Still Life With Tornado

Well, it has been quite a while since I’ve delved into the world of young adult books. I realized just how out of touch I was when talking to my aunt and cousin who are very much on cutting edge of what’s coming out young adult wise…and I realized I miss it. Still Life With Tornado by A.S. King has been sitting on my shelf for quite a while I thought, where better to start? I’ve read a book by A.S. King before and I remember specifically saying it requires an ability to suspend disbelief and lean into the story…well, Life With Tornado is no different.


After reading two of A.S. King’s books (and I know she has many more) I’m pretty comfortable saying she is one of the most fascinating YA writers I’ve ever read. Her mix of reality and what I’m going to call heightened reality (though it’s generally called magical realism…more on that in a second) hones in on the experience of the characters in a way that places the reader solidly in the land of the teenage mindset. In Still Life With Tornado  we follow sixteen year old Sarah, who is an artist in the throes of an existential crisis that can no longer create art, skipping school, and hanging out her ten year old self, twenty three year old self, and forty year old self…literally, they’re all there. So, you see what I mean about suspending disbelief, eh?

This is where it would be easy to say that the past and future Sarah’s all exist in Sarah’s mind as she’s slowly coming to terms with the truth about why her brother left, and who her parents are. I’d ask you to resist that temptation…trust me, the story is better my way. There is a specific theme that runs through most YA fiction of confusion, for some reason we hide the facts and complex truths from teens. YA usually tries to put that confusion and the half truths and the assumed realities into the mix of the plot as general teen angst, with mixed results. I said before I would prefer to think of magical realism as heightened reality, particularly in this instance, because I think that’s what magical realism is usually trying to accomplish. Our world, especially when we’re sixteen, has been shaped by those around us. Our influencers slap a reality sticker on the world and say “This is it, trust me.” Our teen years are often spent figuring out which part of our own reality matches up with that of the truths/lies/and reality stickers the adults have been pasting on. Giving Sarah real flesh and blood past Sarah and future Sarah’s to communicate with heightened the reality of her present in an effective way.  Still Life With Tornado deals with some tough topics but it does so with finesse and a heightened reality that may force you to reconsider some of your own presumed realities.

Commonplace Book Entries

“His art is a temper tantrum.”

Still Life With a Tornado by A.S. King

“I am the horizon line.”

Still Life With a Tornado by A.S. King

“History is in the room with us. You absorb it even if it’s not happening right in front of you. You absorb the feeling of it.”

Still Life With a Tornado by A.S. King

Keep reading. Keep learning. Keep listening. Keep creating.


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