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Torn by Stephanie Guerra
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Apr 03, 2012

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bookshelves: young-adult, realistic-fiction, netgalley, coming-of-age, contemporary, arc-or-galley, debut-author-challenge-2012, pretty-cover, tough-subjects
Read from April 03 to 12, 2012

Stephanie Guerra's "Torn" is a young adult novel that I have to commend for taking on a lot of tough issues in the life of a multicultural teen falling into the wrong crowds and learning what it means to rise above the adversity and become more settled into herself. It's also a book I think will have a lot of people talking about the issues within it, for good reason, because quite many of these issues are relevant problems that a teen faces - including peer pressure, bullying, drug-use, relationship development and relationship abuse, racism (particularly in the case of multicultural and minority teens), among other dimensions. But my concern with "Torn" is that while some of these issues are beautifully shown with ample opportunities for the protagonist to step up to the plate and stand her ground, I'm not sure if it was handled evenly on all of those spectrums. Perhaps, in retrospect, they could've been delved into a little more for proper closure.

Still, I think "Torn" standing on its own did stir quite a bit in me to consider the larger story at hand. In retrospect, I liked reading it, though I consider it with some caveats.

Stella is a young woman who isn't likely to stumble into trouble, and she seems secure in her social circles and life - being a part of a knit clique of girls and wanting to go to college in the future, though having fears about being able to get into a good school and affording it considering her family circumstances. All this changes when Ruby comes barging in as the new girl at Stella's high school (and she makes quite the entrance!)

It becomes evident that Ruby's part of the larger thread that starts unraveling Stella's supposedly secure world - making Stella question her group of friends, her capacity to build a loving personal relationship, and wanting to shape her own future. But the further that things get along, Stella realizes that Ruby has her fair share of issues as well, and some of them are quite shockingly asserted. Stella realizes that she has to step it up in order to help Ruby, as well as herself, find stable ground in the mix of their relationships and attitudes.

Stella is probably the most developed member of the collective cast of characters - the rest feel more like they fill the backdrop upon the canvas of events that take place in the novel, and I wish that the backing character development was strong than what it was. I wish that more time could've been placed into the ethics and resolution of some of the issues tackled here, but I think the audience that "Torn" is aimed for will see the moral dilemmas and be able to take the messages in this novel for what they are, and hopefully be able to think about them in terms of where Stella stumbles and where she holds her own and grows from the experience.

Overall, I would say this is certainly a novel worth the read from the perspective of a multicultural teen's coming of age. There are quite a bit of shock factors to consider, but in the end, it's worth seeing them in context and being able to take consideration of them even beyond the dimensions this novel covers. I just wish it had been a little more even in is presentation, and that the ending had had a bit more conclusive resolution.

Overall score: 3/5

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Marshall Cavendish.
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Reading Progress

04/10/2012 page 20
8.0% "I'm intrigued by the premise of this (a girl who falls under the influences of the people around her, including her new friend), and since the galley seems so short, I'm going to try to work my way through this tonight - see how far I get."
04/11/2012 page 42
16.0% "I didn't end up getting very far last night because I ended up finishing a few other reads, but hopefully I can get a little farther today. Ruby's turning out to be quite the contradictory individual - overly nice on one hand, shoplifting the next. Something tells me this friendship's going to be rocky. Stella seems to have enough matters on her hands."
04/11/2012 page 83
32.0% "Ah, so it begins. While nothing so far has reached the levels of Thirteen or Cruel Intentions, Ruby is starting to take a toll on Stella's relationships. Not to mention Ruby's behavior is pretty, well, I guess desperate for attention? It's hard to say at this point. I understand it in part because of the way her mom is, but I keep thinking it might be something more. Reading onward."
04/11/2012 page 93
35.0% "WTF?!!! I can't even..."
04/11/2012 page 118
45.0% "Pretty much a domino effect in every dimension of Stella's associations right now. I wonder how she's going to approach them. At least she has the college applications process working for her."
04/11/2012 page 123
47.0% "Well that was mean of her boyfriend to say, no wonder she was vexed. Poor Stella."
04/11/2012 page 146
56.0% "I'm not really understanding why Stella didn't intervene in the scuffle. My guess was that it was between her old set of friends and Ruby, but still - that whole exchange was all kinds of wrong. I like that the author is tackling a mix of very serious issues, though I wish it were a little more indepth."
04/11/2012 page 163
62.0% "Goodness, well now I know why Ruby's so messed up, at least on one level."
04/11/2012 page 168
64.0% "I...wow, I'm surprised the author went that far."
04/11/2012 page 171
65.0% "And then she just takes him back? Really? He was being blatantly racist and she takes him back? *groans loudly*"
04/11/2012 page 178
68.0% "Yes, Stella, I would want to throttle Ruby also for the things she says about rape as well. Urgh. (Sorry if I'm clogging up anyone's feeds, this book is getting under my skin in more ways than one.)"
04/11/2012 page 188
71.0% "Please, Stella, for the love of all that's good, dump this misogynistic moron."
04/12/2012 page 198
75.0% "While it's true that the group of cheerleaders don't seem like Stella's true friends, I don't think Ruby's much of a good friend either. Stella would be better off just ditching her whole circle and focusing on herself at this point. At least she dumped Mike, thank God. I think I like sassy Stella far more than the character she began as in the book."
04/12/2012 page 212
81.0% "Wow. Just when I think this book can't push the envelope any further than it already has, it goes to yet another place I didn't think it would go. I have to admit, including all of these quite tough issues is ballsy, but I'm worried that the context for each isn't expanded upon enough."
04/12/2012 page 222
84.0% "*groans* Yeah, that wasn't such a bright idea..."
04/12/2012 page 235
89.0% "Oh man...I...okay that's just messed up. Good for you for doing the right thing this time, Stella."
04/12/2012 page 263
100.0% "And I'm finished. I'll admit that was a quick ending, and I don't think it provided enough closure, but this was quite a read overall."

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message 1: by Karina (new) - added it

Karina Halle Synopsis sounds pretty intriguing, actually.


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