Friday, September 5, 2014

Review: Can't Look Away (Cooner)

AUTHOR: Donna Cooner
SERIES: none
PUBLICATION DATE: August 26, 2014
ISBN: 9780545427654
PAGES: 272
SOURCE: NetGalley
GENRE: realistic fiction
SUMMARY: After her younger sister is killed by a drunk driver, 16-year old fashion vlogger Torrey Grey moves to Texas with her parents and tries to move on with her life.

IF THIS BOOK WERE FOOD, IT WOULD BE: macaroni & cheese--great comfort food for anyone who has lost a loved one

REVIEW: Oh, how I love Donna Cooner! Last year, I read and loved her debut, Skinny, so I didn't even bother to read the description of this one when I requested it from NetGalley--I knew I wanted to read it no matter what it was about.

Once again, Cooner writes a beautiful and convincing story of a teen girl experiencing social and emotional recovery after a traumatic event. In this one, we meet Torrey Grey, a 16-year old girl who, to be honest, is not a very sympathetic character at first. Torrey is intensely obsessed with her online persona, being part of the "in crowd," and fashion, fashion, fashion. For the first half of the book, she comes off as stuck-up, mean, and selfish. Torrey is not a girl I would like in real life, and I wanted to see her change. Thankfully, she does.

There is a sweet romance, but the main plot is Torrey's grief and guilt over her own role in the tragic accident that killed her younger sister, Miranda. As many do after the death of a loved one, Torrey constantly wonders, "What if...?" What if she didn't argue with Miranda that day? What if she hadn't made her go to the mall? What if they had left a little earlier, or a little later? Cooner does a fantastic job making the reader feel and believe in Torrey's guilt. It helps to make haughty Torrey begin to feel a bit more human, a bit more like a lost teen girl, a bit more like someone readers can root for.

As with Skinny, I encourage readers to check out Cooner's Acknowledgments page, where she relates her own experiences in the social media spotlight. As Torrey discovers, people can be hateful when typing out comments on their anonymous keyboards. Cooner handles this timely social issue with honesty and grace.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Another hit from Donna Cooner! Timely, honest, emotional, and real.

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: On order. This will be easy to booktalk with middle school girls who like emotional reads.

READALIKES: Skinny (Cooner); Road To Somewhere (Lynn/Morris); In Honor (Kirby); Breathe, Annie, Breathe (Kenneally)

  • Overall: 4/5
  • Creativity: 4/5
  • Characters: 4/5
  • Engrossing: 4/5
  • Writing: 5/5
  • Appeal to teens: 5/5
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5

  • Language: none
  • Sexuality: mild; some kissing
  • Violence: mild; drunk driving accident
  • Drugs/Alcohol: very mild; drunk driving accident--the driver isn't important to the story
  • Other: El Dia de los Muertos is a major plot point; several scenes inside a funeral home; frequent discussion of death, dying, funerals, viewings, cadavers

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