“Five a.m. I’m woken by yapping dogs and the first distant call to prayer, carried to me on a light breeze. My first morning in Afghanistan.
Private Elinor Nielson, recently qualified medic, first tour of active duty. That’s what I keep telling myself – over and over like a demented idiot – to calm my nerves. I’m just a normal nineteen year old English girl… of the kick-ass, life-saving variety that is.”
Ellie is on her first tour of active service in Afghanistan. On her first Patrol she saves a new friend from an IED but before doing that she sees a girl wander right into the firing line, and walk away again. That patrol brings two causalities, the next day brings another and the girl is there again. This time Ellie sees her get shot at and follows her blood trace to a room where the girls brother is dying. As Ellie treats the girls brother, the girl disappears again. Whilst she finds answers to the girls identity and whereabouts, more questions pop up and everything Ellie thought she knew about life in Afghanistan is blown apart.
I was aware of peoples feelings towards Torn before I started it. I knew it was meant to be a brilliant story and I had a feeling it would be one that would open my eyes to a world that I know very little about. I was right on both counts and found myself unable to put Torn down, even at its most gruesome points.
The story was brilliant, it really was. I think it gave a very realistic portrayal of what is going on over in Afghanistan, even as I type. I cant say for sure that that is the case but it was believable to me, even if it was awful as well. I can see the troops acting in the way they did and the way the characters dealt with the events of the book seemed real. I was impressed with the story and where it went and how it made you question things that happened.
The characters were interesting enough but you didn’t get to know too much about them and nothing went into great detail. I think I must have missed something important at some point because I really didn’t understand Heidi’s hatred of Ellie… I understood her problem with the Americans but not Ellie… it was a bit glossed over. I loved the relationship between Ellie and Husna and really liked the character Husna, he had been through so much so young tha tI felt for him a lot but I liked his strength of character and in the right place and focussed on the right things a kid like that could go far, its just a shame about where he ended up until Ellie’s group found him. The guys in the patrol with Ellie were ok but again, not much depth, you got a bit of their personalities but not enough to really love them as characters. Yugi was my favourite though and I love how he got his nickname. The Americans were again a little glossed over with the reader only really getting to know Carlos and Ben but I really liked both of those characters, Carlos probably more so.
I think the nickname thing from the soldiers was one of my favourite things about the book, it seems to me something that would actually happen and I liked the way it helped Ellie connect with the guys when she first joined them. They go through a lot and to have personal nicknames like that was a sing of them going through it together.
I think the scariest thing about Torn is how you can see it all happening in reality and yet it takes place over such a short amount of time. Time isn’t really referenced after the first few days but I believe that the events of the book take place over two weeks… maybe a little more, but thats it and a lot happens. It is scary but makes the book very fast paced, or at least it is after the Americans turn up and a great read, even if the reader has to deal with death, serious injuries and other aspects of war. I will warn anyone who wasn’t to read this though that the pace before the Americans come into camp is a lot slower and quite detailed.
I would recommend this book for any school library, it shows a lot about war and what those involved in war – both soldiers and the civilians – have to go through. It really opened my eyes to certain things that I think are important, especially every day lives of those who live in the Helmand Provence.
Torn was published on August 2nd by Chicken House. My copy was obtained from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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