22. September 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Katy · Tags:

Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell, read by Katy, on 09/20/2014

downloadSet in the Ozarks, Winter’s Bone is the story of Ree Dolly’s desperate attempt to find her father, a meth cook who has put up the family home as bail. If he does not show for his upcoming court date, Ree, her ailing mother, and two young brothers will be turned out of their house. Attempting to question relatives of his whereabouts leads her on a dangerous journey.

22. September 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell, read by Angie, on 09/20/2014

Will has lived her whole life on the a farm in Zimbabwe and she loves the freedom of it. She is friends with the horseboys and loves to ride her horse over the bush and explore everything Zimbabwe has to offer. Her father is the manager of the farm owned by Captain Browne. They adore Will and indulge her wildcat ways. Then her father gets sick and dies and Cynthia moves in on the Captain. She is a young, gold-digging witch of a woman who can’t stand Will. As soon as she marries the Captain she convinces him to ship Will off to a boarding school in London. Of course Will doesn’t fit in at the school. She has had a formal education, she is dirty and wild, and the other girls are horribly cruel to her. She runs away from the school and lives on the streets of London for a while until she gets her bearings again and is able to endure the school.   I really enjoyed this book. I loved the first half with Will in Zimbabwe. Her life there just seems so idyllic and charming. She has the run of the place and can basically do whatever she wants. I liked her friendship with Simon and the relationship she had with her father and the Captain. I thought it was surprising how fast the Captain gave in on sending her to London. I thought Cynthia was very one-dimensional as the villain of the story and the Captain’s capitulation very stereotypical. Since most of the book took place in Zimbabwe we really didn’t get a lot about the school before Will runs away. The girls are cruel and girls can be and Will really doesn’t help her case. She doesn’t even bathe for two weeks after getting there (gross!). I am not sure she ever brushed her hair either and it had never been cut so it was a disastrous mess on her head. I know she ran wild in Africa but that seemed a bit extreme. I also couldn’t figure out how she got away with not going to school in Africa. This is never explained properly. So while I loved the story and Will in particular I did think the book had problems that detracted from my enjoyment a bit.

19. September 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Half a World Away by Cynthia Kadohata, read by Angie, on 09/18/2014

Jaden was adopted by his parents when he was eight years old. He is now twelve and still has issues. He doesn’t feel safe and secure enough in his home to stop hoarding food, stealing, lying and he doesn’t believe he loves his parents. When they decide to adopt a baby from Kazakhstan, Jaden has to go along and deal with his issues of trust and jealousy. In Kazakhstan, the family discovers that the baby they were promised has already been adopted and they are forced to choose another baby in minutes. Jaden doesn’t approve of the process or the fact that the baby is blank with no reactions at all to the family. He meets a toddler named Dimash who is special needs but touches his heart. As Jaden is bonding with Dimash, his parents are trying to bond with the baby and to make Jaden bond as well. Jaden has to deal with his issues and figure out if he can love his parents and new brother and get over his jealousy and security issues.

I loved Jaden’s touching story. You really feel for this little boy who doesn’t think he is capable of love (even though he does actually love his parents). He has a lot of issues that would make it difficult for his parents to love him, but they don’t seem to have any problems in that area. He is jealous of a new baby coming in to the family believing his parents want the baby because they are not happy with him. I thought Jaden’s journey of acceptance was a beautiful one. The one thing I kept questioning the entire time I was reading was the actual adoption process in Kazakhstan. The whole thing seemed so shady and borderline illegal. It seems like you shouldn’t be able to bring just any child back from another country; you should have paperwork for a specific one. And the fact that the parents were shown a parade of babies and forced to choose in minutes was really strange. As I have never adopted a child from a foreign country I don’t know what the process would be, but I have had friends who have and they were always working to get a specific child to adopt. If you can overlook the weird adoption bits and focus on Jaden’s journey this book is a wonderful one.

19. September 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction · Tags:

Freaky Fast Frankie Joe by Lutricia Clifton, read by Angie, on 09/17/2014

When his mother is sent to jail Frankie Joe is forced to leave his home in Laredo, Texas and all his friends to move to Clearview, Illinois with a father, step-mother and four half-brothers he has never met or known about. Life in Clearview is different. He doesn’t have as much freedom; he has to go to school, do chores and report his activities to his father. Frankie Joe plans to run away and ride his bike all the way back to Texas. He needs money to take on the road so he starts a bike delivery service. As his business takes off, he starts making new friends in the people he delivers for. He does better in school and he starts becoming a part of the family.

