Monday, August 19, 2013

Review of Torn by David Massey

Massey, David.  Torn.  Scholastic/Chicken House,     2013.  
Nineteen-year-old Private Elinor Nielson joins the British army as a medic and is sent to Afghanistan for her first active tour of duty.  She immediately earns the nickname, “Buffy”, due to being spied on while in the shower.  She is also having a hard time getting long with her roommate, Corporal Heidi Larson, also a medic, who seems to have a chip on her shoulder. 

Ellie keeps having encounters with a mysterious teenage girl, who seems to appear whenever there is death nearby.   The British unit captures a young boy, and Ellie is chosen to interrogate him.  She wins his trust and, in the process, learns that Husna is part of a group of children called the “Young Martyrs” who are fighting both coalition and Taliban forces.  He says that the reason the children are fighting is because his entire village was wiped out by American drones. 

Navy SEALs under the leadership of twenty-three-year-old Ben Jackson take up camp with the British unit.  They are assigned to locate a journalist who married an Afghani and who may or may not be alive.  Additionally, they are charged with finding the Afghani’s daughter, who is the granddaughter of the commanding American general.  They must also retrieve a cache of arms located somewhere in the vicinity.  Ellie and Ben are attracted to one another but must hide their feelings and concentrate on their immediate duties.

The British, the Americans, and Hammed, the local Afghan policeman, work together to solve two mysteries and find the arms cache using the notes of Bella Macallum, the journalist.  They solve the riddle involving the Afghan interior minister, who is also a Taliban warlord, his elite renegade security forces, American drones, and a lithium mine.  The appearance of the teenage Afghan girl in the blue dress is also resolved.

Torn is a terrific debut novel by David Massey.  The reconnaissance missions and battle scenes are taut and full of tension and suspense.  It is refreshing to read a war novel that, surprisingly, contains no cursing!

The author his done his research on the Afghanistan culture, weaponry, and military life.  Reading the novel made me feel like I was actually in the country, seeing what was going on through the characters’ eyes.  Massey’s passages are extremely descriptive, and the mysteries in the plot really moved the story along.  Husna is my favorite character—he is tough and worldly for a young boy, but softens as Ellie begins to earn his trust.  Ellie is steady, but vulnerable, fearing that she may hold the life of her unit in her hand on their daily hikes to see the local citizens.  Ben is wiser beyond his twenty-three years and is a natural-born leader.

Torn will appeal to fans of war novels and of other genres, as well.  I highly recommend it to upper middle school, high school, and public libraries.  I give it five out of five fleur de lis!

**Reviewer's Note:  The copy reviewed was provided by Library Media Connection in exchange for an honest review.