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.

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