My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: First to Read
Publication Date: October 11th, 2016
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Point of View: 1st Person & Alternative
Recommended Age: 13+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Contemporary, Abuse, Magical Realism, Family
Sarah can’t draw. This is a problem, because as long as she can remember, she has “done the art.” She thinks she’s having an existential crisis. And she might be right; she does keep running into past and future versions of herself as she explores the urban ruins of Philadelphia. Or maybe she’s finally waking up to the tornado that is her family, the tornado that six years ago sent her once-beloved older brother flying across the country for a reason she can’t quite recall. After decades of staying together “for the kids” and building a family on a foundation of lies and violence, Sarah’s parents have reached the end. Now Sarah must come to grips with years spent sleepwalking in the ruins of their toxic marriage. As Sarah herself often observes, nothing about her pain is remotely original —and yet it still hurts.
‘‘Still Life with Tornado’’ had me fooled.
I thought it was all about Sarah and her teenage existential crisis at first.
But it’s not… just about her. It’s about her, her mother, her father, her brother, her family, her future and her past.
I’ve read dozens and dozens of books dealing with the topic of abuse, yet this one manages to explore the theme in an original way, while keeping a realistic quality to it.
A.S. King’s writing moved me. It turned my insides into knots. It made me hold my breath for at least half of the novel. And I probably looked really silly as I read it with my eyes wide open and my mouth agape, always waiting and waiting and hoping and hoping for the nightmarish lie to end.
I was scotched to the screen the whole time. It may be a slow-paced story, but I never once lost interest. And granted, A.S. King’s writing style may be simplistic if you decapitate paragraphs and look at each sentence, but if you behold the whole, you will realize how much lyrical dept there is in it.
The magical realism took me by surprise, although I expected it. I thought Sarah seeing her ten-year-old self and other selves were meant to make her realize something about herself and, eventually, heal her of her crisis, but their roles are extremely different. As I said before, this is not only about Sarah.
Which brings me to her mother’s point of views. It was a good thing A.S. King included them in the plot, because they answer questions many readers may have while reading this. Plus it makes her such a likeable and thoughtful character/mother to our eyes. At first I thought she was vulnerable, but there is strength in her. Not everyone would protect the ones they love from harm’s way the way she does.
A thought-provoking story I’m hoping will speak to many of its readers.
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