Skip to main content

Still Life With Tornado


Still Life With Tornado

In STILL LIFE WITH TORNADO by A.S. King, 16-year-old Sarah is having an existential crisis. She suddenly cannot draw and keeps seeing past and future versions of herself. Also, Sarah is just now realizing how much of a mess her family is. With a brother she hasn’t seen in six years and her parents’ marriage built on lies and domestic violence, Sarah’s family is falling apart. Now, Sarah must come to terms with her pain and what it means to make art. 

The majority of this book follows 16-year-old Sarah after she stops going to school and instead walks the streets of Philadelphia, meeting past and future versions of herself and trying to figure out what it means to be original. These parts of the novel were actually the moments I enjoyed the least. While it was interesting, I found it very hard to connect with all of the Sarahs, especially 16-year-old Sarah as she always seems to have incoherent thoughts while simultaneously trying to make grand, life-changing statements. I never felt compelled to like Sarah even though she is the main protagonist who is going through major character development. If anything, I found Sarah lacking as a character.

"I would recommend this for fans of magical realism or hard-hitting novels. A.S. King brings up important topics and conversations in this strangely unique book."

Another issue I had with this book was the writing. I have heard great reviews of A.S. King’s books so I was very excited and had high hopes for this novel. However, A.S. King’s writing style was just not for me. It came off like King was pushing to make a huge proclamation on every single subject she brought up. The writing felt forced, like she was trying too hard.

The parts of this novel I did really enjoy were the scenes from Mexico and Helen’s point of view. Throughout the novel, we get flashbacks from Sarah’s family vacation six years prior. Here, in Mexico, we see the incidents leading up to her brother leaving and the signs of domestic violence in her family. These scenes were spread out throughout the book, giving them a suspense factor. I wanted to keep reading to see what happened on this trip to end the perfect family facade. Also, 10-year-old Sarah’s perspective was intriguing because she was very innocent and had no idea the mess that was surrounding her at that time.

Another aspect of the book that I thoroughly enjoyed was Helen, Sarah’s mother. Periodically, the reader gets insight into what Helen thinks about her terrible situation and what she has to go through daily as she is abused. I thought A.S. King dealt with the topic of domestic violence very well. The reader can feel how stuck and miserable Helen feels. The book also brings up the fact that many people who are abused feel that violence is just the routine that they have to deal with.

While I personally did not love this book, I believe many other readers will. I would still recommend this for fans of magical realism or hard hitting novels. A.S. King brings up important topics and conversations in this strangely unique book.

Reviewed by Mackenzie P., Teen Board Member on September 14, 2016

Still Life With Tornado
by A.S. King

  • Publication Date: October 3, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Young Adult 12+
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Speak
  • ISBN-10: 1101994908
  • ISBN-13: 9781101994900