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cla Can’t Look Away by Donna Cooner | Rating: ★★★☆☆

As a note, a printed galley of this novel was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way.

Donna Cooner is back with a story of loss and growing up in the digital aged spotlight. She manages to smoothly transform a familiar story of death in the family into a modern, teen friendly take in the form of fictional Youtube beauty guru Torrey Grey as she navigates a new setting following the tragic death of her younger sister.

During this time Torrey questions herself, her life and seems to be swallowed up by guilt over her treatment of her little sister the day she passes away. And to top it all off, her so called best friend betrays her in more way than one. Donna does a pretty great job at making Torrey believable and although she can be — at times — insufferable in her quest for popularity at her new school, Torrey is a character you want to root for.

We watch as she grows from typical and ‘shallow’ to someone who is able to move forward with her life and start something new in her world. Torrey struggles with a lot for a good portion of the book as does her family, and it’s impossible to not want the best for her. I think that Can’t Look Away will, perhaps, open the eyes of its target audience when it comes to realizing that things really can change in the blink of an eye.

It’ll certainly be a tear jerker, at times, for younger readers. But it also has moments that people interested in fashion will have their interest spark and a side of quirky, kind characters that make up for any of the flaws the story may have. I could easily see this becoming a movie, somehow, one day due to the light yet meaningful message it tells as well as the fashion. Let’s be real: we all want to see Torrey’s style come to life.

(Girl has it.)

And throughout the story we see some familiar faces from her first novel, Skinny. Which is kind of exciting — although the bits including them are small and vague it is still nice to catch up with them.

Onto the flaws.

For me, it wasn’t a picture perfect novel. At times it left a lot to be desired in terms of plot and characteristics and development. Donna has the right idea and certainly is a wonderful author, but there are shakey moments in her works. I always seem to want more when it comes to her work — which I can’t always decide if that’s a good thing or not.

In particular, though there were flashbacks, I felt often that certain plot points were just there. And that although they were clearly well thought out, something simply did not translate well during the entire writing process. Zoe, Torrey’s ex best friend, for example: we know of her, vaguely and what she’s done.

But it just fell flat to me. We were told what happened, but not in great detail.

However, that will be perfect for the younger readers who pick up this story and devour it. It’s sad, it’s touching, it’s lovely and romantic and touches all the right bases when it comes to the right formula for a target audience of 13+ year olds. I already have plans to gift it to my 14 year old cousin who will positively eat this story up.

(Did I mention she’s an aspiring YouTuber?)

I think that Donna does an excellent job portraying our world, the world which is always connected to the internet, and meshes it with a story of love, loss and style that will just connect with teens.

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