2014 EVENTS:
Holly Bourne, Non Pratt and James Dawson - 30th October
Becca Fitzpatrick - 15th November

Thursday, 13 March 2014

REVIEW: Torn - Car Clarke

Thursday, 13 March 2014
GENRE: YA/Contemporary/Issues
PAGES: 384

BUY IT: Waterstones
RATING: 4 Stars


Four girls. One dead body. A whole lot of guilt. Alice King isn't expecting the holiday of a lifetime when she sets off with her classmates on a trip to the Scottish wilderness, but she's not exactly prepared for an experience beyond her darkest nightmares...Alice and her best friend Cass are stuck in a cabin with Polly, the social outcast, and Rae, the moody emo-girl. Then there's Tara - queen of mean. Powerful, beautiful and cruel, she likes nothing better than putting people down. Cass decides it's time to teach Tara a lesson she'll never forget. And so begins a series of events that will change the lives of these girls forever...A compelling story of guilty secrets, troubled friendship and burgeoning love.


Torn is told from the perspective of Alice, a sweet level-headed girl with a kind heart. She tells us the story of what happens on a school trip, when she and her friends decide to take revenge on Tara, the school bully. Unfortunately it all goes horribly wrong.

Alice is in the middle of the school social scale - she's not one of the most popular kids but she's also not constantly bullied, like Polly is by Tara. When they're on a school trip and Tara is separated from her 'entourage' Cass, Alice's best friend, decides that it's time that Tara is taught a lesson for all the times she's put them all down. None of them thought their plan would go so horribly wrong. When Tara accidentally dies Alice must live with the guilt and fear of being discovered.

Cat Clarke is always completely spot-on in her portrayal of what it feels like to be in a British High School. I personally hated school, and can remember exactly what it's like to not be in the in-crowd. There's a survival instinct that kicks in that makes you just want to get through the day. Not only do you have to deal with the school work, but also the way you look and the things you say. And just hope that you can make the right friends.

The tension in this book is inescapable. You can completely understand and empathise with Alice's situation. The guilt so claustrophobic and so strong it penetrates the narrative to the point where I was almost screaming at her to tell someone. Her mental state manifests in her hallucinations of Tara, which I thought was a brilliant tool in helping Alice deal with the situation. It was really creepy in places and although you question why she does some of the things she does, at the same time you understand how easy it is to lose a grip.

Another thing I love about Clarke's books is the way she manages to weave the narrative into a tangled ball that is impossible to unravel. Everything happens because of everything else and people affect each other in ways you can't imagine. One event sets off a chain reaction that you could argue starts from when Alice was a much younger girl. When she meets Jack, Tara's brother, Alice falls for him. Obviously after what the girls allowed to happen to Tara this is less than ideal. They make such a sweet couple that I desperately wanted them to be together but there is always this penetrating guilt. You want to be able to erase it for her, and it makes you realise that from an outsider's perspective, and when you look at the hard facts, Alice doesn't deserve to have happiness with Jack. And yet I wanted her to.

I've loved every one of Cat Clarke's books. The narratives aren't challenging but they're so interesting and compelling that I always recommend her. I can actually associate with all of her characters and although you do get a certain amount of resolution there are so many possibilities that run through my head of what could happen after the books are finished, and I loved that. They seem so simply written but there is an incredible amount of depth.

- Bex.

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