{Review/Excerpt/Giveaway} TORN AWAY by Jennifer Brown

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TORN WAY is an emotional stand-alone novel by award-winning author Jennifer Brown.
It came out this past Tuesday.
Happy Book Week, Jennifer!!!!

O P E N I N G   H O O K:

    MARIN WANTED TO TEACH ME THE East Coast Swing. It was pretty much her only goal in life. She was constantly pulling on my arms or standing in front of the TV, her hands on her square little hips, sparkle nail polish glinting and ratty rose-colored tutu quivering.
    “Come on, Jersey, it’s fun. You’ll like it. Jersey!” Stomp. “Are you listening to me? Jerseeey!”
    She’d learned swing in Miss Janice’s dance class. Technically, it wasn’t a routine they were there to learn, but one evening Janice, in an old-school mood, had popped in a swing CD and taught them how to do it. Marin thought it was the best dance ever.
    She was forever counting off, her pudgy five-year-old arms around an imaginary dance partner, her brown curls bouncing to a beat only she could hear as she hummed what she remembered of the song they’d danced to in class.
    But she really wanted me to be her dance partner. She probably imagined me grabbing her wrists, pulling her through my legs, tossing her into the air, and then catching her. She probably envisioned the two of us in matching costumes, wowing an audience.
    “Not now, Marin,” I told her time and again. I was always too busy watching TV or doing homework or texting my best friends, Jane and Dani, about what pests little sisters can be. Especially little sisters who think the whole world is about the East Coast Swing.

(Page 5, US e-book edition)

If you're looking for an emotional read that will likely make you cry, look no further than TORN AWAY by Jennifer Brown. The novel takes a look at the devastation a tornado can leave in its wake, as well as the lengths people will go to in order to survive and continue on.  Brown was inspired to write the novel after she visited Joplin, Missouri as it recovered from a catastrophic tornado a couple of years ago. Even though the people were battle-weary, they still had hope. Reading the afternote added to the novel's impact and the plight of any person forced to suffer through such a tragedy. i can't tell you how many times I felt emotions just writing this review.

Jersey's story is worse than most. She was home alone the day the tornado took everything from her. She lost her house,  but even worse, she lost her mother and sister.  Now, she's alone in the universe. Her family, her entire world, was stripped away, and now nothing will ever be the same again. This isn't really a spoiler,  since you know from the first chapter that something is about to go wrong, that Jersey is about to regret the last thing she refused to do for her little sister. The rest of Jersey's journey is spoilery; I recommend ignoring the book jacket or Goodreads summary. Experience the ups and downs alongside Jersey. I did, and I'm grateful not to have that extra information, because I was right there next to Jersey as events unfolded.

There is so much emotional baggage that comes with this novel. You just want to hug Jersey and turn back the hands of time, to tuck everyone up safe and sound. I have new admiration for anyone who has ever experienced the destruction of a tornado,  hurricane,  tsunami,  etc. It's one reason I didn't want to stay in Florida; I don't want to experience even the threat of something like this year after year. It's really hard to talk about TORN AWAY without spoilers. There are characters you'll hate, and others you'll learn to care for. While the novel starts off with the trope of fighting with a loved one before a tragedy and forever regretting that moment, it morphs into a journey of healing and learning how to survive and go on, even when there's seemingly nothing left to live for.

Here's an excerpt from
that gets right to the heart of the action!


