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Torn Away

Torn Away

4.6 12
by Jennifer Brown

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Jersey Cameron has always loved a good storm. Watching the clouds roll in and the wind pick up. Smelling the electricity in the air. Dancing barefoot in the rain. She lives in the Midwest, after all, where the weather is sure to keep you guessing. Jersey knows what to do when the tornado sirens sound. But she never could have prepared for this.
When her town is


Jersey Cameron has always loved a good storm. Watching the clouds roll in and the wind pick up. Smelling the electricity in the air. Dancing barefoot in the rain. She lives in the Midwest, after all, where the weather is sure to keep you guessing. Jersey knows what to do when the tornado sirens sound. But she never could have prepared for this.
When her town is devastated by a tornado, Jersey loses everything. As she struggles to overcome her grief, she's sent to live with relatives she hardly knows -- family who might as well be strangers. In an unfamiliar place, can Jersey discover that even on the darkest of days, there are some things no tornado can destroy?
In this powerful and poignant novel, acclaimed author Jennifer Brown delivers a story of love, loss, hope, and survival.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Sarah Maury Swan
Just as she is about to finish her junior year in high school, Jersey Cameron’s whole life is blown away when a massive tornado wipes out a large swath of her Missouri town. Her mother and younger sister, Marin, die and then her stepfather, Ronnie, ships her off to her biological father and her paternal grandparents whom she has never met. Her remarried birth father has twin daughters who are cruel to Jersey. She sleeps on the screen porch of her grandparents’ seriously overcrowded house. With the exception of her aunt, who lives in the house with her two out-of-control sons, everyone is mean to her and very unaccepting. Then she learns her parents did not separate in the way she had always been told; that her mother was not as truthful as she could have been. Eventually she is foisted off on to her also unknown maternal grandparents, but by now is so hurt and angry and guilt-ridden for ignoring Marin, she is rude. Since her mother told her lies about them she is surprised to discover they are good people who just want to help her heal. The description of Jersey’s surviving the storm all alone in the basement of her house is electrifying and her struggle to survive the pain and suffering she endures is emotionally powerful. The book is a good read and the characters are well developed. Reviewer: Sarah Maury Swan; Ages 13 up.
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Jersey's entire life falls apart in a matter of minutes: a tornado kills her mother and her half-sister Marin and destroys their house. Though Jersey's stepfather, Ronnie, survives, he's too shocked to think about parenting, and so the teen is dispatched to live with the extended paternal family she's never met. Her biological father abandoned her years ago and shows no sign of wanting to mend their relationship, and the rest of the family—her stepmother, stepsisters, and paternal grandparents—either ignore or belittle her. Jersey nourishes herself with sporadic cell phone conversations from friends but fears that the foundation her old life was built on is quickly disappearing. Brown depicts Jersey's reaction to a frightening, life-altering situation expertly, and the protagonist's voice is authentic. For instance, a moment where one member of the family extends a rare kindness by offering to take her for a haircut prompts Jersey to realize that from now on, every decision, whether getting a haircut or deciding to take driver's ed lessons, she's truly on her own—something that will resonate with readers. However, secondary characters are not as fleshed out. Because the book opens with the life-changing tornado, it's hard to get a true sense of her friends, and the new family members tend to be stock types (a brusque, sullen father; a cleavage-baring, party-loving stepmother). The book wraps up a little fast, considering how bleak Jersey's situation is throughout, but readers will be heartened to see glimpses of hope on the horizon. Overall, this is a wrenching story of the will to survive at any cost.—Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal
Publishers Weekly
When a tornado strikes Jersey’s hometown in Missouri, her house and neighborhood are destroyed, but her losses cut much deeper: her mother and five-year-old sister are among the many killed in the storm. Jersey counts on her stepfather to help her pick up the pieces, but a shell-shocked Donnie claims he can’t raise her, sending her to live with her biological father, an alcoholic who abandoned Jersey’s mother when Jersey was a baby. Jersey is horribly mistreated by his family, and after she runs away, she ends up with her last chance: her estranged maternal grandparents. Jersey was raised to hate them, but she begins to understand that her mother’s version of events may have omitted some crucial information. Brown (Thousand Words) gives readers a true sense of the horror wrought by the storm and the agony of its aftermath; her ability to create rich, complex characters is once again in evidence. While the cruelty of Jersey’s father’s family is somewhat over the top, Jersey’s feelings are achingly real and relatable. Ages 12–up. Agent: Cori Deyoe, 3 Seas Literary Agency. (May)
From the Publisher
* "Vivid and emotional...Torn Away is a superb read."—VOYA, starred review"

