ARC Review: Can’t Look Away

Posted August 4, 2014 / Book Reviews / 5 Comments

ARC Review: Can’t Look AwayCan't Look Away by Donna Cooner
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Published by Scholastic on August 26th 2014
Format: eARC (272 pages) • Source: Publisher

Donna Cooner establishes herself as our own Jodi Picoult in this timely tale of sisters, loss, and redemption. Torrey Grey is famous. At least, on the internet. Thousands of people watch her popular videos on fashion and beauty. But when Torrey's sister is killed in an accident -- maybe because of Torrey and her videos -- Torrey's perfect world implodes. Now, strangers online are bashing Torrey. And at her new school, she doesn't know who to trust. Is queen bee Blair only being sweet because of Torrey's internet infamy? What about Raylene, who is decidedly unpopular, but seems accepts Torrey for who she is? And then there's Luis, with his brooding dark eyes, whose family runs the local funeral home. Torrey finds herself drawn to Luis, and his fascinating stories about El dio de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. As the Day of the Dead draws near, Torrey will have to really look at her own feelings about death, and life, and everything in between. Can she learn to mourn her sister out of the public eye?

Review: This book definitely hit me harder than expected. Based on the synopsis, I could tell I was going to possibly get misty while reading this one. My sister is about the same age as Torrey’s sister in this book, so I had a feeling I would be projecting some of the traits of their relationship onto my own with my sister. Nonetheless, I was intrigued by the topic of this book. Beauty vloggers are  a newer trend and something that I watch pretty frequently on YouTube. Comments and criticism run rampant online, because it’s so much easier to talk negatively about someone through a screen instead of face to face. When Torrey’s sister dies, some followers offer words of sympathy while others blame her for the circumstances of Miranda’s death. Torrey is forced to move with her family from Colorado to Texas because they all need a fresh start, but her online fame follows her to her new school. Throughout the book, Torrey reflects on memories of Miranda and wonders “if only” about every event from that fateful day. If only she hadn’t rushed her during breakfast; if only she hadn’t forced her to come with her at all; if only, if only. The guilt she was feeling throughout the majority of the book made me so sad for her and her family. When you read a story like this, you start to reflect on your own life. I would think of my little sister and start to regret the times I asked her to be quiet or didn’t fully listen to the crazy story she was telling me. I hope, from reading this, I try to pay a little more attention or spend a little more time with my sister and the other people in my life. Torrey tries to mourn her sister as privately as possible, but it becomes difficult when she’s swept up into the family business and cultural traditions of Luis Rivera and his family. They own the town’s funeral home, so she is constantly reminded of death. He is considered an outsider, although Torrey can’t figure out why, and she spends time with him behind the backs of her new popular friends. Torrey is desperate to fit into the popular crowd, which is where she was in her previous school. She struck me as a “mean girl” throughout most of the book, which is a stereotype I can’t stand. She was constantly thinking of social status and how to impress Blair and her clique. She would refer to Luis as an outsider or her cousin Raylene as unpopular. It made me angry when she would try to be cool in front of the popular kids, yet constantly hang out with these “unpopular” people more often, in secret. Maybe my high school was more tame than the ones I constantly see in YA books, but I never would have gotten looked at weird for talking to someone less “popular” than me. Torrey shows potential that she will change, but continues to act tough and better than everyone else. I was very relieved when she allowed herself to get emotional about her sister. One aspect about this book that I really enjoyed was the tie to The Day of the Dead. It added a unique plot piece that I haven’t seen covered in other books like this. Without this, the book would have been too predictable and like any other standard YA book. She uses the holiday to help her finally cope with her sister’s death and the guilt associated with it. As a character, I think she developed and matured throughout the book. I really liked Luis as well; he seemed like a good guy but his personality wasn’t really covered too much. Torrey’s character was really the only one the reader came to know. It was nice that this book was less about the romance and more about family relationships and overcoming grief. Other authors would have probably focused too much on Torrey and her romantic relationship, but this story became more meaningful in other (more important) ways. All in all, I really enjoyed this book. It was an emotional read that left me crying at times, but also had glimmers of hope and happiness for Torrey and her family. Donna Cooner did a great job developing a realistic plot and bringing in unique topics, like The Day of the Dead and beauty vlogging. It was a story that forced me to reflect on my relationships and understand that even people who seem to have it all can be going through more than you’d think. I wish there was a little more development for the other characters and the plot was mildly predictable, but I would highly recommend this book… especially if you have a little sister who deserves a little more of your attention.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions; I was not compensated.

5 responses to “ARC Review: Can’t Look Away

  1. […] Book that made you cry: Can’t Look Away by Donna Cooner Dang. I didn’t see that coming. Torrey’s 12 year old sister is killed in an accident before the novel starts, but she spends the whole book coming to terms with her grief in a very public way. It hit me hard because I kept putting myself in her shoes and thinking of my 13 year old sister. I cried quite a few times during this one. (Review) […]

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