Reviews for Still Life with Tornado, by A.S. King

rooibos's review against another edition

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The beginning was slow and led me to think Sarah would be a whiny character, like Hannah from 13 Reasons Why. However, that changed as soon as King revealed her family drama.

Up until about halfway through the book, I found the writing to be annoyingly repetitive. It was simple and no lines really stuck with me - something that I consider to be an indicator of a great book was missing. The first half had no action and it didn’t engage me at all. I only continued reading the book because it was short. That is why my rating is three stars rather than five.

The ending -my goodness - was spectacular. I loved everything. I loved Sarah’s dad getting kicked out and the revelations about abuse. This book was different from most in the YA genre in that it handles abuse realistically without glamorizing it.

During serious moments there were still lines that had me laughing out loud: “He kept looking at mom like she’d caused him these problems - a son who ate too fast and a girl who was a tortilla chip.” Maybe it was just me.

Did I mention there was no romance. No romantic attraction, no relationships, no complicated love. For the protagonist, at least. I think Sarah might be ace but that’s not the point of the book. Not even close. It was just another lovely part of this book.

Overall, I loved the end of this book soooooo much, but it starts off slow. I, admittedly, skimmed quite a few chapters in the beginning, but that’s okay because that’s the only way I made it to the great part. That’s discrediting the writing. It wasn’t all bad. I definitely enjoyed some parts in the first half. The monotony just wasn’t for me.

Before I move on, I have to rant about a page in the book. 40% into this book, Sarah decides to eat food from a trash can. I could not even bare to think about what it might represent because it’s just disgusting. Not only finishing a strangers food when she had money in her pocket, but the fact that OTHER THINGS ARE THROWN IN THE GARBAGE BIN. ALL THE GROSS STUFF PEOPLE DON’T WANT TO CARRY AROUND WITH THEM IS IN THAT. And she ate from it. Homeless people and poor people have to eat from the trash sometimes in order to avoid starving. But she had money. She didn’t have to do that. Yikes, my rant about one page has gotten a bit long, so I’m ending my review here.


maryam162424's review against another edition

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This was a tremendous book that dealt with many issues in a very real way. There were many times that I found myself relating to Sarah and the way she felt about things in her life. I think this book has such an important message and that everyone should read it. The magical realism aspect of this book was well adjusted as well, it wasn't too random nor was it too weird.
An all around amazing book!

May 15, 2020:

So it seems by opinions about this book have not changed! I really did forget the whole premise of this book but now that I’ve read it, I enjoyed each bit of it. This book deals with so many different aspects of abuse and from so many different perspectives. I think the only thing I had an issue with is Sarah’s age, in the book she’s 16 but I think that 12-14 would have been the appropriate age honestly for how she reacts to many things in the book. Other than that, I really did enjoy how the magical realism comes to play here. Works really well.

thenerdyartivist's review against another edition

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This was the weirdest, strangest, most fucked up, beautiful, confusing, literal, metaphorical, realistic, disturbing, thought provoking, truest book I've ever read. Did I mention weird?
My mind is a fucking tornado.
I don't know where to start.

Sarah is sixteen. She's an artist. She was an artist. She doesn't know anymore. She's having an existential crisis. Something happened when she was ten. She can't remember what. She can't see her future. Nothing ever happens. Nothing is original. Sarah is an artist who can't make art because something happened. But she'll get a bit of help from herself to find a way...

It took me so long to get into this book. This is not one you read without being profoundly concentrated.
I loved how weird it was, even though it could be very repetitive (repetition is nice but this was way too much, hence the minus half a star) and a bit confusing at times.

I think my brain was fucked up a few times from all the focusing and mind blowing ideas. It was also very well written. Nice sentences. Quotes which stick by you no matter what. The construction of the plot is one of the most complex I've ever read. Even more than Vicious by V.E. Schwab, and that's saying something.

I could relate to the main character, but then I hated her, the same way I hate myself. I think we were too much alike. Too much ruined. The characters felt so real it was disturbing.
It tackles a lot of very important and unimportant issues which are just as important as the important ones. Again, I love how realistic it was.
I dreamt of this book. Literally, after reading I had dreams about it. This is not the kind of book you forget.