I found this book entertaining and a quick read. Frankie Joe is a likeable character; he is enterprising and smart even if his school work doesn’t reflect it. I liked the small town part of this story and all the characters we meet. I did find some of the family members underdeveloped and a little one-dimensional, but that didn’t take away from the story. I thought all the fish-out-of-water bits were pretty realistic. However, I found it questionable that all of Frankie Joe’s friends, both in Laredo and Clearview, would be old people; he really only has one friend his age (Mandy) who is as big a misfit as he is.

Fun fast read and one I think kids will enjoy despite its problems.

17. September 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Pink & Green Is the New Black by Lisa Greenwald, read by Angie, on 09/16/2014

Lucy is back in her third adventure. This time she is in 8th grade and wants to make it her best ever. Of course everything isn’t going the way she had hoped. Her proposal to make the school cafeteria go green is approved but she is having issues with her boyfriend Yamir. Yamir is now in high school and he is ignoring her. He doesn’t call or text or even really talk to her anymore and Lucy is getting tired of it. Then there is new boy Travis who seems to like her and does pay attention to her. Plus the 8th grade masquerade is coming up and Lucy has been roped into helping by mean girl Erica.

I think this is a good series for girls who are interested in realistic fiction, makeup and going green. Lucy is your typical teen girl with issues and problems. I like the fact that she seems more like a teen in this one instead of old-beyond her years like she has been in the other books. I’m not sure I always find her voice to be authentic but the issues she is dealing with definitely are. This is a solid addition to this series.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.

16. September 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

A Million Ways Home by Dianna Dorisi Winget, read by Angie, on 09/15/2014

Poppy’s life has been turned upside down lately. She is living in the local children’s home because her grandma had a stroke. Her grandma is her whole life and Poppy just wants things to get back to normal. Then she tries to go see her grandma and witnesses an armed robbery where a store clerk is shot. Police officer Trey is the one to question her and get her story and he is concerned because she saw the man’s face. So Poppy goes to live with Trey’s mom, Marti, in a sort of witness protection program. Through Marti, Poppy is introduced to Carol and Lizzie who work at a local animal shelter and to Gunner, the most beautiful dog she has ever met. Poppy is determined to help Gunner who has some issues. She is also determined to get back home with her grandma, but things don’t always work out how we want them to.

I loved Poppy’s story. It was touching and so very realistic. Ok, so not many 12 year olds witness robberies, but lots of them live with grandparents and I am sure lots of them have grandparents with health issues. I liked the fact that not everything went Poppy’s way, but she still ending up in a good situation that worked for her. Her relationship with Gunner really made me want to adopt a dog! This is a beautiful, heart-breaking story.

I received this book from Netgalley.com.

16. September 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Guinea Dog 3 by Patrick Jennings, read by Angie, on 09/15/2014

Rufus is looking forward to the annual camping trip to White Crappie Lake with his family and his best friend Murph’s family. Then his mom goes and invites his enemy Dimitri and strange girl Lurena. Dimitri is always trying to steal Murph as his best friend and Lurena is just strange. At the campground they meet Pablo and get to talking about their pets. Rufus has a guinea pig (Fido) who thinks she is a dog and whose daughter thinks she is a squirrel (Lurena got the guinea squirrel). Fido came from a pet store called Petoria which seems to have disappeared until Pablo says he thinks he saw one. So off they go to find Petoria and another guinea pig. Turns out this one is a guinea otter?

Such a strange little book. Even though this is the third in the series I don’t think you have to have read the other two to figure it out. I think younger readers will really enjoy this story. It has a lot of humor and fun in it. I liked the mystery of what exactly Petoria is and why the animals there turn out so different. I also like that the answers are not given to us in this book.

Somebody on this bus is going to be famous, but who? That is the story of this book. Almost all the action takes place on the bus which is interesting. There are three mysteries to solve. One: who is going to be famous? Two: who lives at the empty bus stop? Three: what happened during the class of 85 graduation? During the course of the school year we get to learn about the nine middle schoolers who are on the bus. Shelly wants to be a famous singer and is very self-centered. Miranda wants to be a writer and a good friend. Spencer is worried he isn’t the genius everyone thinks he is. Jay is worried about his Poppi who is suffering from dementia. Bender is good with numbers and wants to solve the mystery of the empty bus stop. Igor wants to discover more about his dad who is in prison. Kaitlynn becomes obsessed with helping people and starts a fundraiser on the bus to help a family in need. Matthew becomes interested in physics and wins the science fair. Alice is hiding who her family is and what their connection to the mystery of the class of 85. The bus driver Mrs. B also has secrets.

