Still Life With Tornado

Still Life With Tornado

Book - 2016
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A heartbreaking and mindbending story of a talented teenage artist's awakening to the brokenness of her family from critically acclaimed award-winner A.S. King.

Sixteen-year-old 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 wanders 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 domestic 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 abuse, survival, resurgence that will linger with readers long after the last page.

"Read this book, whatever your age. You may find it's the exact shape and size of the hole in your heart."-- The New York Times

"Surreal and thought-provoking."-- People Magazine

★ "A deeply moving, frank, and compassionate exploration of trauma and resilience, filled to the brim with incisive, grounded wisdom." -- Booklist, starred review

★ "King writes with the confidence of a tightrope walker working without a net."-- Publishers Weekly, starred review

★"[King] blurs reality, truth, violence, emotion, creativity, and art in a show of respect for YA readers."-- Horn Book Magazine, starred review

★ "King's brilliance, artistry, and originality as an author shine through in this thought-provoking work. [...] An unforgettable experience." SLJ, starred review
Publisher: New York, NY : Dutton Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, [2016]
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9781101994887
Branch Call Number: YA KING A
Characteristics: 295 pages ; 22 cm


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Let’s be honest, 2016 has been kind of a hot mess. Between so many celebrity deaths (David Bowie, Sharon Jones, Prince, Alan Rickman, Muhammad Ali, Elie Wiesel holy cow, SO MANY) and some, uh, general upheaval, most people are ready to write this one off as a loss. But! As much as we’d like to say goodbye and good riddance to the year as a whole, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention one of the ... (more)

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LPL_WilliamO Nov 05, 2016

Easily one of the the best YA novels I've read this year. Intense, heartbreaking look at abuse, trauma, dealing with the demons of your past and surviving. Could be hard for some to read - but it's not without its hope. A.S. King is brilliant.

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JCLMeganK Nov 10, 2018

Wow. This is the first novel I have read by A.S. King, and halfway through I added all the rest of her books to my "to read" list. The beginning was a bit confusing, but it was written in a precisely fashion that made me want to find out why the narrator was acting in such a way. I don't want to spoil the book because reading the book and seeing the pieces fall into place is a very satisfying, albeit sobering experience. King's brilliance with this novel for me was the way she was able to ease the reader in to a tough subject in a way that allowed them to understand all sides of the story. Fantastic.

Aug 19, 2017

Good but not great. Started off very slow but got better towards the end. Although, I kept waiting for something surprising to happen...and it never did... could have been a lot more exciting and less predictable ...

KateHillier Aug 14, 2017

Have I mentioned that I love A.S. King? I'm sure I have but it bears repeating. Each of her books are so different from each other and are just so good at being creative and imaginative and magical. I mean that literally and otherwise.

In this story we meet Sarah. Sarah is 16 and has decided to stop going to school. She won't tell her parents why, not that it matters since her parents are too busy hating each other. She also hasn't seen her older brother, Bruce, in six years thanks to events that took place on a family trip that are slowly revealed as the novel progresses. Sarah is an artist who can't make art, is having an existential crisis along with a family crisis, and is seeing her past and future self.

This book deals with some very heavy subject matter - domestic violence primarily - and as with all of her books, King handles this with a deft hand. There is no sugar coating here and you're left with the sense that there is some way to go but it is a fantastic read about a creative person who slowly comes to understand how much artistry has gone into protecting her, or misleading her, about what really has been going on in her family.

JCLBeckyC Feb 02, 2017

Wow! Strong voice. Strong sense of place. Utterly original. Believable despite the absurdity of what's happening. It's not a happy story, although it is a deeply satisfying one. It contains the usual muck of the best realistic fiction: abuse, family secrets, mental breakdowns. But, because this novel is written by A. S. King, the master of surrealism, it's so much more than the typical "issues" book. Hand this to anyone who has struggled--with art, with life, with both.

LPL_WilliamO Nov 05, 2016

Easily one of the the best YA novels I've read this year. Intense, heartbreaking look at abuse, trauma, dealing with the demons of your past and surviving. Could be hard for some to read - but it's not without its hope. A.S. King is brilliant.

JCLAmyF Nov 01, 2016

Another brilliant AS King novel.

Jul 21, 2016

Note: I had the chance to read an advance reader's copy of this book thanks to the publisher. This does not reflect my review.

I am a huge A.S King fan, and I always find her books to be a gripping, emotional, and even terrifying at times, experience. Still Life With Tornado is a book about art, abuse, and what it means to feel stagnant when the world is moving past you before your very eyes.

Sarah is a wonderful protagonist who struggles with so many issues, from her parents being trapped in a loveless marriage, to having her art work sabotaged because she saw something she shouldn't. Abuse of power is a large part of what makes this novel so rough to read. Teachers, parents, there's both a desire for control and a loss of control int his novel that is reflected in every single character. It's also interesting to read how Sarah's family fell apart through the eyes of her mother, as well as the family vacation that changed everything.

This novel broke my heart right in half. These are the kinds of stories that make me so sad, and make me wish that no one had to suffer these types of situations. Sarah's question for original art is both thoughtful and sad, and it makes you wish that things could, in fact, get better for her. It makes you wish that things could get better for everyone in the story. Sometimes the only way something can get better is if you choose to meet it head on, which can be so scary. Sarah feels a large void, acting in a part she didn't really ask to play, and you feel for her. You understand why she seems so broken.

I felt so emotional reading this book, and once again A.S King leaves me thinking about life and family. While I may not have parents anymore, I appreciated the fact that I always felt loved and wanted, even when things were hard between them. Sarah's story is so moving, and it's a harsher reality that not everyone has dealt with or seen, which makes it very eye opening as well. Still Life With Tornado is A.S King at her finest, as she challenges her readers in such such a gripping and thought provoking story.


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