I think it's the kind of book you either hate or love. I loved it.
It's hard to recommend it though. The MC is sixteen but I wouldn't recommend under eighteen.
On the back of the book, there's a review by The New York Times. It says: "Moving, unapologetically strange, skillfully constructed... Read this book, whatever your age. You may find its the exact shape and size of the hole in your heart."
It's a really good and accurate review. I have no other words.

This book is art. This book is life. Blunt, harsh, beautiful, true. Life. This book is a tornado with everything inside it.

vetathebooksurfer's review against another edition

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too deep and reminds me too much about my own life

angelea's review against another edition

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A.S. King is one of the most interesting writers in YA, because of the fact that she doesn't hand-walk you to the moral of the story. She believes her readers are smart enough to arrive there on their own. And in my opinion, this makes the take-away much more heavy and worthwhile. I also love the fact that she somehow intertwines magical realism into otherwise normal stories. I always come away with a sense of wonder and belief, despite the fact that her writing style comes across somewhat gloomy and blue. This book didn't pack quite the punch like Glory O'Brien's History of the Future did, but I still found it enjoyable and a quick read.

erickaonpaper's review against another edition

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trigger warning: mental/physical abuse, *assumed* statutory r***, alcohol abuse

Usually, I’m used to reading novels where themes are heavy-handed; I don’t read them often, but I think I’m mostly in a good headspace when dealing with such topics. Reading Still Life with Tornado, I think, was the very first time I was truly challenged to push on reading.

This book is told mostly from Sarah’s present point of view, every now and again including excerpts of Sarah’s mother’s point of view and her brother Bruce’s point of view. To me, each character had different yet similar voices; fortunately, I did not find this bland. Instead, I found it to be comforting, in that I knew there was a familial connection between the characters, and they sounded similar because they were each going through something together.

Whether it be because of empathy or hope, I never once thought to give up on the characters. I believe seeing the Sarahs of the future really helped; they were great assurances to me that Sarah would end up creating a decent life for herself. I also really like that the past and future Sarahs were taken in stride by both Sarah’s mom and Bruce; Sarah’s father, however, didn’t even realize that at one point, he’d had dinner with 10-year-old Sarah and was actively taken care of by all the future Sarahs.

The conclusion of this story felt just right for me. All the characters were tied up with the endings they deserved and fought hard for. It felt like a very long and tiring battle, but I was only there for a small chunk of it. I can barely imagine how Sarah, her mother, and Bruce felt while riding this journey.

To be quite honest, I feel like this review wouldn’t begin to sum up the way I felt after reading this book: dazed, appreciative, hopeful. There are so many ways to interpret what Sarah goes through in this book, and I recommend it to everyone: the ones who are lost, the artists who will always be artists, the broken-hearted, and siblings who care and love their kin no matter what.

amdame1's review against another edition

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Sarah is an artist - but suddenly she can't even draw simple things anymore. She stops going to school. There are several versions of herself also wandering around Philadelphia - the 10-year old Sarah who clearly remembers the family vacation to Mexico that seemed to change things for their family, 23-year-old Sarah who is quite snarky and always carries an umbrella, and 40-year old Sarah who encourages 16-year-old Sarah to tell the truth.
A well written account of an existential crisis and a dysfunctional family.
Every once in a while there is a chapter from Mom's point-of-view, but it is disconcerting and hard to follow since it is only occasional and you have to pay close attention to chapter titles in order to catch on before you start reading.
For higher level thinkers and readers.

lilmill's review

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challenging dark emotional hopeful reflective tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes


inkdrinkerpdx's review against another edition

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While I enjoyed the story and style of writing there were a lot of things I liked and disliked about this book.

The story unfolds backwards. Sarah is basically have a "mid life crisis" at the age of 16 and trying to figure herself out. At times her thoughts were confusing but entertaining.

What I didn't like and it could fused me was the different Sarah's. I honestly thought she was crazy but everyone else saw them too. So confusing.