Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King | Thought-Provoking + Sensitive

October 20, 2016 | Posted by Genesis in Book Reviews | 23 Comments

Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King | Thought-Provoking + SensitiveStill Life with Tornado
by A.S. King
Genres: Magical Realism, Young Adult
Publication Date: October 11th 2016 by Dutton Books for Young Readers
Format: eARC
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3.5 Stars
Source: Publisher via Netgalley

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.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

*Trigger warning for physical abuse*

When I started reading, I wanted to stop reading this book. I couldn’t really connect to the main character. I know a lot of people love this book so I pushed forward. I have to say, I was in for a surprise.

Sarah is sixteen years old and she’s going through what she calls “existential crisis”. After making the decision of dropping out of school due to an incident, Sarah starts to be an observer in life. Her parents don’t speak to each other, and if they do, it’s to fight. She hasn’t seen/heard from her brother in six years. She follows around a homeless guy because she thinks he’s an original idea. And Sarah herself is searching for an original idea. That’s when she meets 10-year-old Sarah, 23-year-old Sarah, and later on 40-year-old Sarah. The thing is, Sarah’s family went on vacation when she was 10-years-old. Sarah has suppressed feelings of that vacation and therefore, doesn’t remember what happened. This is when 10-year-old Sarah helps her navigate through those feelings and finally know why her brother left right after that vacation.

Art let me surround myself with something different. Something new. Something real. Something that was mine.

I don’t know what I was expecting from this book, but it wasn’t what I got. I actually got more than what I thought I would. As I said before, I couldn’t connect to Sarah. The way she would be in the beginning was a little bit annoying for me. As I kept reading, her story spoke to me and I ended up seeing myself in her. Despite the magical realism, I loved how real the story felt.

The magical realism was a surprise for me, but I ended up loving it. I’m not a fan of Magical Realism at all, but A.S. King sold it to me with her writing. While reading, I thought 10, 23, and 40-year-old Sarah would help present 16-year-old Sarah figure out her life and her “crisis”. I loved that King took a spin here and these characters played a deeper role in the story of Sarah’s mom and brother.

This story is told from Sarah’s point of view as well as her mom, Helen’s point of view. Helen’s point of view added a lot of insight into Sarah’s life as well as her own. I thought this was a very nice touch since I haven’t really read books with a mom’s point of view. I felt for Helen on such a deep level. She’s such a strong mom and I admired her throughout the entire novel. View Spoiler »

I think when you’ve been abused by someone for a while, it’s like being in a cult. The longer you stay, the more brainwashed you get.

Overall, Still Life with Tornado is a thought-provoking, heart-wrenching and sensitive novel that will move its readers. King combined a lyrical and simplistic prose to bring a moving, eye-opening story on abuse.

Genesis
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Genesis

Book Blogger at Latte Nights Reviews
Genesis is a 22-year-old girl who lives in Puerto Rico, an island in the Caribbean. She's obsessed with Instagram (@lattenightsbooks) and coffee shops. When she's not reading or on social media, she can be found eating, at the beach, being with her boyfriend and/or hanging out with friends.
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  • Oh interesting about the magical realism. I’m ever more curios now about the book now.

  • I’ve heard so much of AS King! I want to read a book by her some time. This one sounds so interesting.

  • Nereyda was sending me updates about this book as she read it. I think she said it made her think too. And she mentioned parts of the book that I would honestly find confusing. Haha. I like my books to be more straight forward. I love that we get to hear her mom’s POV too. Very interesting and almost unheard of in YA.
    Glad you liked this one!

    • It was very confusing in the beginning. I didn’t know if it was Contemporary, Fantasy or what but finally realized it’s Magical Realism.

  • I kind of love magical realism so I will have to add this. Sounds like it hits some hard stuff too. Great review!

  • I’ve been meaning to read more from this author AND more magical realism so I hope I can pick up a copy of this one soon. 🙂

  • I’m not sure if this one would work for me all that much, Gen, as I really need to feel some kind of connection with the main character. And lately, I’ve realized that this needs to happen fairly quickly, or I’ll just lose interest in the story and put it down…
    Great review!
    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

  • I’ve never heard of this book before but this is the second review of the book that I’ve read today. Thanks for the review, Gen. I’m very interested in the magical realism you mentioned in your review. I’ve never heard of that term either. You learn something new every day.

    • I had only heard of that term when I read Down with the Shine and I wasn’t a fan of that one. But it worked with this book 🙂

  • This book sounds angst-y. I don’t know if I’m ready for a heart-rending read, tbh. Bah.

  • Hm, I’m not really sure about this one. I know a lot of people who love A.S. King but I’ve never been particularly drawn to her books. And since me and magic realism are not friends… this one probably isn’t for me either. Really enjoyed your thoughtful review, Gen!

    • This is my first time reading a book by her. I’m not a fan of MR either but I didn’t know this would be in that genre. I ended up liking it, though 🙂

  • Eva

    Great review Gen! This sounds difficult but I’m glad it was done well. Definitely eye opening but maybe hard to read

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  • Why hello post-title-almost twin 🙂

    I don’t know, this book was weird. I was debating between a 2.5 and a 3 star rating, I wish I could give it a 2.75 rating (I don’t have quarter ratings) but I gave it a 3 because the writing was good and I loved the concept. It was just so freaking weird. Glad you liked it more than I did.

    Nereyda│ Nick & Nereyda’s Infinite Booklist