Torn – David Massey
Publisher: Chicken House
Release Date: 2nd August 2012
Edition: UK paperback, review copy
Afghanistan. In the heat and dust, young British army medic Elinor Neilson watches an Afghan girl walk into a hail of bullets.
But when she runs to help, Ellie finds her gone. Who is she? What happened to her? What Ellie discovers leads her to question everything she believes in – even her feelings for the American lieutenant who takes her side...
I had incredibly high hopes for David Massey’s debut, but there was something about Torn that just didn’t quite hit the spot for me.
Torn started slowly which was surprising and David Massey’s throws us straight into Ellie’s first day as an army medic in Afghanistan. He took the time to evoke the smothering heat and constant threat of the base and Ellie’s already fairly fragile mental state was quickly established. She was terrified of getting something wrong; putting other people in danger and that maybe they weren’t helping at all the fragile situation in Afghanistan at all. I could almost feel the paranoia and brokenness of some the soldiers on Ellie’s base emanating from the pages, especially Heidi.
Even though this was beautifully done and I loved the strength of the setting, it set a pace that made it a little difficult to move on through the novel. Even when the attacks and gun fights that peppered Torn began and had heart-rending consequences didn’t increase the tempo of the novel. For me, it didn’t really get going until the Americans arrived and a frisson of sexual tension sparked between Ben, the lieutenant, and Ellie. I was a little bit worried that that was what made me interested in the novel...but it was.
The burgeoning feelings between Ellie and Ben added a spark of electricity into an already taut situation and I flew through the rest of the pages after that, dying to know how their relationship would evolve. From the beginning, both Ben and Ellie and the reader know that anything between them wouldn’t be allowed, and would just generally be a bad idea, but I was dying for them to finally kiss! Right up until the last page, I didn’t know what was going to happen to them and I loved not knowing whether the girl would get the boy – it’s rather rare in YA.
On to a more serious topic, the war. Before beginning Torn, I was worried that it would be a little too political for me, and I was right. I really have no interest in politics and I rarely take notice of the news because it’s so depressing (I realise that makes me sound very uninformed and whatnot, but oh well) so I didn’t really know the situation of the Afghan war and had to pay rather close attention to all of the tidbits of information passed between the soldiers. I have to admit that this clouded my interest in the novel slightly and it was only the human interest aspects of Torn that really caught my attention, and my emotions.
The presence of the little girl in the blue dress at each event of a death in the novel was haunting and creepy and I worried that Torn might end up having a supernatural edge. Thankfully, her story remained fairly cloudy and I’ve chosen to eschew all other-worldly explanations as that would have disappointed me quite a lot. The story that had most impact on me was of course that of Husna, especially in how he connected with Ellie. His story was heart-breaking and I can’t imagine the pain and struggles that he lived through. The way that his broken English perfectly captured the sound of his voice for me made me love him even more. I thought it was a brilliantly handled story arc.
Although I had some reservations of Torn, I ended up enjoy it and I look forward to reading more from David Massey.
Thank you to Chicken House for providing me with a review copy.