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by David Massey

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Witnesses to a mystery on the battlefield, a British medic and an American Navy SEAL confront Afghanistan's fog of war. In war-torn Afghanistan, a girl walks right into a hail of bullets: Elinor watches it with her own eyes. The young British army medic risks the line of fire to rescue her, only to realize the girl is gone. To find the missing, mysterious child,


Witnesses to a mystery on the battlefield, a British medic and an American Navy SEAL confront Afghanistan's fog of war. In war-torn Afghanistan, a girl walks right into a hail of bullets: Elinor watches it with her own eyes. The young British army medic risks the line of fire to rescue her, only to realize the girl is gone. To find the missing, mysterious child, Elinor enlists the help of an American Navy SEAL. But in all the confusion, with coalition troops fighting every day to maintain a fragile peace, does Ben have something to hide? Elinor came to Afghanistan with the hope of changing hearts and minds: What she's about to discover will make her question everything she ever believed about love and war. A war thriller. A cross-cultural love story with an undercurrent of magic realism. A powerful debut set in modern-day, battle-scarred Afghanistan. This is TORN.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Torn follows Ellie, a 19-year-old British medic, during her first few days in Afghanistan. Her squad is attached to a small troop of American SEALs who must find a hidden cache of arms and learn about a children's army that is fighting both the Western Coalition and the Taliban. Ellie becomes a surrogate big sister to a young prisoner of war and also deals with an intense attraction to the commander of the SEALs. This book covers a lot of ground in a short amount of time, which is probably realistic. Teen readers are dropped into the war alongside Ellie, and as she learns to find her feet, they do as well. Massey's writing is clear and down to earth. He conveys the horror of war, but never with gratuitous violence. He creates a solid sense of mood; wartime has intense energy, with almost constant fear and worry, yet there are also moments of calm and peace, and soldiers (and readers) grab onto those moments tightly when they appear. A thread of magical realism meanders through the tale, never enough to take readers out of the story, but enough to make one wonder: Is it the fog of war or something else? This only adds to the appeal of the book. An intriguing mystery and a terrific first novel.—Geri Diorio, Ridgefield Library, CT
Publishers Weekly
Massey draws from personal experience as a consultant to London’s counterterrorism unit in his intense and heart-wrenching debut novel. British private Elinor Nielson is only 19 when she is sent to Helmand province in Afghanistan as a medic. Initially, everything is a shock to her: her bunkmate is chilly, the weather is as extreme as the accommodations are basic, and—in a subtly supernatural thread—a girl in a blue dress mysteriously appears in life-threatening situations. Elinor befriends a trio of rowdy but loyal soldiers and is drawn to Ben, an American Navy SEAL, while facing deadly ongoing assaults from both the Taliban and a group of orphaned children, the Young Martyrs. Compassionate and strong, Elinor strikes a deal with Husna, “a homicidal eleven-year-old,” promising to find out the truth about his family’s death in exchange for a truce. Massey delicately and impressively explores military politics, the stress of combat, and the roots of terrorism in a story about the daily pressures of war and the heavy toll it exacts on all parties involved. Ages 14–up. (Aug.)
From the Publisher

"David Massey's TORN compelled me to relive my Afghan war experience as if I were there again amid the heat and dust and fear. It's a story of love forged, lost, and regained amid the life-or-death intensity of war, but, much more than a war story, TORN shows readers the ghost of hope and desperate longing for peace that keeps pulling us back to Afghanistan. A powerful and important novel." -- Trent Reedy, author of WORDS IN THE DUST

"Vivid and terrifying action sequences light up this intense page-turner featuring a young British medic, Elinor, assigned to a forward operating base in Afghanistan. As if her oddly hostile tent mate, a weak commanding officer, ambush on patrol, and an RPG attack on the compound aren’t challenges enough, the arrival of an American SEAL team, led by a disturbingly attractive lieutenant, sends Elinor’s support unit deep into Taliban territory. The mission: to find both a secret arms cache and also a missing journalist and her teenage daughter, Aroush. But Elinor has already seen Aroush, walking unharmed through vicious firefights just before someone dies. Then she disappears—one of several mysteries that ultimately unfold into a tragic, ugly tale involving child warriors, an entire village massacred by drones, and corruption in high places.
Displaying the bravado to bill herself the “love child of House and Lara Croft,” but more than just a standard-issue action hero, Elinor makes a winningly courageous, tough-minded protagonist-narrator who is nonetheless deeply affected by what she sees and experiences. Readers will be, too. (An afterword about “children of war” not seen.)" John Peters, Booklist starred review

