Author: Cat Clarke
Published: 22 December 2011 by Quercus
Length: 378 pages
Warnings: sex, murder, suicide 13+
Other info: Cat’s other novel, Entangled, was reviewed here.
Summary : 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...
Review: Alice, Cass, Polly and Rae are put in a cabin together on a school trip. The four of them together may be a bearable combination, but there’s another. Mean girl Tara has been placed in the same cabin and the teachers refuse to move her. She’s generally hated by the girls who aren’t in her social circle, so much so that Cass wants to teach her a lesson. But then that lesson goes wrong. And the four girls are left with a body.
Like Entangled, it places girls in situations that are improbable, but still intriguing to read about. From the start, I was hooked. From the point of view of Alice, we are told about the public’s view of Tara’s death, what really happened, and the way she’s haunted by Tara. Actually, the haunting comes first, which is nice because it leaves you wondering exactly what happened.
The characters are the main feature of Torn. The four girls involved all have different reactions, different scales of guilt. It’s really interesting seeing how they deal with it, and it shows that Cat is excellent at writing well developed characters with depth and multiple dimensions.
About a third of Torn is the story of Tara, from the start of the trip to the sudden end. Although it’s technically set up for the rest of the novel, it’s still interesting and you feel like the girls are justified for getting Tara back. Maybe they shouldn’t have gone that far, but from the way Tara treats them all really makes you want to kill her too.
The supporting cast are equally built up, with differing personalities. Everyone has something hidden about them, even Tara, who it’s revealed isn’t quite as bad as you thought from how she treated everyone. The two girls that were part of Tara’s entourage also don’t seem as bad when you get to know them, but they aren’t quite as well fleshed out as the rest of the cast.
The romance in this is done well, with the general awkwardness of Alice having a hand in her boyfriend’s sister’s death. Yet another part of Alice’s character is revealed in the fact that she knows she’s guilty and that she knows Jack won’t want her after he knows what she did, but she still tries to carry on a relationship anyway. This leads to an ending that’s both sad, but makes you think Alice gets what she deserves.
The writing carries all sorts of feelings with it. Guilt, love, doubt. The fairly short chapters all end at points that either leave you wanting to read on because there’s a cliffhanger or leave you wanting to read on because there’s a beautiful little quote.
Overall: Strength 4 tea to a gripping novel with a great premise and cast.