This is a gut-wrenching and poignant look at the aftermath of natural disaster and the secrets that families keep, written with raw honesty and deep emotion."—Booklist"

Brown gives readers a true sense of the horror wrought by the storm and the agony of its aftermath; her ability to create rich, complex characters is once again in evidence."—Publishers Weekly"

Brown depicts Jersey's reaction to a frightening, life-altering situation expertly, and the protagonist's voice is authentic...Overall, this is a wrenching story of the will to survive at any cost."—SLJ"

This is a satisfying book that explores an intriguing situation: what happens to a girl who loses everything that meant anything, and who learns that there may be more love left in the world."—Library Media Connection

Voya Reviews, April 2014 (Vol. 36, No. 1) - Rachelle David
A great balance between natural and emotional disasters, Torn Away is a superb read. This quick read is heavy and will remain on the reader’s mind for days, if not weeks, after completing the novel. The world within the novel is so realistic that the reader will experience the pain of the characters. Jersey is a likable character who really connects with the reader. Well written and captivating, this novel is fantastic and will draw in many readers. Reviewer: Rachelle David, Teen Reviewer; Ages 12 to 18.
Voya Reviews, April 2014 (Vol. 36, No. 1) - Ed Goldberg
Sixteen-year-old Jersey survived the tornado that hit Elizabeth, Missouri, alone in her basement under her stepfather Ronnie’s pool table. Her mother, Chrissy, and five-year-old sister, Marin, were at dance class and were not as lucky. After several days, Ronnie appears. Their house and belongings are destroyed. The only saved relics are Marin’s favorite purse and a ceramic cat with the number “6” on it, one of sixteen anonymous birthday gifts Jersey assumes were from her father, Clay, who abandoned her at an early age. It is a complete shock when Ronnie says he is too emotional to care for her and she must move to another city to live with Clay’s extended family. They make it known that they do not want her but will take her as a family obligation. Jersey and her two teenage cousins clash immediately and Jersey is forced to leave. Instead of taking her back, Ronnie takes her to Chrissy’s parents, who Chrissy said disowned her when she married Clay. In Torn Away, Brown, author of A Thousand Words (Little, Brown, 2013/Voya June 2013), describes in realistic detail the physical and emotional wreckage of storm victims. Not only has Jersey lost her home, immediate family, and friends, but she is forced to live with people who do not want her as well as people she believes disowned her mother. Along with acclimating to new families, Jersey also learns that “truths” her mother told her may not have been so. Torn Away is vivid and emotional as Jersey comes to terms with her grief, new life, and new knowledge. Reviewer: Ed Goldberg; Ages 12 to 18.
Kirkus Reviews
Jersey Cameron has lived her whole life in Elizabeth, Mo., where the weather is unpredictable, and complaining about it is a full-time job. When Jersey's mother and little sister perish in a tornado, Jersey finds herself rejected by her guilt-ridden, emotionally paralyzed stepfather. He sends her to live in a house full of hostile strangers comprising her alcoholic biological father, who left Jersey and her mother when Jersey was a baby; his boorish wife and her two spoiled daughters (the Cinderella connection won't be lost on readers); and Jersey's heartless grandparents. Jersey is immediately put to work washing everyone else's dishes and is made to sleep on a sofa on the porch (sleeping among the ashes must have been considered too obvious). After a particularly nasty fight with the evil stepsisters, Jersey runs away and finds herself with another set of strangers: her mother's estranged parents. Readers may find themselves wanting to throttle Jersey by the middle of the book; while Brown starts off doing a wonderful job depicting the grief and depression that comes with such a catastrophic loss, Jersey ends up sounding whiny. The novel's didacticism—Jersey continually reflects on how good she had it before the tornado, regretting sharp words she can't take back—also causes it to lose its edge. A lukewarm story about finding family and starting over. (Fiction. 12-16)

Product Details

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
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File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Jennifer Brown writes and lives in the Kansas City, Missouri, area with her husband and three children. She is the author of Thousand Words; Perfect Escape; Bitter End, which was named an ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults title; and Hate List, which was selected as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a VOYA Perfect Ten, and a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year.

