Publisher's Note:  

A heartbreaking story of a talented teenage artist's surreal awakening to the horrifically unoriginal brokenness of her family from critically acclaimed award-winner A.S. King.

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.
Insightful, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful, this is a vivid portrait of everyday abuse and survival that will linger with readers long after the last page.

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Dutton

Still Life with Tornado

by A.S. King

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Overall Review:  

A.S. King has named the book Tornado very appropriately.  I felt like I was in a tornado while reading it.  Admittedly, I’m still not sure I totally understand the book.  The book is told in first person narrative by Sarah, a sixteen-year-old girl, having an existential crisis.  Younger readers will find it quite hard to relate to this character, as few will understand what an existential crisis is.  Older readers may also find it hard to relate, as in places she comes off as a character who just can’t deal with life challenges and who has parents who don’t intervene in a meaningful way.

The book jumps back and forth between present day storytelling, a vacation trip to Mexico six years ago, and first person narrative of the mom.  The changes in narrative work in this book.  They help to develop the end story and provide insight into some of the issues that Sarah is currently facing.  Throughout the book Sarah meets older and young versions of herself.  These versions are real, live people, not figments of her imagination or hallucinations.  The part I found very hard to believe is that others see these “versions” as well and are completely accepting of them.  In a book that is otherwise so realistic, the acceptance of these Sarah’s just seemed out of place.

Younger readers might struggle with the subject matter and content (as outlined below) ---an existential crisis likely won’t be understood, Sarah’s truancy and drop out of high school is accepted with little to no consequences or fight by her parents and the book has themes of domestic violence.  Older readers may also find the scenes of domestic violence hard to read.

Review of an Advance Reading Copy

Content Analysis:  

Profanity/Language:  17 religious exclamations; 6 mild obscenities; 4 religious profanities; 22 derogatory names; 77 scatological words; 31 anatomical terms; 2 offensive hand gestures; 20 F-word derivatives.

Violence/Gore:  Report of people eaten by crocodiles; report of man leaving wife on floor for a year after she falls and breaks hip and she subsequently dies; dad threatens to hit mom; mentally ill man threatens to kill stranger with fruit; paragraph where nurse describes ER victims; report of death due to motor vehicle accident; man is kneed in groin; girl cuts hand; in two page scene man shoves table into woman breaking her ribs, slaps woman repeatedly and pulls her hair; dad punches son in face knocking out tooth; dad twists daughter’s wrist; in three page scene dad throws furniture, smashes windows, breaks coffee table, smashes household items, woman slaps small child repeatedly; reference to ER victims with items shoved up their rectums.

Sex/Nudity:  Report of female teacher kissing female teenage student three times; sexual references written on bathroom walls; adult fantasizes about sex (no graphic detail).

Mature Subject Matter:  

Death of a family member, divorce, firing from job, mental disorders, homelessness, physical abuse of spouse and children, reference to prostitution.

Alcohol / Drug Use:  

Adults drink on vacation in Mexico; teenager smokes marijuana.

Reviewed By Beckie
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