The book begins with the bus crash in May and then works its way through the school year. It is an interesting way to increase the drama as the reader wants to know how they get to the bus crash. This book reminded me a bit of Because of Mr. Terupt with the alternating student chapters. However, unlike Mr. Terupt there doesn’t seem to be a lot of character growth for the kids. For the most part they all end up the same as they started. I was hoping for a little bit more. I thought the story was interesting, but the ending left a lot to be desired. The mystery of who is going to be famous was almost a throw away that negated the rest of the story. It was like oh well we couldn’t think up a good ending so it turns out Mrs. B writes a book. Really? I wanted more details about the aftermath of the bus crash and what it did to the characters, but instead everything is wrapped up in about a page. The book was much better without that ending and could have been a lot better with a stronger one.

12. September 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Drama, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Noelle · Tags:

Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh, read by Noelle, on 09/09/2014

“The Dane family’s roots tangle deep in the Ozark Mountain town of Henbane, but that doesn’t keep sixteen-year-old Lucy Dane from being treated like an outsider. Folks still whisper about her mother, a bewitching young stranger who inspired local myths when she vanished years ago. When one of Lucy’s few friends, slow-minded Cheri, is found murdered, Lucy feels haunted by the two lost girls–the mother she never knew and the friend she couldn’t protect. Everything changes when Lucy stumbles across Cheri’s necklace in an abandoned trailer and finds herself drawn into a search for answers. What Lucy discovers makes it impossible to ignore the suspicion cast on her own kin. More alarming, she suspects Cheri’s death could be linked to her mother’s disappearance, and the connection between the two puts Lucy at risk of losing everything. In a place where the bonds of blood weigh heavy, Lucy must decide where her allegiances lie”

09. September 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Kira, Teen Books · Tags: ,

Fat Cat by Robin Brande, read by Kira, on 09/07/2014

Overweight teen Cat takes on a high school science project where she takes up the diet and physical habits of hominins.  In the process she loses lots of weight, dates a number of guys, and tries to recover from an old emotional injury.

The books starts out well enough, but gets pedantic towards indexsthe $_72end.    images36090411 index

03. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Kristy, Teen Books

That Summer by Sarah Dessen, read by Kristy, on 08/15/2014

That summer is a novel about a 15 year old girl who is dealing with her parents divorce, her sister getting married and moving off, and being abnormally tall. But don’t you worry, all of her issues are neatly resolved at the end of the book. While I really like Sarah Dessen’s writing, I found this book rather dull and unrelatable.

29. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Teen Books · Tags:

Friday Never Leaving by Vikki Wakefield, read by Courtney, on 08/10/2014

Friday Brown has lived her entire life on the road with her mother and in near-constant fear of the family “curse” of the women all dying in or near water on a Saturday. She’s never had an actual home to call her own. When her mother dies of cancer, Friday is left on her own. Her mother tried to get Friday to stay with her wealthy grandfather, but Friday isn’t comfortable there. Friday runs away to the city where she finds a silver-haired boy that doesn’t speak. He goes by the name of Silence and agrees to take her to the spot where he’s living. As it turns out, he is part of a community of homeless teens who all live in a squat and answer to an older teen known as Arden. Friday suspects that Arden might be manipulative, but she also makes Friday feel as though there is someone looking out for her. Still grief-stricken over her mother’s death, Friday decides to make life with these kids work. All of them live beneath the radar and get by on busking, turning tricks and petty theft. Things go relatively smoothly until Arden decides it’s time for the group to move. To a ghost town in the middle of the outback. A ghost town that’s been abandoned with good reason.
This Australian import offers the reader a rare glimpse into the lives of disenfranchised, homeless teens without feeling like a “problem novel”. None of these kids have had what amounts to an ordinary life. Most of them have experienced some kind of abuse, which actually sets Friday apart from the rest of the kids. While Friday hasn’t lived an enviable life, she did have a mother who loved her, something the kids in her new “family” dream of. These kids live their lives at the mercy of those around them. Friday and Silence have a beautiful and unique friendship that centers itself around protecting each other’s well-being. Arden, the “matriarch” of the group, is both fascinating and intimidating. She cares for the kids on a certain level, but is also manipulative and controlling. This character-driven novel may not move quickly, but the lure of the characters will draw readers in. The writing is lovely, which somehow seems to be endemic to all the authors I’ve read who hail from Australia (seriously, what is it about that country that produces such amazing YA authors?). The emotional pain and discomfiting nature of Friday’s circumstances feel uncomfortable, but her growth as a person is palpable. Readers will be hoping and praying that these kids make it into adulthood unscathed.

29. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense

Just Call My Name by Holly Goldberg Sloan, read by Courtney, on 08/07/2014

I was so surprised when I met Holly Goldberg Sloan and she told me that there would be a sequel to I’ll Be There. It had felt like it wrapped up all the loose ends and, since it didn’t end of any sort of cliff-hanger, I didn’t even suspect that a sequel could be in the works. Since I adored its predecessor, I was definitely excited to read Just Call My Name. And then, lucky me, I got an ARC from the good folks at Little, Brown.
So, our story left off with Clarence Border in jail and his sons being taken care of by the Bell family. Sam and Emily are now an established couple. Riddle is starting to settle into the Bell household, much to the chagrin of Jared Bell. Sam lives on his own in an apartment while he takes summer school classes to prepare for college courses in the fall. Things seem pretty solid until a new girl comes to town. Her name is Destiny and she is the type of girl that seems to attract trouble. She’s tiny, bubbly, large chested and charismatic. She latches on to Emily, Sam and Robb (formerly Bobby, Emily’s unfortunate prom date from the last book). Emily can tell that the boys are attracted to her, even if they don’t want to admit to themselves. Sam can tell that Destiny is attracted to him and he becomes desperately afraid of being in her presence, lest he do something that will ruin his relationship with Emily. Robb seems infatuated with her and quickly finds himself finding a place for her to stay as it is established early on that she’s something of a transient. With Destiny disrupting the peaceful calm that the crew had found in the absence of Clarence Border. In the meantime, we watch Clarence plotting and scheming until he finds the perfect opportunity for escape. He’s got a score to settle with the Bell family and his boys. And he knows exactly how and where to find them.
So, I had some trouble figuring out what to rate this book. On the one hand, it was totally engaging, especially since I was already familiar with the vast majority of the characters and their circumstances. The idea of Clarence re-entering the picture is dreadful, but it’s what gives this story its sense of urgency. On the other hand, I’m not entirely certain that I’m loving the Destiny angle. The name “Destiny” and her characterization winds up feeling a tad heavy-handed in the context, though she is absolutely a compelling character. She represents the first major challenge for Emily and Sam’s relationship and acts as a distinct foil to Emily’s character. Otherwise, it’s a true pleasure to be back in the heads of these characters. We’re learning a bit more about Emily’s brother Jared, who’s having trouble sharing his space with this strange new kid, Riddle. Bobby, rechristened Robb, is almost exactly the same as he was went we saw him last in spite of his efforts to reinvent himself. Other than Clarence, the adults are mostly absent from this story. The characters are ultimately what make this pair of books shine and, in that sense, this sequel is a pleasure to read.

29. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Teen Books · Tags: ,

Torn by David Massey, read by Angie, on 08/28/2014

Ellie is a 19-year-old medic in the British Army on her first tour of Afghanistan. She is stationed at a remote outpost and must figure out how things work very quickly. This involves becoming one of the guys to the guys in her squad, dealing with the irrational commanding officer who happens to be the only other medic and woman and figuring out how to handle herself on patrols through hostile territory. On her first patrol she has to help a squad-mate who has stepped on an IED and she gets her first glimpse of the mysterious Aroush, a young Afghan girl who seems to show up when death is coming. On the next patrol the squad captures a young Afghan boy, Husna, who is a member of the Young Martyrs, a group of young boys who fight everyone from the Taliban to the Afghan security forces to the coalition forces. Ellie and Husna develop a friendship as she questions him to try and find out more about the Young Martyrs and a weapons cache they stumbled across. Then they set out into the mountains to find Husna’s village and the cache accompanied by a group of U.S. Navy Seals. But there is more to this mission then they are told and there is more to Aroush than anyone knows. 