Children's Literature - Greg M. Romaneck
Elinor serves as a medic assigned to duty with a frontline British unit serving in Afghanistan. New to combat, Elinor is committed to supporting her comrades while also serving in a cause she does not completely understand. On her first patrol Elinor experiences the terror and bloodshed that combat embodies. During the fighting Elinor observes an Afghan girl who seems impervious to the flying bullets and shrapnel. This image haunts her and she struggles to learn more about the child. This search for truth leads Elinor, her unit, and accompanying American Special Forces troops into a tangled web of violence, deceit, and desperation. In the end, Elinor must face the confounding realities of wartime duty in a complex and far-off land. A gripping wartime novel, Torn does nothing to romanticize military service during wartime. What Massey does accomplish is the creation of a realistic look at the lives of soldiers and civilians caught in a web of crisis in a conflict that has multiple levels of complications all resulting in some form of human suffering. For Elinor, and the other fictional characters in Massey's story, these complexities exert a life and death impact upon them. Torn is a book that touches on the lives of soldiers in a frank and seemingly authentic manner and one that tells a story worth knowing. Reviewer: Greg M. Romaneck
Kirkus Reviews
A young medic finds both tragedy and romance while on her first tour of duty in the war in Afghanistan. Nineteen-year-old Elinor Nielson (aka Ellie, aka Buffy) has a brutal introduction to the reality of war when a member of her patrol group steps on an IED. A sniper takes advantage of the chaos, attempting to pick off the rest of the company. The appearance of a mysterious, green-eyed Afghan girl only intensifies the situation. Ellie's quick thinking keeps her fellow soldiers from dying, but more problems await her return to camp. A hostile bunkmate, a spineless commanding officer and the appearance of an elite group of Navy SEALs thrust Ellie into wartime politics. When Husna, a young Afghan boy, is taken into custody for interrogation, it is Ellie who is asked to win his trust. The SEAL commander, Ben, is interested in the proceedings, but he seems equally interested in Ellie. Saturated with realistic details, this wartime mystery adventure is highly explosive. (A lengthy author's note describes Massey's experiences in revolutionary Romania, along with other inspirations, buttressing the story's realism.) The inclusion of cultural and political commentary elevates this above other wartime tales, but underdeveloped characters keep the romantic fireworks to a minimum. Readers who pick it up for the war details will not be disappointed. (Fiction. 14 & up)

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Scholastic, Inc.
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Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

DAVID MASSEY's experience as an emergency supplies consultant to London's Metropolitan Police and its counter-terrorism unit helped inspire his debut novel, TORN. With his wife, David cofounded Globehuggers Emergency Supplies, a distributor of first aid and medical kits. He lives in the West Midlands of England. Friend him on Facebook at DRMasseyBooks and follow him on Twitter @DavidRMassey.

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Torn 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Readingjunky More than 1 year ago
Ellie, a young British medic, thought her training would prepare her for anything, but front line action in Afghanistan inspires terror in even the most battle-hardened soldiers. On Ellie's first day in her new unit, she deals with an IED explosion and the death of a young Afghan boy. She never expected to see youngsters aiming and shooting guns almost bigger than themselves. Thrown right into the action, Ellie quickly learns that her superior officer, another medic named Heidi, is moody and definitely dealing with some unpleasant emotional issues. Several of the guys in the unit welcome her with good-natured ribbing and the nickname Buffy after spying on her during her first outdoor shower. After the IED incident, Ellie is given the job of questioning a young village boy about a hidden stash of weapons being used by a group of renegade youth who seem to be out to shoot and kill both the enemy Taliban and the friendly troops attempting to bring peace to the area. She is gradually able to gain his trust until the arrival of a group of American Navy SEALS sent to the village on some sort of mysterious mission. Ellie is also driven to find out the identity of a ghostly young Afghan girl in a blue dress who seems to appear during moments of tragedy only to vanish after the dust clears. Many of the soldiers claim to have seen the mystery girl, but no one can explain her presence. TORN is filled with war trauma and intense action that capture the front line action in one of the most controversial wars of modern times. Young adults who have an interest in the military or connections through friends and relatives who have served or are serving their country may find appeal in this debut novel by English author David Massey.