully, after some time the novel became less about the letters and more about Jem and her dealings with ‘Team Popular.’
I really appreciated that Undone wasn’t afraid to dig in deep and address more sensitive subjects – bullying, suicide, sex, drinking, rape…. It’s a tough book. But they are all very real issues and Clarke handles them expertly. It’s an emotional read that really draws attention to the problem of bullying – particularly bullying based on sexual identity – and how horribly it can affect people. Though you may not agree with all of Jem’s decisions, I think it’s easy to see where she’s coming from and how she got to that point.
With its complicated characters, tough subject matter and revenge-focused plot line, Undone is far from an easy read. But if you give it a chance you’ll find a dangerous, emotional journey that is both riveting and surprising. I highly recommend this book to fans of Courtney Summers and Laurie Halse Anderson....more