There were parts of this book I really liked. I liked the story of a young, naive, inexperienced soldier trying to figure things out in a war zone. Ellie’s reactions to the things happening around her seemed very appropriate for the most part. I actually enjoyed the conspiracy theory aspect of the mission as well. I especially liked the story of Husna and his village and his friendship with Ellie. I even thought the slightly supernatural Aroush worked with the story. What I thought was completely unnecessary was the budding romance between Ellie and the Navy Seal Lieutenant. The book only takes place over the span of about a week so the fact that this romance was even included in the story seems a bit farfetched. Every time Ellie got all dopey-eyed over the hotness of Ben I rolled my eyes. She seriously thought about his hotness while they were out on patrol and the Taliban were following them…really! I think the book could have been much stronger without this romance plot.

28. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Drama, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Multicultural Fiction, Noelle

All I Love and Know by Judith Frank, read by Noelle, on 08/28/2014

Absolutely fantastic.  I give this book a starred review- Noelle

With the storytelling power of Wally Lamb and the emotional fidelity of Lorrie Moore, this is the searing drama of an American family on the brink of dissolution, one that explores adoption, gay marriage, and true love lost and found.

For years, Matthew Greene and Daniel Rosen have enjoyed a contented domestic life in Northampton, Massachusetts. Opposites in many ways, they have grown together and made their relationship work. But when they learn that Daniel’s twin brother and sister-in-law have been killed in a Jerusalem bombing, their lives are suddenly, utterly transformed.

The deceased couple have left behind two young children, and their shocked and grieving families must decide who will raise six-year-old Gal and baby Noam. When it becomes clear that Daniel’s brother and sister-in-law had wanted Matt and Daniel to be the children’s guardians, the two men find themselves confronted by challenges that strike at the heart of their relationship. What is Matt’s place in an extended family that does not completely accept him or the commitment he and Daniel have made? How do Daniel’s complex feelings about Israel and this act of terror affect his ability to recover from his brother’s death? And what kind of parents can these two men really be to children who have lost so much?

The impact that this instant new family has on Matt, Daniel, and their relationship is subtle and heartbreaking, yet not without glimmers of hope. They must learn to reinvent and redefine their bond in profound, sometimes painful ways. How does a family become strong enough to stay together and endure when its very basis has drastically changed? And are there limits to honesty or commitment–or love?

27. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Lisa

I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum, read by Lisa, on 08/22/2014

Where’d You Go, Bernadette meets Beautiful Ruins in this reverse love story set in Paris and London about a failed monogamist’s attempts to answer the question: Is it really possible to fall back in love?

Despite the success of his first solo show in Paris and the support of his brilliant French wife and young daughter, thirty-four-year-old British artist Richard Haddon is too busy mourning the loss of his American mistress to a famous cutlery designer to appreciate his fortune.

But after Richard discovers that a painting he originally made for his wife, Anne -when they were first married and deeply in love-has sold, it shocks him back to reality and he resolves to reinvest wholeheartedly in his family life . . . just in time for his wife to learn the extent of his affair. Rudderless and remorseful, Richard embarks on a series of misguided attempts to win Anne back while focusing his creative energy on a provocative art piece to prove that he’s still the man she once loved.

Skillfully balancing biting wit with a deep emotional undercurrent, debut novelist Courtney Maum has created the perfect portrait of an imperfect family-and a heartfelt exploration of marriage, love, and fidelity.

27. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Lisa

Revenge of the Flower Girls by Jennifer Ziegler, read by Lisa, on 08/01/2014

In this middle-grade Bridesmaids, hilarity ensues as triplets have to stop a wedding!

One bride. Two boys. Three flower girls who won’t forever hold their peace. What could go wrong with this wedding? Everything!

The Brewster triplets, Dawn, Darby, and Delaney, would usually spend their summer eating ice cream, playing with their dog, and reading about the US Presidents. But this year they’re stuck planning their big sister Lily’s wedding. Lily used to date Alex, who was fun and nice and played trivia games with the triplets, and no one’s quite sure why they broke up. Burton, Lily’s groom-to-be, is not nice or fun, and he looks like an armadillo.

The triplets can’t stand to see Lily marry someone who’s completely wrong for her, so it’s up to them to stop the wedding before anyone says “I do!” The flower girls will stop at nothing to delay Lily’s big day, but will sprinklers, a photo slideshow, a muddy dog, and some unexpected allies be enough to prevent their big sister – and the whole Brewster family – from living unhappily ever after?

24. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Tammy · Tags: ,

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty, read by Tammy, on 08/24/2014

husbansExplores the secrets of multiple families and how they affect not only the person keeping the secret and their spouse their families and communities as well. Acclaimed author Moriarty creates a thought-provoking tale set in Australia but really could be set anywhere.

The first character the reader is introduced to is Cecilia Fitzpatrick and extremely well-organized lady who runs her spotless home as efficiently as she does her thriving Tupperware business. All is good in Cecilia’s world until she finds a letter written by her husband to be “opened only upon my death” among some papers in the attack. Does she open it? Does she as
k him about it? It really couldn’t be anything that bad could it?

We are also introduced to Rachel and Tess and discover their painful family secret early in their chapters. How the lives of all three ladies intertwine is what keeps moving this story along.

 

16. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction · Tags:

Little Bee by Chris Cleave, read by Angie, on 08/15/2014

The world’s of Little Bee and Sarah collide on a Nigerian beach; they both come away changed. Two years later their lives collide again in London. Little Bee has spent the past two years in a detention center for refugees. Once she is out she seeks out Sarah and her husband Andrew, the only people she knows in England. Little Bee enters Sarah’s world on the day of Andrew’s funeral. He killed himself a few days before; he never recovered from what happened in Nigeria and the call from Little Bee just sent him over the edge and into suicide. Sarah and Little Bee form an alliance. Sarah feels guilty over leaving Little Bee in Nigeria and resolves to help her in any way she can. Little Bee just wants to live and starts to fall in love with Sarah and her young son Charlie. Theirs is a partnership built out of guilt and need and love, but will it be enough to save them?

I wasn’t sure what to think of this book at first. So much of the story of these two women is given out in little bites. I am not sure we ever really get the full story, but that doesn’t take away the power of the story. It is one of survival, but also of grief. When I finished the book I wanted more. More information about what was going on in Nigeria, more information on Sarah and Charlie and how their lives would end up, and especially more information on Little Bee and what would become of her.

06. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Teen Books

Torn Away by Jennifer Brown, read by Courtney, on 07/03/2014

Jersey’s life changes forever as a massive tornado bears down on her hometown of Elizabeth, MO. Jersey’s mother and sister are at dance practice when the sirens go off. Jersey makes it down to the basement in the nick of time. After the storm, Jersey discovers that most of her neighborhood has been completely demolished; the roads are impassible and all means of communication have been disrupted. A day or two later, she finally finds her step-father, only to be told that her mother and sister are both dead. Even worse, her grief-stricken step-father wants nothing more to do with her and quickly dumps her off on her long-estranged father; the father who walked out years ago and never came back. Jersey has no real desire to get to know him or his side of the family, but she really has no choice. As it turns out, her father is still a drunk and has remarried (to another drunk) and lives with his parents, his sister, and her family. Jersey is given a “bedroom” on the screened-in back porch. She is almost immediately taunted by her cousins, neglected by her father and largely ignored by her new grandparents. There is no love in this house and certainly no sympathy for a girl who has just lost all the family she’s ever known. Things only continue to get worse at her paternal grandparent’s house, so Jersey tries to run off, only to be sent off to her maternal grandparents instead. Jersey has never met this set of grandparents either; they had disowned Jersey’s mother long ago. All Jersey wants is to go back home and try to rebuild with her friends and even her step-father, but, once again, it’s out of her hands. Now, still grieving and nursing the wounds of her time at her father’s, Jersey feels more isolated than ever. Her mother kept these people out of their lives for a reason and Jersey is convinced that her mother would not have wanted her to live with them. The longer Jersey stays there, however, Jersey begins to discover that there really might be more than one side to the story of her mother’s upbringing.
So many terrible things keep happening to poor Jersey. As though losing one’s home isn’t enough, losing nearly all the family she’s ever known and then being sent to live with strangers who have exactly zero empathy make this a pretty depressing read. Even the step-father suddenly turns into a massive jerk, taking himself out of Jersey’s life altogether and preventing her from attending the funerals. There’s a bit of light at the end of the book, but by the time it appears, readers will wonder whether Jersey is even capable of perceiving it anymore. Few of the characters are particularly well-developed and Jersey’s mother’s motivations behind isolating the family are never made explicitly clear. Nevertheless, readers will still pull for Jersey to make it out of this mess without it destroying her.