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Can't Look Away

Can't Look Away

4.3 6
by Donna Cooner

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Torrey Grey is famous. At least, on the internet. Thousands of people watch her popular videos on fashion and beauty. But when Torrey's sister is killed in an accident -- maybe because of Torrey and her videos -- Torrey's perfect world implodes.

Now, strangers online are bashing Torrey. And at her new school, she doesn't know who to trust. Is queen bee Blair


Torrey Grey is famous. At least, on the internet. Thousands of people watch her popular videos on fashion and beauty. But when Torrey's sister is killed in an accident -- maybe because of Torrey and her videos -- Torrey's perfect world implodes.

Now, strangers online are bashing Torrey. And at her new school, she doesn't know who to trust. Is queen bee Blair only being sweet because of Torrey's internet infamy? What about Raylene, who is decidedly unpopular, but seems accepts Torrey for who she is? And then there's Luis, with his brooding dark eyes, whose family runs the local funeral home. Torrey finds herself drawn to Luis, and his fascinating stories about El Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.

As the Day of the Dead draws near, Torrey will have to really look at her own feelings about death, and life, and everything in between. Can she learn to mourn her sister out of the public eye?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In a story about loss, sensationalism, and the double-edged sword of fame, pretty, popular Torrey has "cultivated a loyal following" by posting beauty tips and "haul videos" (showing off recent purchases) online as Beautystarz15. After a drunk driver kills her younger sister, Torrey's views surge into the millions, even though she hasn't uploaded a video since the tragedy. Moving with her parents from Colorado to Texas, Torrey tries to retain her social status but is plagued by nightmares and insensitive online comments, especially after a video leaks, showing her fighting with her sister the day of the accident. When Torrey meets handsome Luis, the outcast son of a funeral home owner, they form a close and candid bond that will never fly with the popular girls at her new school. She also must decide how to handle her return to being Beautystarz15 and grapple with her grief both personally and publically. While Cooner (Skinny) builds Torrey's emotional life skillfully and tackles complex moral questions, the ideas she introduces are not explored in enough depth to make Torrey's transformation entirely believable. Ages 12–up. Agent: Sarah Davies, Greenhouse Literary. (Aug.)
From the Publisher

Praise for Can't Look Away:

"Sad, wise, and true... unforgettable." -- Melissa de la Cruz, New York Times bestselling author of Blue Bloods and Witches of East End

"From start to finish, I couldn't look away from Donna Cooner's honest, at times heartbreaking, yet hopeful story about the bonds of sisterhood and the challenges of starting over." -- Elizabeth Eulberg, author of The Lonely Hearts Club and Better Off Friends

"Cooner explores the dark side of popularity... insightful and absorbing." -- Kirkus Reviews

"Poignant [and] authentic." -- School Library Journal

Praise for Skinny:

"Resounding... with wit, compassion, and courage, Skinny will speak to everyone who has ever felt invisible or unlovable." -- Kathi Appelt, New York Times bestselling author and winner of the Newbery Honor

"The best -- and truest -- depiction of the joys and pangs of transformation I've ever read. Deeply moving, totally addictive, utterly fabulous." -- New York Times bestselling author Lauren Myracle

"Compelling." -- Kirkus Reviews

"At a time when many teens are struggling with personal obesity, overweight, and the definition of beauty, public and school libraries should not hesitate to include this... in their collection." -- VOYA

