About the Book

Title: Still Life with Tornado
Published: 2016

Cover Story: Literally
BFF Charm: Roger Murtaugh
Swoonworthy Scale: 0
Talky Talk: A.S. King, Mofos! x 2
Bonus Factors: Portrayal of Domestic Violence, Metal
Relationship Status: I’ll Be There for You

Cover Story: Literally

This image is a direct interpretation of the title, with nods to characters and subjects from the story. It also continues the streak of classy, monochromatic-ish covers for A.S. King, and it’s neat when an author’s different books share a similar look. (When it’s a good aesthetic, anyway.)

The Deal:

At the ripe old age of sixteen, Sarah is going through an existential crisis. What else could it be when her artist self can no longer draw, she laments the dearth of original ideas, and – oh, yeah – she meets past and future versions of herself running around in her hometown of Philadelphia? Or maybe it’s how she copes with finally opening her eyes to the wreckage of her broken family.

BFF Charm: Roger Murtaugh

BFF charm with Roger Murtagh from Lethal Weapon's face.

Internal turmoil aside, it’s a fascinating time to get to know Sarah, as her perspective is evolving from her merely paying closer attention to the world around her. While I’d gladly lend my support as she works through the shattered illusions of her childhood, her fixation on originality grows a bit tiresome. I say this with love, but I’m too old for that shizz. (40-year-old Sarah, though: we can hang.)

Swoonworthy Scale: 0

Sarah isn’t interested in anybody, nor has she ever really been. (Tbh, one part made me wonder if she’s aromantic, but she never labels herself as such and I’m so not knowledgeable on that identity.) But the swoon would plummet into negative territory if the grownup relationships were included.

Talky Talk: A.S. King, Mofos! x 2

Most of the book is narrated by Sarah, both in the present and in flashbacks leading up to her older brother’s estrangement from the rest of the family. The remainder is told from the POV of Sarah’s mother, Helen, providing a more mature dimension to this YA story – and a second voice to deliver brutal, unflinching wisdom.

Bonus Factor: Portrayal of Domestic Violence

Clenched fist pounding into a table

Tensions run high in Sarah’s precariously held together family, and a closer examination validates the feeling that something is amiss. It’d be so much easier, wouldn’t it, if there was a giant neon sign to point out the unassuming abuser? But there’s no singular archetype of an abusive relationship; abuse comes in many forms, as do the people inflicting it. It might not be original – it’s unfortunately all too common – but the wounds, physical and otherwise, hurt all the same.

Bonus Factor: Metal

Rock band playing on stage to crowd

To unwind from the stresses she faces both at work and at home, Helen rocks out to copious amounts of heavy metal. And she has pretty decent taste in ‘eff you’ music, too.

Relationship Status: I’ll Be There For You

Thank you for sharing your truth with me, Book. I’m cheering for your characters to break free from the cycle of violence, and I’ll try to be the best compassionate sidekick that I can be on your road to recovery.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Dutton. This review was originally posted on Kirkus Reviews in exchange for monetary compensation, which did not affect or influence my opinions. Still Life with Tornado is available now.

Mandy (she/her) lives in Edmonton, AB. When she’s not raiding the library for YA books, she enjoys eating ice cream (esp. in cold weather), learning fancy pole dance tricks, and stanning BTS. Mandy has been writing for FYA since 2012, and she oversaw all things FYA Book Club from 2013 to 2023.