Closet Case Press (2009)
Reviewed by for Reader Views (11/09)
Let's face it - growing up is a terribly confusing process. One day you are playing with dolls or cars, and then all of a sudden you start noticing boys or girls, and maybe both. Finding out who one is and what one really wants can be a long and oftentimes painful process and more often than not, the adolescent has few, if any people, who can really help with the ensuing confusion. Amber Lehman's "Torn" is a brave and candid book about a group of teenagers searching for their identities and dealing with everyday school and family issues.
When she transfers from a Catholic school in Ohio to a public school in California, fourteen-year-old Krista McKinley's life changes rapidly Very quickly she is befriended by Carrie and Brandon, who in turn introduce her to a bunch of other teens and Krista's life suddenly does not look so bleak. But teens will be teens and a simple game of truth or dare threatens to shake Krista's life and her beliefs to the core. Is she gay? Is she straight? Does she love Carrie? Or maybe Daemon? Or is it somebody else who has really captured her heart?
"Torn" frankly and openly speaks about the realities of life faced by today's teens. It touches upon the subjects of homosexuality, drugs, underage drinking, date rape, statutory rape, STDs, dysfunctional families, absent parents and more. Ms. Lehman's writing is very fluid and vivid, and her characters colorful, believable and likeable. I particularly enjoyed learning more about Brandon, and I found him the best developed and most thoroughly explained character in the story. Although some of the dilemmas the teens in the book faced did not really resonate with me personally, I definitely see the value of speaking about those matters in the straightforward way that Ms. Lehman used. There was one slightly jarring note in the book for me, namely the way the adults in the book dealt with the issues of underage sex, use of drugs, alcohol and the borderline improper sexual conduct with the minor. I would have liked it better if the book made it clearer that none of those is a good idea and that they are all both illegal and highly dangerous. While I am definitely not closing my eyes against the reality, and I do realize all of those things do and will happen, I would have really liked the book better if the consequences of such behavior would have been more emphasized and the instances of it shown in a less permissive way.
Having said that, I would like to commend Ms. Lehman on a courageous and well written book; "Torn" could certainly help any teenager who feels alone, abandoned and confused. And I am quite certain that would be quite a large percentage.