Book Review: Torn Away

Posted June 5, 2015 by Lyn Kaye in book review, Lyn / 13 Comments

Book Review: Torn AwayTorn Away by Jennifer Brown
Published by Little Brown Books For Young Readers on May 6th, 2014
Genres: contemporary, young adult
Pages: 288
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon

Jersey Cameron has always loved a good storm. Watching the clouds roll in and the wind pick up. Smelling the electricity in the air. Dancing barefoot in the rain. She lives in the Midwest, after all, where the weather is sure to keep you guessing. Jersey knows what to do when the tornado sirens sound. But she never could have prepared for this.

When her town is devastated by a tornado, Jersey loses everything. As she struggles to overcome her grief, she's sent to live with relatives she hardly knows-family who might as well be strangers. In an unfamiliar place, can Jersey discover that even on the darkest of days, there are some things no tornado can destroy?

In this powerful and poignant novel, acclaimed author Jennifer Brown delivers a story of love, loss, hope, and survival.

Jennifer Brown’s books are an instant TBR add for me. I have given most of her books 3 stars, but her content is always amazing and new. Brown tackles current social issues and modern subjects that have very little media and entertainment coverage, such as school shootings and pornography and cell phones. Even though some of the characters are a bit flat in her novels, I am really drawn to current issues with teens and young people. It is highly fascinating how much has changed in just the decade and a half since I left high school. Today’s young peoples’ landscape is scary as hell.

When Brown released a book centered on tornadoes and the recovery afterwards, inspired by the events in Joplin, I was all over that.  I live in tornado alley, and I find it shocking that there aren’t a lot of stories about tornadoes and the aftermath. In fact, I don’t see a lot of YA about realistic natural disasters.  If there is an Act of God event, then it usually leans towards dystopian.

Border Leaf


Jennifer Brown has greatly grown as an author. Her characters, in the past, usually takes  a backseat to the story line, but the content is so interesting and the consequences are so real that I usually end up centering my review on the story more than the people. This one, however, broke the usually Brown mold. The author has created some very vivid and real-to-life characters in this novel. Jersey is one of the best depictions of a teen that I have seen in a YA book. She’s moody, annoyed with the world, and slightly put out by a much younger sister.  Her thoughts and actions are very immature, but that is the beauty of her personality – she realistic. I was a ball of angst and emotions at her age. The other characters in the book were wonderful, but Jersey was the main attraction.

The author did her research well. She discusses some of the things that can occur after a tornado: infection, disease, shortage of assistance, and the future of neighborhoods. Research about real facts always enhances a novel, and Brown did a great job here.


The description of the events leading up to the disaster was also spectacular. I’ll be honest – you do tend to get a bit siren weary living in the breeding grounds of tornadoes and other thunderstorm-related disasters. I’ve been known to brush off storm sirens myself. When I hear them going off, I check the computer first thing, instead of running to the closet. That is a BAD habit, but when they go off practically every other day in May, you end up getting frustrated. So many people often come back with “Well, why didn’t they know better?” Because you become almost immune to the weekly warnings. It happens.

We only consider going to our safe place when we see this

Jersey’s struggle with her family takes over in the book, but it connects to the theme very well. This is something I did end up discussing with my mother when I was a teen: what happens to me if she were not able to care for me? We live in a pretty dangerous part of the country, so it was realistic to worry about this. Jersey is left with a step parent who doesn’t want her, friends who refuse to take her in, and extended family that she has never known about prior to the disaster. This is a real issue for teens in the area – the AFTER disaster plan. A “What if” situation can quickly become out of control when you lose not only your family, but your home, school and community.


The dysfunctional family aspect is realistic as well: tornado alley does coincide with impoverish sections of the states, and therefore, there is a higher chance that Jersey would come from some of the poorest, roughest people in her area. Her first family is a group of thoughtless, hateful people that are trying to scrape by. The father makes it well known that his two other daughters are more important than her, and nothing is done to stop the bullying by the other two girls. Jersey is paying a high price for events that happened when she was very small. The father’s side of the family is ill equipped to help a teen who is grieving her losses, and it takes a toll on Jersey. We start to see, through her eyes, that she starts to fall apart, lost and unwanted.


The romance: Hardly ANY, which I am thankful for. When you’re struggling to survive and get by, I’m pretty sure the last thing you have going on in your head is drooling over the total hottie or bad boy. The ending hints that something COULD happen, but I am giving some major love here to Brown for going against the trend and avoiding romance in the face of a natural disaster story. I want to see more of this, please! Not every YA novel needs romance to be enjoyable.


