Emily May's Reviews > Still Life with Tornado

Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King
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really liked it
bookshelves: young-adult, magical-realism, 2016

But now it’s been so long that if I bring it up, I’ll look like a girl who can’t let go of things. Teenage girls always have to let go of things. If we bring up anything, people say we’re bitches who can’t just drop it.

If you're familiar with A.S. King, then you'll probably understand immediately that this book is not what it first seems. If you're new to her books, then expect to be taken into a weird world of existentialism and magical realism before what's really going on becomes apparent. Her books are not for everyone, but I personally love her fresh, imaginative take on subjects that have been done to death.

Abuse and family are not new topics in YA. The genre is filled to the brim with many different books that deal with one or both. But King doesn't play by the usual rules. Still Life with Tornado is full of strangeness from the very first chapter. Sarah is experiencing an existential crisis - she has stopped going to school and she's obsessed with the lack of originality in the world around her. She wanders around each day, meeting various past and future Sarahs (ten year old Sarah, twenty-three year old Sarah, etc.).

If this was any other author, I would probably have assumed the book was all about internal teen angsting. But, of course, it soon becomes apparent that this is not really a book about Sarah at all. Or, rather, it's about so much more than her. It's about her absent brother and the reason he left. It's about her mother and father and their toxic relationship. It's about what happened in Mexico six years ago.

Gradually, all of this is revealed. The author carefully peels back layers until a story about a teenage girl on a quest for art and originality becomes a dark, haunting tale of relationships and sad secrets left festering in the closet for years.

Ultimately, the book looks at the ways people abuse power and the devastating effects of doing so. It hit me pretty hard. Perhaps more so because it seems so quiet and unassuming at first, quite literally a still life with tornado. The more you realize Sarah's role in this story - a role she never asked to play - the sadder it becomes, and I was left feeling quite hollow and drained.

A very effective, emotional book with an experimental style that gets it JUST RIGHT.

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Reading Progress

July 1, 2016 – Shelved
October 11, 2016 – Started Reading
October 15, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-32 of 32 (32 new)

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Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ How is it? I can't decide between this one and Midnight Star, lol.


Emily May Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ (of badger and SNAKE) wrote: "How is it? I can't decide between this one and Midnight Star, lol."

It's good. It starts with a lot of teen existentialist angst, but it's more than it first seems.

It depends what you're in the mood for. This is very weird and deep, whereas Midnight Star is all fast-paced and dramatic :)


Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ Emily May wrote: "Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ (of badger and SNAKE) wrote: "How is it? I can't decide between this one and Midnight Star, lol."

It's good. It starts with a lot of teen existentialist angst, but it's ..."


Thank you! I usually love her kind of weird, so I think I'll go with this one, I'm a little scared for Midnight Star XD


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

awesome review!!


Emily May adrian (a slew of snicket) wrote: "awesome review!!"

Thank you! :)


message 6: by Maggie (new)

Maggie Dore Great review!


zoë ❅ (fallxnrobin) Great review!! This October release is one I'm really really looking forward to and your review just makes me want to rush to a bookstore rn and buy it (if they even have it in stock).


Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ Oh my god it sounds fabulous <3 I can't wait to read it, so happy that AS King did not disappoint! Great review!


Emily May Maggie wrote: "Great review!"

Thank you!


Emily May zoë ❅ (fallxnrobin) wrote: "Great review!! This October release is one I'm really really looking forward to and your review just makes me want to rush to a bookstore rn and buy it (if they even have it in stock)."

Thanks! I'm sure it won't disappoint :)


message 11: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Lyn I have never read any of her books. Which one do you recommend I should start off with? :)


Emily May Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ (of badger and SNAKE) wrote: "Oh my god it sounds fabulous <3 I can't wait to read it, so happy that AS King did not disappoint! Great review!"

Thank you, Anna. It's really good. The only King book I haven't enjoyed is I Crawl Through It- that one was just too weird for me.


message 13: by Kai (new)

Kai Great review, Emily! I have a question: what happened to Stacey Lee's Outrun the Moon? You marked it as DNF... Will there be a review? I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ Emily May wrote: "Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ (of badger and SNAKE) wrote: "Oh my god it sounds fabulous

Thank you, Anna. It's really good. The only King book I haven't enjoyed is I Crawl Through It..."


Yeah, I remember your review (and other's). I didn't read it, it seemed to be too much to take XD


Emily May Kai wrote: "Great review, Emily! I have a question: what happened to Stacey Lee's Outrun the Moon? You marked it as DNF... Will there be a review? I'd love to hear your thoughts."

Thank you, Kai. I didn't make it very far with Outrun the Moon - it just wasn't grabbing me. If I'm honest, I can't even remember anything about it.


message 16: by Noina (new)

Noina Love the quote ! Great review Emily :)


⚔ Silvia ⚓ Is it psychological abuse?


message 18: by Sly (new)

Sly  Vixen I am kinda new on this place can I make a review request please.


message 19: by Erin (new) - added it

Erin I am so glad this was another good King book. I was scared, but I loved please ignore Vera and everyone sees the ants


Emily May Noina wrote: "Love the quote ! Great review Emily :)"

Thank you :)


Emily May Silvia wrote: "Is it psychological abuse?"

(view spoiler)


Emily May Erin wrote: "I am so glad this was another good King book. I was scared, but I loved please ignore Vera and everyone sees the ants"

Me too. Those books are some of my favourite YA.


Emily May Roshni wrote: "I am kinda new on this place can I make a review request please."

A review request for what book? Is it yours or another author's?


Nikki "The Crazie Betty" V. Great review Em! This sounds mightily intriguing.


message 25: by Kai (new)

Kai Oh okay, that makes sense! I thought you would have enjoyed it since you liked Stacey Lee's Under A Painted Sky, which is a similar YA historical fiction book with diverse background.


message 26: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura Wonderful review, as always. I like that this has twists that are done well.


Emily May Laura wrote: "Wonderful review, as always. I like that this has twists that are done well."

Thanks, Laura :)


Neil (or bleed) Commenting on your review doesn't seem original. Great review, Emily, as always! :)


Emily May Neil (or bleed) wrote: "Commenting on your review doesn't seem original. Great review, Emily, as always! :)"

Haha, thanks Neil :)


Nicay │The Nerdy side of a Queen Great review, Em! :)


Lindsay Fouts Great review! I basically read this book in one sitting. AS King is one of my favorites.


message 32: by Hanaa (new) - added it

Hanaa Is it as good as Please Ignore Vera Dietz?


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