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Torn Away 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
AngelReads1 More than 1 year ago
I didn’t know what to expect going into reading Torn Away, all I knew was that it would be was quite devastating, and it was. Torn Away starts off like any normal day, but then devastation strikes and I felt all the pain. The writing style of Jennifer Brown was simply stunning. It captured me in so many different ways – the emotions that I experienced in Torn Away made it where I could not stop the tears from falling down, with the anger and the hurt. After the death of her mother and sister by a tragic tornado that hit her town, Jersey is shipped off to her biological father, whom she hasn’t seen since she was a baby. Her family, her father’s family are so frustrating and not understanding in any way. I cannot really explain how they acted in a way but let’s just they made my blood boiled. She not only had to go through the journey of grief but with people that don’t care, but people that don’t feel the same. It’s heartbreaking.  Jersey is a very interesting protagonist. She is so strong, I wouldn't have managed the way she did. Her loss made me, most likely make other readers, realise what really is important in life. It might also re-define your priorities.   There is no physical human in Torn Away that is the villain. The only villain here is the tornado - Their damage is unstoppable, even often unanticipated. They can destroy lives in a matter of seconds.   Torn Away is a really hard book to review, not because it isn’t good, but because it is so emotionally draining that you feel so torn and broken after reading it. It tells a tale of loneliness, loss and grief, but, fundamentally, it’s not a tale of hopelessness.   We as readers go on the grief journey with Jersey. We go through the hurt, frustration and finally understanding.   The thing that hurt me the most was how Jersey dealt with the death of her sister.  I have 3 siblings myself and I have no idea how I would manage in any way shape or form if they died. Jersey’s memories of her little sister are so emotional. She held onto these memories, some positive and beautiful and some negative. You felt the hurt.   I believed and felt every emotion of Jersey – The hurt, the loss, the anger. Then finally we get to see some happiness in her life.   After her not so good experience with her father and his family, she moves in with her mother’s parents. Even though she is going through the grief, she finally starts to see some light. The little moments with her grandfather were just beautiful. And the moment at the end with her grandmother brought tears to my eyes, in a good way. Then there is Kolby. He is the boy next door, he becomes Jersey's support along with her grandparents. Jennifer Brown is talented writer who builds situations and people that are not only convincing, but appropriate too.    Overall, even though Torn Away was heartbreaking. The author reaches without much effort at all, breaks down your walls and touches you so you cry like a baby.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yes it's a tear jerker but I had to get to end to see how it ended. Buy it u won't be sorry
Lily_F More than 1 year ago
Living in Ontario, Canada, I do not see much tornado action. Except, of course, a few months after moving to Angus, we get a tornado, the likes of which this area had not seen since 1985, I was told. Thankfully, outside of our fences being ripped off the ground, and a lot of debris to clean up and the loss of a tree on our property, we did not suffer many damages.. not like our neighbours some blocks over. No one was seriously injured, though, or killed, from what I understand, but it was stupefying, humbling and very scary nonetheless. I ended up reading this novel after this happened, and I think that the experience allowed me to relate a bit more to this story. Though, in all honesty, I think that I would have been as emotional regardless, as the author was incredibly talented of conveying emotions in this novel. Frankly, I can't imagine what it is like to lose everything in a matter of minutes. To have such a destructive force of nature take everything dear to you - your loved ones, your home, your possessions... And I certainly can't fathom that kind of loss as experienced by a teenage girl. This novel was incredibly emotional and do raw, it left me breathless and exhausted. From the utter shock, to the unspeakable grief and then injustice of Jersey's situation... I could barely recover from one emotion, before being assaulted by the next. I have never wished so hard for a fictional character to find a happy ending the way that I did for Jersey. From heartfelt tears, to justified anger and the blossoming promise of hope, I walked this journey with Jersey Cameron as she opened her heart, and welcomed in all the positives that did come out of such a horrible situation. This was a wonderful story about grief, second chances and finding out that you have a strength inside you to overcome just about anything. Recommended for readers of all ages. Thank you publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy for the purposes of an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved it. So much tragedy and loss, yet very deep and amazing .