Kirkus Reviews
Cooner explores the dark side of popularity.Sixteen-year-old Torrey has become slightly famous with her fashion video blog, winning a large following on YouTube. However, she’s haunted by guilt over the death of her little sister, Miranda, killed by a drunken driver as the girl walked away from Torrey after a fight. With the family’s abrupt move from Colorado to Texas, Torrey faces the challenge of becoming popular in a new school. She quickly identifies the queen bee of the school, Blair, and thanks to her fashion sense, scores a seat at the popular table. However, she also finds herself attracted to Luis, whom she quickly learns Blair deems unacceptable. Torrey tries to conceal her growing relationship with Luis and continues to deal with her own guilt over her sister. Worse, Torrey begins to appreciate her dorky cousin, Raylene, a girl who appears to be oblivious to the social rankings in their high school. Finally Torrey faces a serious question: Just how important is popularity if it means hurting people she likes? Cooner demonstrates solid knowledge of the high school social system, both characters and their motivations ringing true. The story allows readers to reach their own conclusions about the moral choices Torrey confronts without shoving the right decision down their throats.Insightful and absorbing. (Fiction. 12-18)
Children's Literature - Caitlyn Payne
“‘Hello beauty stars!’ I give my signature wave and smile into the camera. ‘So I wanted to tell you…’ my voice trails off. The tears spill silently down my cheeks. It’s all too much. I don’t know where to start.” This is the voice of Torrey, who has not been able to successfully post on her online fashion and beauty video blog since her sister was killed by a drunk driver. Shaken and deeply grieving that her last words to her sister were spoken in anger, confused by a move to a new home and school, and struggling to communicate with her family, Torrey has a difficult time getting through each day. But then a boy named Luis, who teaches her his cultural tradition of el Dia del Muerto, the Day of the Dead, befriends her. As she learns about the holiday which honors those who are gone, and gets to know Luis, Torrey begins to find peace—with herself and the death of her sister. Slowly, she begins to find friendship and respect from people in her present, day-to-day world, not in the online world of her blog. The book examines powerful issues like death, grieving, friendship, and the difficulty of starting over. However, instead of empathizing and cheering for Torrey as she works through her struggles, the reader mostly sees Torrey worrying what online readers and her school’s popular kids think of her and how her grief affects her famous blog posts that get “thousands” of hits. Torrey treats the friends she does make poorly and does not show empathy or a willingness to support their interests, making the reader less inclined to sympathize with Torrey’s troubles. When Torrey does finally start to move on and become stronger and less self-absorbed, the changes feel rushed and more like a “ta da!” moment to bring the story to a close than a natural progression of character development and growth. Rather than knowing Torrey has started to mature and resolve her issues, the reader is left with a feeling of relief that Torrey has finally started to learn about being genuine and a friend. Torrey’s fictional online followers may eagerly await her blogs, but the book reader will be relieved to leave Torrey behind. Reviewer: Caitlyn Payne; Ages 12 up.
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Torrey Grey (Beautystarz15) is a YouTube teen sensation. Her videos on fashion and shopping "hauls" have earned her articles in Teen Vogue and a league of online worshippers. Younger sister Miranda could not care less about beauty or fashion; her main interests lie with comics and superheros. While accompanying Torrey and a friend on a video shoot, Miranda is killed by a drunk driver while standing in the middle of a crosswalk. Sympathy for Torrey is quickly changed to blame when a video of an argument between Torrey and Miranda, recorded shortly before the accident, is posted. Moving from Denver to a small Texas town is culture shock for the main character; the fear of being discovered by the fashion-conscious popular crowd complicates friendship issues, as does being friendly with the ex-boyfriend of the most popular girl in school. Newspaper articles about the accident and aftermath and tips from Torrey on fashion introduce chapters. Thoughtful messages about regret and the price of fame are poignant without being heavy-handed. Day of the Dead customs are significant aspects of the story, which makes for a unique multicultural twist. The portrayal of the impact of a child's death on a family is authentic. The protagonist's pain and remorse are raw and deeply defined. She may not be immediately likable by some readers, but her journey through grief and her "new normal" will draw empathy. Although Torrey's story is atypical, common themes of fitting in, boy-girl relationships, and sisterhood are universal.—Jennifer Schultz, Fauquier County Public Library, Warrenton, VA

Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)
670L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Donna Cooner is the acclaimed author of Skinny and Can't Look Away. A Texas native and graduate of Texas A&M University, Donna currently lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, a cat named Stu, and two chocolate Labradors, Roxanne and Murphy. Follow @donnacooner on Twitter or visit her online at www.donnacooner.com.

