Still Life with Tornado
Actually Sarah is several human beings. At once. And only one of them is sixteen. Her parents insist she’s a gifted artist with a bright future, but now she can’t draw a thing, not even her own hand. Meanwhile, there’s a ten-year-old Sarah with a filthy mouth, a bad sunburn, and a clear memory of the family vacation in Mexico that ruined everything. She’s a ray of sunshine compared to twenty-three-year-old Sarah, who has snazzy highlights and a bad attitude. And then there’s forty-year-old Sarah (makes good queso dip, doesn’t wear a bra, really wants sixteen-year-old Sarah to tell the truth about her art teacher). They’re all wandering Philadelphia—along with a homeless artist allegedly named Earl—and they’re all worried about Sarah’s future.
But Sarah’s future isn’t the problem. The present is where she might be having an existential crisis. Or maybe all those other Sarahs are trying to wake her up before she’s lost forever in the tornado of violence and denial that is her parents’ marriage.
“I am a human being. I am sixteen years old. That should be enough.”
This is my first book by her so I didn’t really know what to expect besides her “original” writing style, but I was pleasantly surprised with her story-telling ability. It was by far one of the most original books I’ve read, and even though I felt a lot of confusion at times, it made reading it that much more intriguing.
What really makes this book stand apart from the rest is the fact that it’s actually not so different. That statement contradicts itself completely, but allow me to explain: YA is filled with stories of teenage girls dealing with the most common issues that teenage girls do. There are authors who write these books beautifully, others who write them with humor, satire, angst, and some authors who write them not-so-well. However, A.S King brought us into the mind of a teenage girl with common issues, and still made her unlike any other character I’ve read.
There isn’t much you can say without spoiling this book or sounding crazy. It follows sixteen year old Sarah who is searching for something MORE in her life. At least, that’s what it seems like at first. As you go deeper into her story, and you read the POVs of other characters, you learn that her story is about much more. It is magical [hint, hint] and haunting and complex and raw.
I find it both confusing and wonderful that so many people find this book relatable. It provokes strong emotions and challenges the reader to think, and it feels SO different from anything I’ve ever read. It is so much to feel from just one book, and I really think everyone can benefit from reading it.
“Nothing about her pain is remotely original —and yet it still hurts.”