March 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Teens Review Jennifer Brown’s ‘Torn Away,’ Blake Nelson’s Latest, and More

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Tornadoes, time-travelers (of a sort), a faery killer, and a surf rat all figure prominently in this column’s featured titles. And one, Everyone Dies in the End, is written by a school librarian. As a reminder that no two readers are alike, take the time to check out our Double Take on Elizabeth May’s The Falconer.

BROWN, Jennifer. Torn Away. Little Brown. May 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN ISBN13: 9780316245531.

Gr 8 Up—Jersey Cameron’s life is super normal—until a tornado 41614tornawayhits her town. Jersey’s world is completely rocked as she loses everything, except herself. Alone and homeless, Jersey is sent to live with her biological father and his entire family. There she faces hate and secrets exchanged on a back porch. After running away, she is forced to live with her mother’s parents who might change everything.

Tornadoes have always terrified me. Like Jersey, I have lived in towns where tornado alarms were sounded often and even now, tornadoes are one of my worst fears. I think the book captures that feeling, the shakiness, the shrug of it at first, perfectly. The total lack of light is intense… somehow it keeps you hanging on through the darkness, so attached to Jersey, so angry for and with her, so aching with her, that you can’t just let it go.

Jersey’s journey is heartbreaking yet incredible. It’s absolutely terrible and the emotions reach inside you and shake you until all you want to do is punch a hole in a wall or scratch someone’s face off. Yet there were bits and pieces that made my heart melt. The drawings and memories on gum wrappers, the scene in the book store, the hair dye, the card games… and her strength! I liked it because it was realistic—she was so weak and so so strong at the same time. It inspired me and it made me think and wonder and hope for my own life.

Torn Away is heavy. It sits on your chest and pushes into your core and rattles the floor beneath your feet. From the first pages, you feel it. The writing, the story… it’s quite masterful.

Most teenagers (or adults!) will be able to appreciate this book. It reveals the horror of the things you can’t control. It reminds us to love our family and cherish every moment. It reminds us to notice all the little things in our lives and to feel gratitude.—Emma, age 17

KATCHER, Brian. Everyone Dies in the End. Dark Continents. 2014. pap. $15.99. ISBN 9780615710174.

Everyone Dies in the EndGr 9 Up—Sherman Andrews is driven; at 17, and a student at the Missouri Scholar Academy, Sherman is taking as many steps as possible to become a successful reporter. Including researching a baffling story from 1935 involving extremely dangerous men who will do anything to keep the story silent.

It hooked me right away. The style, the voice, the mood. It’s vivid, funny, quirky, and strong. I was surprised to find that it was a thriller with fun characters and maybe a dose of the undead?!

The characters and the voice! The story is strong, full of hooks to keep you reading. The flashbacks were intense and well written, and the craziness of it had me laughing-silently screaming.

Recommended for YA readers who love a laugh, a mystery, a thrill, a bit of history, and maybe a bit of zombies.—Emma, age 17

TWO TAKES ON The Falconer:

MAY, Elizabeth. The Falconer. May 2014. Chronicle. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452114231.

The FalconerGr 9 Up—Lady Aileana Kameron has the looks and the money, but when her mother the Marquess of Douglas is murdered, she needs to use her abilities and learn how to kill faerys. Aileana hopes to destroy the faery that murdered her mother. If things couldn’t get more messy, Aileana’s father returns and is forcing her to get married and save the world.

I thank the author for not making this book another one of those insta-love romances. I also liked the teaching behind this story. Alieana copes with the loss of her mother and the hardships with her rocky relationship with her father.

The story moved at a glacial pace and sometimes there was an overuse of unnecessary details that never had a huge impact on anything. For example, the faery prison that was almost going to shut down and apparently do a ton of damage, never served any purpose and didn’t ever have an interaction with the plot, which distracted this reader. Throughout the book, there were many other scene similar to this where the reader would think this was leading to somewhere but actually, the item the reader thought was a ‘cliffhanger’ never got resolved.

The Falconer wasn’t something that I was hooked onto and desperately wanted more of; however, it is probably mostly because these types of books don’t interest me much. I’m sure there are others who appreciate this writing style.

People who are drawn it to bloody slaughter, mayhem, a 19th-century Scotland setting, and minor steampunk would probably enjoy this book.—Esther L., age 13


Aileana Kameron has just returned to society a year after her mother’s death. But life isn’t as simple as worrying about courtiers or dances; Aileana is a Falconer, a female warrior that hunts and kills faeries. She must learn to balance her two lives, all while trying to hunt down her mother’s killer—a faery named Sorcha.

This book is dark and dramatic and absolutely captivating. All of the characters are gorgeously written, and Aileana is the best of them all. She’s complicated and unique, and her yearning for the freedom to do and say what she wants relates to almost all readers. The plot is interesting and mysterious without being confusing, much like Aileana’s love interest. It builds up tension throughout the entire book and then cuts off with a cliffhanger that leaves the reader desperate for more.

This is one of the few books I have read that is able to pull off being mysterious without being confusing. The reader isn’t given all the information about faeries and about the main character all at once in the beginning; rather, they are given it piece by piece as the story unfolds. However, this doesn’t make you feel like you have no idea what’s going on, it actually adds to the air of mystery that is so fitting for the plot.

This is a more mature book because of the darker themes and I would recommend it to high school kids. Fans of the “Iron Fae” series by Julie Kagawa (HarlequinTeen) might also like this story.—Alexis C., age 17

NELSON, Blake. The Prince of Venice Beach. Little Brown. June 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316230483.

Prince of Venice BeachGr 9 Up—Robert ‘Cali’ Callahan, a ‘rad’ teenage runaway, knows everyone in Venice Beach. Because of this, he becomes the go-to guy for private investigators searching the area. Cali succeeds—until he’s hired to find a gorgeous teenage girl and realizes he doesn’t know who to trust.

I loved the characters! They were vibrant and lovable. Each one had a good side and a bad side and sometimes you had no idea which was which. I liked how it dealt more with the ‘street people’. They were portrayed well, not like they are usually thought of. Pretty crazy towards the end!

Honestly, I would recommend this to someone who doesn’t read a lot. A teenage guy (or girl who’s not picky about if it’s a romance or not!) who likes a mystery, a thrill, and a little bit of beach sand thrown in would enjoy this.—Emma, age 17



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