The basement wasn’t a terrible place to kill time, especially since Ronnie had put a pool table, a couch, and a mini-fridge down there. Every so often he’d have some friends over and they’d all disappear downstairs, and we could hear pool balls cracking up against one another and smell the cigarette smoke as it drifted up through the living room carpet. He didn’t love us hanging out in his space, but tonight I had no choice.
I rummaged around on Ronnie’s worktable and found a flashlight, then clicked it on; it worked. Giving a quick glance to the one small window—it was still dark and windy—I flopped down on the couch and opened my book.
My phone buzzed and I pulled it out of my pocket.
“Hey, Dani, I guess it’s a good time to catch up on some reading for tomorrow’s quiz,” I said in my Miss Sopor impression.
“Are you downstairs?” Dani’s voice was worried, thin.
“Yep. Waste of time, but since the power’s out, I have nothing better to do, I guess.”
“My mom said a tornado touched down on M Highway. She said it’s headed right toward us. She wanted me to make sure you knew.”
    M Highway was closer than I wanted it to be, and that news startled me a little, but it was still the country out there. It seemed like tornadoes were touching down on those country highways all the time.
“Yeah, I heard the sirens. I’m good,” I said, though I realized that my voice might have sounded a bit thin, too.
“Is Jane still at school?” Dani asked.
“I haven’t heard from her,” I said. “I can text her.”
“I already did. She didn’t answer.”
“They were probably playing and she didn’t hear her phone.” Plus, I added inside my head, the orchestra room is in the basement anyway. She’s fine. “I’ll try her. Kolby is standing outside right now.”
Dani made a noise into the phone. “I’m not surprised. He’s nuts. He’s not gonna be happy until he gets carried away in a tornado.”
“It’s not even raining out there.”
“Still, he’s crazy. One touched down on M Highway.”
“I know.”
“Call me if you talk to Jane?”
I hung up and sent Jane a quick text. The sirens stopped for a minute and I would have thought maybe the storm was passing, but it had gotten even darker outside, and then they started up again.
I chewed my lip, held my phone in my lap for a few seconds, then called Mom.
“Jersey?” she shouted into the phone. The noise around her was even louder. Emergency horns, police sirens, and the loud chatter and crying of little girls. “Jersey?”
“Dani’s mom said a tornado was on M Highway,” I said.
“I can’t hear her,” I heard my mom say, and another woman’s voice close by said something about more touchdowns. “Jersey?” Mom repeated.
“I’m here!” I shouted. “Hello! Can you hear me?”
“Jersey? I can’t hear you. If you can hear me, go to the basement, okay?” she yelled.
“I am,” I said, but I knew she couldn’t hear what I was saying, and fear really began to creep into my stomach. She sounded afraid. Mom never sounded afraid. Ever. She never wavered; she was always strong. Even when I fell off the monkey bars in second grade and landed straight on my neck and had to go in an ambulance to the hospital. Mom had simply sat next to me in the ambulance, talking in a low, steady voice, one that calmed me. “Mom? Hello? You there?”
“Everybody this way!” she shouted, her voice sounding farther away from the phone, like maybe she was holding it at her side and had forgotten that it was on. There was a bustling noise, and the crying and talking got louder and more jumbled and then was overtaken by a rumbling sound.
“Mom?” I said.
But she didn’t answer. I could hear her shouting, “Get your heads down! Get your heads down!” and lots of screaming and crying. I thought I might have heard glass breaking.
And then I heard nothing but the drone of the sirens outside my window­.
~From pages 16-17, US ebook edition

C O V E R   D E S I G N:

This cover is all about atmosphere. It isn't sensationalizing natural disasters and waving for people to stop and talk. Instead, it's all about the mood.  The background is stormy.  The girl's hair is being lifted by the wind. There is nothing else. There is nothing else. Zip. Nada. Just like in the novel. Everything is empty, and you want to cry just looking at this desolate cover.

I also like how much space the font is taking up, not to mention how part of it is obscuring the model's face as though she's trying to hide...because she is. 
O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Jennifer Brown
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Born and raised in the Midwest, Jersey Cameron knows all about tornadoes. Or so she thinks. When her town is devastated by a twister, Jersey survives -- but loses her mother, her young sister, and her home. As she struggles to overcome her grief, she's sent to live with her only surviving relatives: first her biological father, then her estranged grandparents. 

In an unfamiliar place, Jersey faces a reality she's never considered before -- one in which her mother wasn't perfect, and neither were her grandparents, but they all loved her just the same. Together, they create a new definition of family. And that's something no tornado can touch.

Two-time winner of the Erma Bombeck Global Humor Award (2005 & 2006), Jennifer's weekly humor column appeared in The Kansas City Star for over four years, until she gave it up to be a full-time young adult novelist. Jennifer writes and lives in the Kansas City, Missouri area, with her husband and three children.

Author Links:  Website | Twitter | Facebook


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  1. Great post. I like how you discuss the cover as well. Glad you liked the story. Thanks for participating!

  2. Well, I was planning to read this they day before yesterday
    Then, I stopped myself
    It sounded too good for me to read so fast.
    So I am saving it for after my senior year
    GREAT review
    Your reader


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