The only downside I could see from this novel was towards the end, I felt that some of the hate was laid on a bit thick just for the sake of the story.


I found it disturbing that Jersey up and forgives her friends who didn’t bother to help her when she clearly needed it. She just lost her mother, and her step father doesn’t give a damn about her! I think this simply clashes with my personality. Some bloggers bring this up and point out that when things are tough, you look after your own. However, I believe that it is heartless and cruel to ignore the suffering of a kid. I tend to go overboard to help others. I had a grandmother that slaved away in a garden in west Texas during the Depression to feed the people in her town, because they were starving to death. My family donates quite a bit of time and resources to the local community. It is in my blood to try to help everyone, so, yeah, I didn’t agree with what her friends and the parents of her friends did when she begged for help.


A strongly written novel with a realistic, outgoing lead tied together with a reasltic look into the before and after of a natural disaster made this a painful, yet wonderful, book. I highly recommend this novel for those who enjoy natural disasters and contemporary books.

Lyn Sig Plant

13 responses to “Book Review: Torn Away

  1. I cried during this book SO much. Like an embarrassingly large amount to tears and sobbing. I just felt so bad for how people treated Jersey. And things kept getting sadder and sadder 🙁 I also love how Jennifer Brown writes about popular social issues. It always keeps me wondering what she’s going to tackle next! I’m glad you read this. I’ve always felt this book should get more credit and readers 🙂
    Michelle @ Pink Polka Dot Books recently posted…New YA Books Coming Out Week of 5/31My Profile

    • right? This is, by far, Brown’s best book, and I felt like it really got overlooked last year.

      It was so terrible, but I am thankful that the author kept her events within realistic boundaries. I hope this doesn’t come across as tacky or insensitive, but I could see this book going to the extremes with the abuse when Jersey moved in with her father. Abuse doesn’t have to be gory and shocking to tug at the reader’s heartstrings. The abuse Jersey suffered was horrifying without the story taking a way darker tone.
      Lyn Kaye recently posted…Book Review: Torn AwayMy Profile

  2. I agree with you on every point! I didn’t live in Texas long, but while I was there, sirens went off often and it became irritating after awhile and just ignored it. So, I can only imagine living in tornado alley for longer period of time that I did.

    One thing – I was upset about what her friends did but I almost feel like it was out of their control, more their parents wouldn’t help. I think after such a devastating thing, people are counting their own blessings and complaining about their lack of (add something here) verses really thinking about what OTHERS lost. Not saying it’s right – it’s just what the vast majority does. You are one of the better ones to think of others first 🙂

    Glad you enjoyed it, great review!
    tonyalee recently posted…Let’s Talk: Blogger to Blogger | Fitting InMy Profile

  3. The sirens were almost a constant here for us last month.

    I appreciate this point being brought up, because I am still really chafed over what transpired. You are right – it was more of the parents’ fault than the friends’. I’ve never gone through such a horrible event such as this, so maybe my outlook would change.
    I am still coming to terms with the decision Jersey made at the end of the novel. I felt that the community turned its back on her, so why would she still think so kindly of those people and wish to continue participating in rebuilding? But, on the flip side of that coin, when bigger problems start striking you down, you start to forgive the smaller offensives – it is simply a waste of energy to keep up with every slight.
    Yeah, I’m still trying to tack down my exact feelings over that particular issue.
    Lyn Kaye recently posted…Book Review: Torn AwayMy Profile

  4. Ahhhh, Torn Away. This one really gutted me a lot. It reminded me a lot of the situations Filipinos undergo whenever we encounter mudslides (from mountains and volcanoes) and typhoons and their sea surges, and how realistic it was… a natural disaster strikes and next thing you know, people you grew up with, people you consider friends and family – GONE, poof! Just like that. I ended up giving this 4 stars because it was just written so well – the feelings of helplessness, vulnerability, and the hope in the end – that despite everything, there’s always a chance to start anew.
    Faye le Potato recently posted…Say It With Bubbles: Vampire Academy Movie ReviewMy Profile

    • It was such a great novel. I hope this isn’t horrible, but it would be interesting to see an author write about a story about these events that the Filipinos go through and how it affects their lives. It would bring some coverage to their tragedies discuss and how their culture deals with such events.
      Lyn Kaye recently posted…Epic Recs: JuneMy Profile

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