Books4Tomorrow More than 1 year ago
It seldom happens that a book captivates me to the extent that I would set aside all else and simply read through it without stopping. This, however, was the case with Torn Away. Irritated with her little sister's pleas to dance, glad that said sister is out of the way and off to dance class, Jersey is just ready to start cooking a meal for her family when the tornado sirens go off. How Jersey wished, after the disastrous tornado, that she had danced with her sister or spent more time with her mother. I simply couldn't put this book down. The vivid and absolutely horrifying descriptions of the tornado, the devastation afterwards, and the lost feeling of, not only the main character, but everybody who had been affected, kept me turning the pages.  Although I certainly didn't always agree with Jersey's thoughts and decisions, I feel that the author created a truly believable character. I could honestly feel Jersey's sense of denial after she had lost everything, and her desperate despair when she was separated from everything familiar and taken to relatives whom she didn't know at all. Throughout the story Jersey finds herself in realistic scenarios—never unimaginably horrible nor magically good. When Jersey's friend is forced by her mother to betray her, Jersey seems hurt, yet understands that it was the parent, not the friend, who did the betraying. Unfortunately she has a much less mature attitude towards her maternal grandparents. For a touching story of devastation, loss, personal growth, and an end that is so poignant that it would be wise to keep the Kleenex close to hand, I highly recommend Torn Away as a read that will stay with you long after you have read the final page. (Ellen Fritz)
BlkosinerBookBlog More than 1 year ago
    I wanted to read Torn Away because the aftermath of a devastating tornado sounds like the perfect storm of emotions, powerful grief and sense of loneliness and desperation. I have also read other books by Jennifer Brown and enjoyed so this would appeal to me for that reason even if the synopsis didn't grab me, which it did.      We get a little snapshot of Jersey's life before the tornado hit, but it was a powerful one. It is a memory of telling her little sister to go away, and those words as well as how often she ignored her requests to play would haunt her after the storm hit her house and she is afraid of the fate of her sister and that of her mom. We see some exasperation with Jersey and her mom requesting her to do chores, and Jersey's reminiscing how she would feel less burdened by helping when it was just her and her mom, but it is harder on her know that her mom is remarried and the number of people have doubled. We can see that her and her mom had a close relationship even with the current teenage entitlement and bucking against what asked to do.     When the tornado hits, there is automatic fear and a great sense of loss. Not only was Jersey worried about her whole family who wasn't at home, but seeing the devastation of the storm on their house and belongings. When the storm passes and she makes her way outside she sees so much of her neighborhood and everything she can see is torn up. Even the roads, so they are cut off from emergency vehicles.      The neighbors band together as much as possible at first, searching for survivors in the wreckage and figuring out shelter from the following rain and thunderstorms. That knitting together in tragedy when so much in uncertain kept some lightness even though it was such a harrowing situation to be in. Helping and giving what's left of your possessions when you are dealing with your own sense of loss shows to the goodness that is in so many people.      Jersey was a mix of strong and vulnerable. Opening up to her friends and neighbor who helped her too right after the tornado hit was where we could see how much she was struggling. But she just keeps dealing with each challenge and figuring out some way to survive. She has this honesty in her voice, where we know that she is going through a lot, but she somehow manages to keep some optimism.      It was a long road for Jersey to even get to a place where she felt wanted and loved, but I was pleased at how the story wrapped up. Maybe a bit more time with her final living arrangements but I did like that it wasn't perfect for her right away and that she learned more of the young side of her mom who made mistakes in her life as well as how she portrayed extended family.  Bottom Line: Powerful and emotional story about a town and in particular one strong teen devastated by a tornado. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
kimberlyfaye More than 1 year ago
