Book review: Torn by Cat Clarke

Torn is the second novel by Cat Clarke. It was published by Quercus on 22nd December 2011 and the book is 384 pages long.
Plot
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…

What I thought
I LOVED Cat Clarke’s début novel, Entangled so when I found out about her next release, I couldn’t wait to read that either.
Cat Clarke has an amazing ability to get into the head of teenage girls and write exactly what they are feeling/ have felt at some point or another. School is not an easy place for any teenager and girls especially can be really bitchy and cruel. The teenagers in Torn are real – beyond belief. What I love so much about Clarke’s writing is that she isn’t afraid to say exactly how things and she doesn’t shy away from real issues. In this book, the issue tackled is bullying and how people deal with being bulled/ what the bullies themselves deal with. It isn’t very often that you see the story of things like this from both sides and I liked being able to form a complete opinion about the people in questions.
As the main character, I really liked Alice. I probably shouldn’t have though. Alice is pretty damn messed up, not only because of what happens on that school trip but also other things that have happened in her life. Because of this, I couldn’t help but empathise with her, slightly understand why she was feeling a certain way or why she would think certain things. I could completely feel Alice’s guilt over what happened and why she was so undecided about how to feel in regards to what happened.
Other characters were just as good. From Cass, Polly and Rae who are in on everything with Alice to Tara, the bully. Tara is where the different sides of characters comes in. While I really wanted to smack Tara round the face (multiple times) but then a few minutes later, I kind of wanted to hug her. Really, who has the ability to write about the biggest bitch in the world that you also want to hug?! I’m sure if Tara had been in my school though I wouldn’t have wanted to hug her, much like 99% of the other girls she did go to school with.
As for the story, it was gripping, thrilling and pretty damn nasty at times but I loved that. It takes no time at all for the story to get going, diving right into what happened on that school trip. Part way through, I was really disappointed and thought that everything had been explained way too early but then I realised just how much more there was to it. It wasn’t just about what happened on that trip. It was about what happens after, what happened before and everything in-between. There are plenty of twists to keep you guessing and wanting to read as fast as possible to figure out what is really going on.
Torn reminded me of a mix between I Know What You Did Last Summer and Jawbreaker – two great films all mashed together in one book! While I didn’t like it quite as much as I did Entangled, it is still bloody good!!
 

Book Review: Entangled by Cat Clarke

The same questions whirl round and round in my head:

What does he want from me? 

How could I have let this happen? 

AM I GOING TO DIE?

17-year-old Grace wakes up in a white room, with a table, pens and paper – and no clue how she got here.

As Grace pours her tangled life onto the page, she is forced to remember everything she’s tried to forget. There’s falling hopelessly in love with the gorgeous Nat, and the unravelling of her relationship with her best friend Sal. But there’s something missing. As hard as she’s trying to remember, is there something she just can’t see?

Grace must face the most important question of all. Why is she here?

A story of dark secrets, intense friendship and electrifying attraction (from Goodreads.com)


I went into Entangled not really knowing all that much about it. I wasn’t even sure what genre it was…contemporary or paranormal? I’d read a vague and intriguing synopsis and knew I really wanted to read it. This was completely the best way to go into this book as reading it was every bit a journey as its troubled protagonist’s, 17 year old Grace.

The book starts with Grace as she plans to end her life, but at the last minute a mysterious boy, Ethan shows up. Then she wakes up a prisoner in a white room with nothing but a bed, table and paper and pens. Ethan comes and goes but remains every bit as mysterious and it’s up to Grace to work out through writing down the tangled mess of her life who he is, why she is here and discover the truth she has been hiding from herself.

And that’s as much as I’m going to tell you, because to say anymore would spoil the book and everyone should have this on his or her wish list for 2011. What I will say is that Cat Clarke’s Entangled is one of the most haunting and stunning books I have read, provoking every possible emotion in me.

Told from a first person point of view from Grace, the author takes the brave step of making her unlikeable. Her behaviour as she tells us about the past which lead her to this point is the type that evokes disgust in many. She’s self destructive in the extreme and at first some may find it difficult to feel much sympathy for her, but as we delve deeper into her broken life and we see how vulnerable she really is, she emerges as a victim of her circumstances. Everyone knows a Grace, has probably sneered and never considered why they behave the way they do, how much they may be hurting. For me it was a little closer to home, and I saw a tiny bit of myself as a teenager. In some ways reading from Grace was like going back in time, and Cat Clarke completely gets the neediness, paranoia, feelings of self-loathing and self-harm I remember experiencing. It sounds a cliché to say she was believable and real, but it’s scarily true. Even those who can’t directly relate to Grace will recognise some of her feelings or be able to experience them through Clarke’s fantastic ability to convey them onto the page, and will certainly take away a greater understanding of people from this book.

The mystery of Ethan and the white room remain as such throughout the book. I came up with many different theories while reading, none of which ended up correct but along with Grace’s voice kept me turning pages and unable to leave until I’d finished. The ending is somewhat ambiguous and definitely open to interpretation. I know what I think and I’m sure others have different ideas. I loved this, it wasn’t annoyingly open and unresolved, and it allows you to really think. I went to bed last night thinking about it and woke up again this morning thinking about it. Whatever your interpretation though, one thing I can guarantee is that it will leave you with tears. It’s tragic, but beautifully hopeful for the future.

I’ve read some amazing books this year, and Entangled is up there with the best of them. I couldn’t put it down and read all 370 pages in one sitting, something I haven’t done for a while. I won’t forget this book and can’t wait to see what Cat Clarke writes next. The only word of caution I have is that with some explicit and graphic scenes it probably isn’t suited to a younger audience and I would hesitate to give it to under thirteen’s. Apart from that I can’t recommend this book enough.

Published January 2011 by Quercus

Thanks to the publishers for sending me an ARC of this book for review.