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Private Elinor Nielson became a medic for the British Army because she wanted to make a difference. But under the heat of the Afghan sun, she doesn’t feel so sure anymore. Already feeling out of place and unprepared, she is thrown into a unit and suited up for her first patrol. Wrapped in heavy armor and a pack that weighs as much as she does, Ellie trudges out into the countryside of Afghanistan on a routine check through several villages.

"David Massey weaves together a compelling and thoughtful story without sugar-coating the reality of war."

Her training couldn’t have prepared her for what happens next. Thrown into the midst of a firefight, Ellie disobeys orders and goes to help her panicked teammate glued to a bomb under his feet. In the haze of battle and the ringing of bullets, Ellie sees a girl in a blue dress. Who is she, and why is she in the middle of the fight?

TORN slowly pulls readers into the layers of a tangled mystery involving a girl in a blue flower dress, a boy who has lost his home, an American soldier determined to accomplish his mission and Ellie, who will do whatever it takes to protect those around her. David Massey weaves together a compelling and thoughtful story without sugar-coating the reality of war.

Though TORN does a good job connecting the elements of the story into a cohesive narrative, some aspects of the novel felt clunky and clumsy to me. Though the reader is instantly thrown into the action, the plot itself moves slowly. At the same time though, the plot is heavily driven by the narrator, Ellie. The relationship between her and the setting of war adds an extra layer of depth that otherwise would not exist in the story.

There is love and there is loss. TORN does an amazing job illustrating the complexity behind these two aspects. There is romantic love but also love towards friends, teammates, even strangers. There is loss of those you care about, loss of those you didn’t know, loss of trust and faith. But in the end, hope still stands as a beacon for those seeking it.

Reviewed by Ashley Tran on August 9, 2013

by David Massey

  • Publication Date: July 30, 2013
  • Genres: Military
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Chicken House
  • ISBN-10: 0545496454
  • ISBN-13: 9780545496452