I picked up this book because it was sitting on our Teen’s, New Book shelf and was deliciously pristine. No one had even cracked the spine to take a peek inside. After reading the jacket, I couldn’t resist. And boy was I in for a ride I had not bargained for.
Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King follows sixteen year old Sarah as her life turns upside down. Sarah believes she is suffering from an existential crisis. She finds she can no longer make art, her one true calling, she refuses to go to school and she keeps seeing different versions of herself.
But Sarah isn’t crazy. Other people see 10 year old Sarah, 28 year old Sarah and 40 year old Sarah, so she knows she isn’t losing it. It is just that “nothing is original” and “nothing really matters.” So Sarah roams the streets of Pittsburgh, talking to her older and younger selves and basically losing herself.
Things have happened in Sarah’s life. Bad things that she’s blocked from her mind. But Sarah can’t keep them inside any longer and things come to a head when someone steals her art project and destroys it. Will Sarah lose herself completely or will she come to terms with a broken home and a school life in turmoil?
When I picked up this book, I thought it was about a girl who visited her past and future selves via her drawing… or at least that is what the synopsis lead me to believe. Instead we get a book that deals with themes like spousal abuse, inappropriate student/teacher relationships, drugs, homelessness, peer pressure and identity crisis.
I literally could not put this book down for the first two hundred pages because I just had to know what was going on. Sarah kept alluding to something, to things that happened but she wouldn’t spit it out–in a good way. The way King wrote this book, it was like you were always left with a cliffhanger.
Ultimately, this book is about family and not a healthy family. Sarah’s is a family with major problems and a lack of communication is what I think ultimately leads to Sarah’s crisis. This book is about coming to terms with abuse within a family unit and the journey to do something about it.
This is a serious book with serious subjects but I think it is well done for a teen audience. My only negative-ish comment is that I’m still not even sure if there were multiple Sarah’s or if the Sarah’s were all “inside” 16 year old Sarah… I’m going with the latter.
A serious read for a serious reader and teen themes approached in new ways.
That’s all for now!