Review – Torn by Amber Lehman

When this advance review copy of an updated version of this previously published book became available, I requested it right away. I’ve been reading some of the popular YA and NA books, and when this one described as including gay, lesbian, and bisexual themes, I was intrigued. I read so few books with these themes that I was excited to see something addressing characters different from your run of the mill heroes and heroines.  I’m torn about this book, no pun intended.

This book follows the story of fourteen year old Krista McKinley and her friends at an Orange County high school.  She’s the new girl, but quickly falls in with a crown, starting with a girl on her dance team, Cassie, and her friends Brandon, Ryan, and Aelise. Her parents are absent as are those for most of her friends, so they’re able to act like adults, often to their detriment.

There were so many things to like, but an equal amount to dislike.  This is why this one is on the fence for me.

CoverWhat would I compare this to:
I’d say this book is like Deidre Knight’s Butterfly Tattoo (where a gay man falls for woman) meets The O.C. (that sudsy nighttime soap opera of the mid 2000s).

What didn’t work for me:
I was disappointed in the one element I was looking forward to reading. I was looking for a book where teens confronted coming out – to themselves at least, and what that journey would be like with friends, family, and possible HFN boyfriends/girlfriends.  The other message, though is just as palatable, but unexpected. I really enjoy stories that are about loving someone. And when finding someone to love doesn’t fit within some homosexual or heterosexual norm.  This story took three characters who were thinking about their sexuality and attraction to the same sex and jammed them all into a heterosexual happy ending. All three. I could have taken one or two, but three.

The other two elements I couldn’t quite figure out was why it mattered that the main character had a black father. It was mentioned once, but never again. Why throw in a black guy, only to make him a stereotypical absentee father. And I’m not sure the purpose behind the revelation of Brandon’s child abuse. Was it the reason he was acting out sexually? Was I supposed to think that his having sex with men was because of the abuse? I couldn’t place my finger on it, and it lingered at the back of my mind, unanswered. It niggled at me because I’m very concerned about the conflation, in our society, between sexual abuse of young boys and homosexuality.  One has very little to do with the other, but they are often in proximity in writing about one or the other.

What I liked:
There were elements of the book, I liked. I admired Krista. She was very proactive in her self-discovery. She didn’t let what anyone else thought of her keep her from pursuing her goals.  And her love/hate relationship with her family was also very realistic and lent vibrancy to her character. I also really liked Daemon, her friend’s older brother and one of Krista’s love interests.  It was a breath of fresh air to see a man have principles, and stick to them. It was also fascinating to witness his internal struggle with his attraction, and watch him do the right thing.

I also found Krista’s continued involvement in religion very interesting, though she violates the very tenants of Catholicism and what I understand of evangelical Christianity (which is admittedly very little). I wasn’t sure if she was into bible study for Daemon or as a way to center herself now that she was thrust into the public school world after a long stint in Catholic school.

The other characters were also realistically portrayed in that they acted not always in their best interest. They got hurt and reacted badly. And also it delved into the deep denial that many women are in after sexual assault.

Who might enjoy this book:
This book would be great for readers who are looking for something a little bit different in their YA/NA reading.

This review was a stop on the Tasty Review Tour.

Learn more about the author and buy the book: Author | Amazon | B&N

**GIVEAWAY: The author is Amber will be hosting a Tour Wide Giveaway of FIVE (5) Autographed Copies of TORN to FIVE (5) Randomly Drawn Tour Commenters (US only).**

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