What does it mean to lose everything?
Teenager Jersey Cameron grapples with this question after a deadly tornado devastates her town, and even worse, her family in Jennifer Brown’s Torn Away. In the aftermath of the tornado, Jersey’s stepfather sends her off to live with unruly relatives who will never accept her as family–they force her to sleep on the porch, steal the few things she could salvage from her home, and torment her about her real family and the storm she survived.
When I first read the summary of Torn Away, I expected most of the book to revolve around Jersey struggling to fit in with her new family and only one, or maybe even two, chapters dedicated to the tornado. However, the tornado and the couple days following actually spanned a good chunk of the book and Jersey’s journey actually crosses the paths of two different families, not just one. While this wasn’t what I was expecting, I actually really enjoyed the author’s direction in the plot.
In the author’s note, the author explained that she wrote this book following the Joplin tornado. A few weeks after the tornado, the author was set to speak in Joplin’s library. The author called the library and told them that she would understand if they didn’t want her to come, but the librarians encouraged her to visit to bring something positive to the town. I’m sure a large chunk of the beginning chapters reflect what the author saw in Joplin and her own experiences (she’s from the midwest) and it was interesting to see the impact a tornado has days after on a town. On television, you mostly see video of the tornado and flattened homes. By focusing several chapters on the tornado, you really get to see the emotional impact–a girl frantically searching all over town for her family in her stepfather’s oversized work boots because she has nothing else to walk in, sleeping in a collapsing house with the sounds of another storm rolling in, and finding out that you lost way more than the material items you possessed.
The next phase of the book focused on Jersey’s transition to living with a family she’s never met. The author’s characterization of Jersey’s new “family” was flawless. You could perfectly picture ever character (even if the picture wasn’t so pretty). The other family Jersey lived with starkly contrasts her birth father’s family. The contrast of these two families nicely fit with the author’s theme as it helped Jersey realize what family truly is and what it really meant to lose everything.
When I first picked up this book, it sounded interesting, but I thought it would get lost in my TBR pile among other books. Much to my surprise, I got completely wrapped up in the story. Since the book was also well written and provoked a great message, I rate this book five out five stars.
What book has surprised you recently?