"Growing up, we were taught over and over again what steps to take in case of an approaching tornado. Listen for sirens, go to your basement or cellar, or a closet in the center of your house, duck and cover, wait it out. We had drills twice a year, every year, in school. We talked about it in class. We talked about it at home. The newscasters reminded us. We went to the basement. We practiced, practiced, practiced. But we'd never – not once – discussed what to do after." It's been a long time since I read a book that made me cry like this one did. I'm not talking about a couple tears streaking down my cheeks as I read. I'm talking full-on body-wracking, audible sobs that left me with a huge headache. So many emotions. I didn't just cry at one part (though only one really made me do the ugly cry), but I read the bulk of this book with tears in my eyes, at the very least. There was so much pain and loss and because of the way it was written, it was incredibly easy to put yourself in Jersey's place and I think that's what made it most painful of all. It was too easy to feel her grief as though it was your own.  This book gets off to a quick start with Jersey at home alone while a storm approaches. She has no way of knowing this will be the one that changes everything for her. The description of what it was like for Jersey as the tornado hit – and during the immediate aftermath – almost caused me to have a full-blown anxiety attack. I felt like I was living every painful minute with her. After the storm, as she attempts to take care of herself while waiting for her mom, sister and stepfather to come to her, you begin to get the feeling that something is very, very wrong. Unfortunately you would be right. The tornado was really just the beginning of the loss that would tear a path through Jersey's life, changing it in ways she never could have imagined before the storm.  I felt SO MUCH during this book. My heart broke for Jersey time and time again as she dealt with the loss of her mother and sister and of her home. Unfortunately that loss really as just the beginning. Her life was turned completely upside down because of the selfishness of her stepfather and the pain just kept coming. This book is chock full of some of the most insensitive, uncaring and just downright awful characters I've ever had the displeasure of reading about. I wanted to reach into the book and slap some sense (or sensitivity) into them. I wanted to rescue Jersey myself and show her that she wasn't completely unwanted. I get tears in my eyes just thinking about what she had to endure after already suffering such a massive loss.  Thankfully, better and brighter days are ahead for Jersey as she finds a place with people who do actually want her, despite what she's been told her entire life. She learns a lot about her mom, her family, and herself. She's an incredible young woman with a bright future ahead. It's just going to look a whole lot different than how she imagined it would.  "I'm just going to keep redefining "everything" for as long as I need to, because I'm pretty sure that's the best way to keep on going when you feel like you've lost it all." I knew this wouldn't be an easy book to read – both because of the loss factor and the fact that I am 1000% petrified of tornados – and while I didn't know just how right I was, I'm so glad I read it. It was a powerful book that really made me evaluate my life and the people in it and how happy I am that they're there.  Before I close out my review, I just have to comment on the blurb for Torn Away. If you haven't already read it, DO NOT READ IT. It gives away the entire story. Granted, it doesn't give away the emotions and the pain, but it does tell you the entire storyline. Thankfully I skimmed it back when I requested it and didn't read it before I started on the book, otherwise I think I would have been upset at it for spoiling any surprises in the plot.  I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Quotes come from the review copy and may differ in the final version.
CleverGirl1 More than 1 year ago
Emotional and heartbreaking. The storm is supposed to be the hard part, but it isn't, it's the after. The pain is even deeper because we know that Jersey has lost her mother and sister, but Jersey doesn't. She has hope that they're safe, that they survived the storm. I felt for Jersey as she's passed around with no one to care for her, to protect her. Brown puts us into Jersey's shoes, into her head, how scared, confused, lost, devastated and angry she is. On top of all that Jersey is starting to learn that things weren't what she thought, that people weren't who she though they were. I really loved the way it ended, things aren't perfect but we're left with hope, love, and possibilities. Disclosure: Ebook provided in exchange for an honest review
JenLBW More than 1 year ago