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Can't Look Away 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
Torrey Grey has always wanted to be famous. But fame is a funny thing. You have to be famous for something. But that's okay because Torrey found her calling at fifteen. As a beauty vlogger, Torrey is a taste-maker and a style guru with fashion tips and makeup tutorials to share. Thousands of people know about Torrey and her vlog, which also means thousands of people know when Torrey's little sister Miranda is hit by a drunk driver. Now Torrey and her parents have moved from Colorado to Texas. All three of them are lost in their own grief. Torrey also has to deal with backlash from her fans as details of the fight Torrey and Miranda had before the accident leak. On top of bottling up her own guilt, Torrey also has to navigate a whole new high school. Smooth talking her way into the popular crowd and away from her chatty oddball cousin Raylene isn't going to be easy. Add to that staying away from the oh-so-cute and oh-so-unacceptable Luis Rivera, while listening to everything he has to tell her about El Dia de Los Muertos, Torrey is going to have her hands full in Can't Look Away (2014) by Donna Cooner. Can't Look Away is Cooner's second novel. It follows Skinny which is set in the same town--readers of both will recognize familiar characters. Conner offers a solid contemplation of fame in the modern age here as well as a moving story of grief and forgiveness. Luis and details about Dia de los Muertos customs add another dimension to this story and fit in well with the arc of Torrey dealing with her loss. Although Torrey has stumbling blocks throughout the story, her growth from beginning to end is obvious and largely satisfying. Torrey's early fixation on her relative celebrity is handled thoughtfully and emphasized with chapter titles and epigraphs quoted from Torrey's vlog. Similarly Torrey's worries over how viewers perceive her will ring true with anyone who's ever posted a vlog (or blog) online. Can't Look Away is at times melancholy but it is ultimately a satisfying story about family and the strength that can come from finding yourself. Possible Pairings: Now and Forever by Susane Colasanti, King of the Screwups by K. L. Going, Where I Belong by Gwendolyn Heasley, Drawing the Ocean by Carolyn MacCullough, This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales, The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle, A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin *A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review consideration*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Theres this girl whose sister died and she has nightmars of dia del los mertos and then she meets this guy named luis who works at a cemetry
BlkosinerBookBlog More than 1 year ago
   I wanted to read this because I am drawn to stories about grief and how teens cope with it and Torrey sounds like a character that I could feel for and cheer for.      While I liked Torrey in general, and I am all about bloggers of all sort, even fashion and beauty, something about her just didn't click the best for me. She thought about numbers and how testifying about her sister's death could bring an even bigger surge. And I know that death doesn't just make you inevitably stop thinking about the things you love, and thinking in that manner may be her own way of dealing.      Her in the new town was interesting, but at first especially all of the new people ran together, the popular girl, boys talking to her and Luis, as well as Raylene. They all eventually kinda grew into their own characters but they just didn't leave as big of an impression as I liked.       Her family has a special brand of dysfunction. Torrey's mom is in this grief daze, and I totally can't blame her because I can't even imagine what I would do, think, or say if I lost one of my girls. Torrey's dad is a bit more in the present and tries his best to still be there for Torrey.     The semi mystery of everyone's motivations and how they relate with Torrey was entertaining, and well done. The ending worked well for the book, and you can't expect that everything will be a complete HEA because there is the big loss of her sister.      Bottom Line: Good but not the most memorable and not quite what I expected. 
ABookVacation More than 1 year ago
This is an interesting read that depicts the life of a teen beauty vlogger, a wildly popular young woman who posts to YouTube, which I admit is a channel I personally rarely visit. My students are obsessed with youtube videos, so I definitely wanted to check out this novel and see if it brought on any insights, because truth be told, vlogs tend to drive me insane. I don’t think I’ve been able to watch very many straight through, because the spontaneity and bloopers of it all just isn’t for me. But, that’s exactly what Torrey does, or did, prior to the novel’s beginning, and as Torrey looks back on her past life, one where her little sister still existed, we begin to see just who Torrey Grey truly is, both now and then. I definitely enjoyed this novel, and it did make me tear up a time of two, but I personally don't follow why people are blaming Torrey for her sister’s death, or why they feel the need to write nasty comments on her vlogs. I get that trolls exist, and over the past three years as an online reviewer, I’ve seen some pretty nasty comments left on both author and blogger accounts alike, but I don’t quite understand the why behind it, and while I think this novel attempts to answer this question, it really doesn’t. Why are people so callous and rude? Torrey fought with her sister, just like all siblings do. She was mean, just like all siblings can be. But she didn’t push her sister into the street, and she certainly didn’t cause the accident, so I don’t see where anyone has the right to bully her, or why they would ever think to, in the first place. Of course, it seems that that is what humanity is good at doing; putting others down anonymously, and this happens to Torrey, though I have to say that I really felt like this was more the background story than the forefront, and I really wish this aspect of online life, with the trolls and wannabes, was dived into more deeply as it’s the main aspect I was more interested in. Now, as I said, the story focuses on Torrey, and she’s definitely going through a hard time at the moment, and she struggles to pull herself together. Her attempt to piece her life back together, hanging with the popular crowd, is a farce, an attempt at healing—if only things could go back to the way they were, but unfortunately they never do, and Torrey has to learn this the hard way. I respected this about her, but she rubbed me the wrong way on some occasions, snubbing her true friends in order to make a name for herself… I think we’re all probably guilty of this in some way or other, but it did leave me a bit disappointed in Torrey, though she does eventually seem to get her head on straight. I really liked Luis and enjoyed the Dia de los Muertes references and make-up tutorial (I'm so doing this), but again, never really understood why people were bashing on Torrey, or why the popular crowd at her new school disliked her so much. As I said, I liked the idea behind this novel overall, and the story is indeed well written, it’s just a little beyond me; I don’t really understand why anyone acted the way they did within the novel. Three and a half stars.