Fifteen year-old Jersey lives an annoyingly ordinary life, starting dinners for her working mother and dodging invitations to dance with her five year-old sister. All that changes when a fearsome storm spawns a deadly tornado that rips through Jersey’s life, leaving only wreckage in its wake.
Jersey survives the storm, but its aftermath sends her reeling. She’s lost everything. As she bounces from relative to relative, still shell-shocked by the memories of her home literally crumbling around her and swallowed by a powerful grief. Only a connection with another grieving family member will allow Jersey’s grief to begin releasing her.
For much of this story, Jersey’s life goes from bad to worse. Only the most callused human beings can endure her journey through the tornado without feeling moved to empathy. Brown’s storytelling shines in those scenes as she describes not only the devastation caused by the storm, but the sheer helplessness and overwhelmed feelings of survivors.
But the storm’s end is only the beginning of Jersey’s troubles when she’s cast on a family that has no desire nor capacity to care for her. Jersey seemed to keep readers at an emotional distance, though, as perhaps she’s done with everyone, even her besties from school. Even at the story’s end, as Jersey begins to fully grieve, we glimpse just a crack in her outer walls.
Brief, vague references to infidelity among adults.
Jersey’s neighbor prays for fellow storm victims and for herself. Later, Jersey’s grandmother invites her to church, telling her that prayer might help her grieve for her losses. Jersey does eventually pray, though mostly to communicate with a lost family member.
Jersey’s step-sisters bully her and a physical fight ensues.
Jersey’s dad and step-mom are often drunk.
As we approach the storm season for the Midwest, I can’t help remembering the headlines of the last several years. As a native Floridian, it’s hard to get my head around the sheer mass of the tornadoes that devastated towns, families and lives in their paths.
My work for an incredible company assisting in the creation of 3D city models sometimes allows me to view places and experience events that I would not otherwise get to witness. One such example was when we created before and after models showing the destruction of the 2011 tornado in Joplin, MO. You can see a short video of the model footage on YouTube here.
Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.