Torn Away by Jennifer Brown | Rating: ★★★★★
Although I’ve only managed to get my hands on two novels by Jennifer Brown, she is on the fast track to becoming one of my favorite authors. There is something genuine in her writing; a raw emotion that takes you away and puts you in her characters shows. She takes you away on a journey of self discovery, loss and manages to capture each emotion beautifully.
She truly is a talent not to be missed in young adult literature and deserves way more credit that she gets. Her writing in Hate List is beautiful and Torn Away is no different. Boy, does this woman know how to touch the heart.
Torn Away is heartfelt, at times difficult to read in its tragedy — but it’s worth every good review it gets and honestly, no summary or review will do it justice. I can’t wait to get my hands on a physical copy (I received an egalley through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review).
I honestly feel like this novel is something I’ll be thinking about for a very, very long time and will recommend it to just about anyone I can. It will haunt you, that’s for sure — and be sure to have a box of tissues on standby.
Onto the goodies, the plot: Jersey Cameron’s life is typical. She is a typical teenage girl who has never known any family besides her mother, her little sister and her step-father. Her mother had cut ties with her parents as well as Jersey’s father (who is a piece of fucking work, let me tell you) and as far as she knew it, there was never any reason to know any life besides her own.
Like most people, this isn’t an insult, she takes for granted her day to day life; her pesky little sister and the walls she’s lived in. It isn’t until one day, when her entire world falls apart, that she realizes this. Jersey’s day started off so normal, no one could have guessed the devastation it could bring her entire town.
In an instant, a tornado rips away the homes and lives of the people in the areas that surround her. She spends one terrifying night alone in what remains of her house — unable to find a way to reach her two best friends, her mother, her sister or her step father. Right before the tornado touched down, she received one final call from her mother — who had taken her younger sister to dance class — to take cover from the storm and be safe.
Since storms were so common, and rarely created too much damage, it all seemed so normal. Jersey expected the return of her mother and sister — she could have never predicted, even as she explores the remains of her town with her neighbor and friend, Kolby. And when the truth, the loss of her family, comes first hand from her step father Jersey doesn’t think it could get any worse.
Only it does: he completely abandons her, passing her off to her father and the family of his she’s never known. While living under their roof, she isn’t nurtured — she isn’t cared for, isn’t loved and frankly is abused in all ways a person can be abused emotionally. Her only light while living there is her Aunt Terry, who takes to her quite quickly — yet even then, she can’t escape the wrath of a father who doesn’t love her, two half sisters hell bent on causing her pain and overall the most unsympathetic bunch of hicks a person could come across.
And worse of all, her step father doesn’t even include her in the funeral that was held for her mother and sister. Her best friend kept it from her, as well. Betrayed and hurt beyond belief, Jersey feels alone and guilty for not having been able to say a proper goodbye to her family.
After continuous bullying from her half sisters, Jersey snaps and runs off. She tries to come in contact with her best friend and begs for a place to stay back home; after a bit of a wait her friends mother seems to reluctantly agree. Except it isn’t her friends’ mother who comes to her — it is her step father. And he’s ready to ship her off elsewhere, again, and leave her (and his memories of loss) behind for good.
Not a day goes by without a thought, or a memory, of her mother or sister. Not a day goes by that she doesn’t feel guilt for having survived while they died.
This time she finds herself living in the home of her mothers’ parents; the grandparents who’d disowned her mother all those years ago. Reluctantly, she grows into her place there — the struggle is real, and her memories are painful. Jersey has a difficult time bonding with either grandparent — and feels as though it would be betraying her mothers memory if she’d learn to care for her grandparents.
Jersey needs a family without replacing those she’d lost. With time, she grows to enjoy her grandpa’s company — bonding with the older man through playing cards. She learns about her mother, even things she’d wished she hadn’t known and eventually she warms to her grandmother, too.
I don’t want to say the novel has a happy ending — how could it end on a happy note? Surely, it does end on a light note and shows a bonding moment between Jersey and her grandmother. She has a proper goodbye to her mother and sister; allows her grandmother to know the little girl who died. It’s all handled very beautifully.
And in the end, to help her — because her grandparents genuinely love Jersey — they decide to rent a home back where Jersey’s life had been changed.
She gets to spend senior year with familiar faces. Jersey is reunited with her surviving classmates and at the end, we see a budding romance spark between her and Kolby. Afterall, they’d been through so much together in the brief aftermath of the twister — there’s some moments you can never forget and you certainly never forget those who cared; those who remained with you.
And in the final moments, we see a touching tribute to her little sister in two forms: a cat, much like Marin always wanted, and a dance in which Jersey never wanted to learn. It’ll make you tear up. It’ll make you think.
It will make you feel.
Through the story we feel the heart break, the struggle and the hope for a happy ending for this girl who has been through so much, so quickly. We see moments of breakthrough and the story manages to tie up all the loose ends in an incredibly beautiful and believable way. I love this story with all my heart and have a feeling I will be rereading it again soon.