I recently came across Torn by Dean Murray through a book bundle from ten authors. The story revolves around a handful of school going teens – who handle the family business the protection of the community and a lot more at a pretty young age.
Background setting – 4.5 stars
The way the exquisite beauty of the realm is captured is gorgeous. You can smell roses in the air, you can see your reflection in the pond, and feel the wind against your skin when they run in the grass. The language is graphical while describing the characters, as well as while detailing the surroundings.
School – 3.5 stars
All the lead characters are school going kids with almost complete arrogance to the school system. The teachers are all scared or tired of them, the principal is corrupted, so is most of the administration and then there are ego issues.
What intrigues me the most is that there is no real or seeming need for any of the kids to go to school. They are all pretty advanced for their classes, and it’s implied they learn lessons online ahead of classes so that they can tune out. The hero thinks that he should just take GED anyway. And going to classes creates more than one trouble every day. They have duties that keep them awake at night and it seems to be an endurance test with continuous lack of sleep.
Half of their problems would be solved if they just home-school in the afternoon. Almost everyone is similar levels classes at school, and if not, they can easily adjust and learn something new (they did swap classes and took up new ones in the middle of school year – the reason is a spoiler, so no!). That would also give them more free time to engage in meaningful activities (why bribe the school for a painting class when you can hire a real artist to tutor you at home?).
Problem-solving – 1 star
You have a problem, you throw money – not just some money, thousands of dollars – buy people, settle problems with bribes.
You need a dress, go somewhere exotic, because our locality is risky and I can’t protect you. But you should be safe out of town. Someone is in trouble, throw money behind their back. Swapping classes mid-year is not a big deal, if you can bribe your way.
Whatever the issue is money can solve it, unless it involves the rival group. It feels too superficial, the way the author makes them solve problems. Almost everyone will bend to the will of the hero, so why throw money?
I do get it that some problems can be dealt with money, but if you start throwing ten thousands of dollars every now and then, how will it last long, however big your stash is? Money is the answer to some problems, but it shouldn’t seem to be the answer to most problems. If that is the case, then you are missing some cues entirely.
Emotions and relationships – 4 star
The story has captured some relationships beautifully. The way the author explains the emotional troubles of Rachel and Alec is impressive. Even the subtle hints on Jasmin’s past is nicely done. It is an open thread, but doesn’t feel a hanging one. However some aspects of Adri are open questions, that doesn’t bode well. The emotional maturity that Alec shows while dealing with Adri in the latter half of the story is also impressive.
Loose ends – 3 stars
Torn leaves a lot of questions unanswered. They may be answered in the further books in the Reflections series, but maybe not. There are all these small questions that wouldn’t have affected the suspense but rendered a polished feel for the book.
The ending feels too abrupt. It looks like finishing off to meet a deadline instead of savouring every moment of glory. The book would have been much more enjoyable if a few more paragraphs were devoted to nicely portray the final events.
Overall rating: 3.5 stars
Epilogue: I am checking out Broken by Dean Murray to see if my questions are answered there. It seems to be a twin of this book.