Torn Away by Jennifer Brown is a book about a girl who loses everything in a Tornado that rips apart her town. Not just physical possessions but also her mother and sister. She quickly finds herself being shuffled around to family she does not even know.  Oddly enough when I was reading the part about the tornado coming it happened to be a Tuesday and I could hear the practice tornado drills going off. How creepy. It was easy to connect with this book right away. I live in Chicago suburb so we don’t have Tornadoes as bad as the south and Missouri. I think because we have more population but we do have an area we call Tornado alley. I remember when I was kid a couple tornadoes coming through. So when Jersey is acting nonchalant about the sirens and not going in the basement right away, I totally understand. I do that all the time. Well I used to anyway. I honestly won’t live in a house without a basement. It’s a deal breaker, will be no matter where I live. I love this book for many reasons. One is that the tornado is a big part of it, it’s not just the disaster that happened and we are seeing the aftermath. Jennifer writes about before the tornado, during the tornado and then the devastation and confusion after the tornado. This is all before Jersey is even shipped off. What would you do if your whole street had been destroyed, I have no idea what I would do. Probably just stand there a lot like Jersey did. I really like how the book touched on how the community dealt with it as much as the character herself. Another thing is this book is not about love in the romantic sense. It’s about Jersey finding out who she is after losing everything. Even Jersey doesn’t focus on the physical things, it’s her mom and sister that she often thinks about. We see glimmers of happy memories and some regrets. She didn’t spend enough time with her sister or she didn’t tell her mom how much she loved her. Those kinds of things. We really see Jersey’s grief and how she processes it. She is put in a very difficult situation by her stepdad and it’s a struggle for her to find peace with their deaths. I was so mad at so many people in this book, starting with Ronnie. Way to make a bad situation worse for Jersey. I kept thinking what if Jersey and Marin survived what would you have done then! I wanted to smack him. Plus the family situations that Jersey ends up with are definitely crazy. I kept thinking can’t this girl catch a break. The book is a journey for Jersey and she ends up learning things about her mom that she never knew. Some things her mom said were true and some were not. As she learns her moms past she becomes more connected with her. The writing is good, the characters are good, and the plot is definitely good. It’s a quick read and highly recommend it. If you are looking for something that is not so focused on romance and is more about the characters then this book is perfect. I really could not put it down once I started.
Caroles_Random_Life More than 1 year ago
I received an advance reader edition of this book from Algonquin Books and Net Galley for the purpose of providing an honest review. 3.5 Stars I am going to be completely honest. I have had a very hard time deciding on a rating for this book. I thought parts of this book were wonderful, but I really question why the book took some of the turns that it did. I requested this book right away when I saw it on Net Galley because I have become quite intrigued by tornadoes in recent years. I live in Missouri where tornadoes tend to hit every year. A tornado actually hit my subdivision a few years ago which was way too close for comfort. I am so very thankful that nobody was hurt in the tornado that hit so close to my home. Jersey is a teenage girl who lives with her mother, step-father, and sister Marin. On what seems like a regular day, Jersey stays home while her mother takes Marin to dance class and her step-father Ronnie is at work. While she is alone, the tornado sirens go off and Jersey makes her way to the basement. As she hides under a pool table, her house is torn apart. When it is over, she emerges from the wreckage to find her neighborhood has been destroyed. The first third of the book deals with the tornado and the immediate aftermath. I found this to be the best part of the book. Everything rang true to me. I think the author captured the panic, fear, and uncertainty that comes with this type of catastrophe. Jersey is finally reunited with her step-father, Ronnie but the reunion is not what it could have been as she learns that her mother and sister did not survive the tornado. To make matters worse, Ronnie decides to send her to live with the father she has never known. At this point, the book takes a turn that makes no sense to me. Why send her away to live with a group of drunken rednecks? She loses her mother, her sister, her home, and now she has to sleep on the porch? Really? I really think that this book would have been much better if we could have watched Jersey mourn and rebuild in her hometown with her step-father. After she runs away from her father's family, Ronnie picks her up and drops her off at her grandparents' home. Jersey's mother was estranged from her family and Jersey has never met her grandparents. It quickly becomes obvious that her grandparents do love her and together they start to heal. The last part of the book where Jersey moves in with her grandparents is much better than the middle section of the book. With her grandparents, Jersey starts to mourn and heal. I liked the characters of her grandparents and the love they felt for Jersey seemed so very real. All things considered, I enjoyed this book. While I found the section of the book that had Jersey living with her biological father ridiculous, the beginning and the end of the book made up for it.