FEATURE BOOK OF THE WEEK
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.
Sometimes I like to say that being a writer isn’t about “coming up with story ideas” as much as it is paying attention to the ideas that are already all around you. Story ideas are in the news, they’re hidden in a Facebook post or frozen inside an Instagram photo. They’re in overheard conversations. They’re in weird and unpredictable situations. They’re in epic fails and epic triumphs. They’re in your history. Sometimes they’re just in your heart.
Torn Away was one of those in-my-heart stories.
Some books do take a little bit of coaxing to come out, blinking and timid, into the real world. You might find yourself trying to write to an expectation, or to an obligation, or to a proposal that felt a lot more seamless in synopsis than in actual book. In those cases, it really can feel like you’re “coming up with ideas.”
But other books just seem to be there, waiting at the tips of your fingers, pushing and nudging to be let out. They’re filled with characters who talk to you in your quiet moments. They’re the ones that seem to magically come together. They’re the ones whose characters seem to have the perfect voices for what you have to say.
Torn Away wasn’t just a tornado book for me. I mean, it was, and the tornado was a huge part of what happened to Jersey. Tornadoes are scary and existent in our area, and I chose a tornado because the “what if” of their devastation is a real and present worry in our lives. But the story could have as easily been about an earthquake or a car accident or a building collapse or a cancer or…any sort of tragedy, large or small. It was Jersey that was important to me.
Jersey was stripped of everything she loved, everything central to her, everything that made her feel safe and secure. She was forced to face a new life, alone, and tap into reserves of strength she didn’t even know she had. She had to be not just resilient, but capital-R Resilient. Actually, all caps RESILIENT.
Sometimes, and at any time, we can all find ourselves tapping into that all caps RESILIENCE inside of us. We don’t need to experience loss at the same level that Jersey did to lose everything—or even just what feels like everything—important, loved, and safe in our lives. Jersey might look at our problems and think, Is that it? But more likely, she would put her hand on our backs and say, You’ve got this.
Because you do, and if there was one thing I wanted Jersey’s story to say to you, it’s just that. Regardless of what your tornado looks like, you’ve all caps GOT THIS. I know this, because the story was in my heart from the very beginning.
About the Author
Jennifer's debut middle grade novel, Life on Mars, was released in 2014, and her second middle grade novel, How Lunchbox Jones Saved Me from Robots, Traitors, and Missy the Cruel will be released in summer 2015.
Jennifer writes and lives in the Kansas City, Missouri area, with her husband and three children.