Review: Torn by Cat Clarke

Torn - Cat Clarke

Four girls. One dead body. A whole lot of guilt.

Alice King isn’t expecting the holiday of a lifetime when she sets off with her classmates on a trip to the Scottish wilderness, but she’s not exactly prepared for an experience beyond her darkest nightmares…

Alice and her best friend Cass are stuck in a cabin with Polly, the social outcast, and Rae, the moody emo-girl. Then there’s Tara – queen of mean. Powerful, beautiful and cruel, she likes nothing better than putting people down.

Cass decides it’s time to teach Tara a lesson she’ll never forget. And so begins a series of events that will change the lives of these girls forever…

A compelling story of guilty secrets, troubled friendship and burgeoning love. (Summary from

Drawing on scenarios more usually encountered in teen horror movies, Torn is the gripping story of schoolgirl politics getting way out of hand. Cat Clarke’s follow up to bestselling debut novel Entangled takes a fresh look at what happens when a group of teenagers are given a taste of freedom on a school wilderness trip… with truly disastrous consequences. Part murder mystery, part psychological thriller, Torn is essentially a book about growing up – think coming-of-age story, but terrifying. It’s about that moment when you realise that crying to your parents or hiding behind the sofa won’t fix things – that sometimes life can spiral out of control and there’s no way back to the safety of before.

Narrator Alice King is the type of character that readers will instantly empathise with. At school, she’s neither queen bee nor outcast, instead occupying the no-man’s land between the two extremes. Like many of us, she’s accutely aware of the injustice perpetuated by the in crowd, but not quite brave – or powerful – enough to befriend those deemed Untouchable. Her own acceptance is far too tenuous to take such a risk. With insight and dark humour in equal measure, Torn really digs down into the truth about the high school social order, going beyond the simple mean-girls-vs-losers dynamic we often see perpetuated in popular culture and holding the mirror up to a reality that’s far more complex.

Cat Clarke is an edgy writer, and that’s her strength. She doesn’t write tidy stories where enemies are safely dispatched and a happy ending is guaranteed for all. She writes in shades of grey, and the result is honest and raw narratives where things get messy and hearts get broken – sometimes readers’ hearts. Even the love story that unfolds alongside Torn‘s central mystery is conflicted, brimming over with bittersweetness of the most poignant variety. Like Entangled, Torn sees its teenage protagonist forced to confront uncomfortable truths about herself, and in both cases that makes for fascinating reading. But where Torn surpasses Entangled is in the way it takes us on our own journey of self-discovery – the way Alice’s story feels as though it’s only one wrong decision away from being our own. Seriously scary stuff.

Torn is one hell of a book. It’s stomach-churningly tense, twisty in the cleverest way and completely impossible to put down. I read it straight through in one go, on the edge of my seat, only pausing every now and then to remind myself to breathe. If you like your YA fiction dangerous and authentic, Torn is a must-read.

Out: December 2011, UK


Applying my studies to my love life

Hi all. Thought I’d share another one of my assignments. We had to apply what we studied in class, the theories we’ve learned to real life experiences. I decided to write about my relationship between my husband and I. Enjoy!

Having the privilege to learn Theories of Communication for a couple of weeks now, I’m beginning to understand the development of my relationship with my husband and how it progressed from being a friend, to a boyfriend, and now my dearest husband. That was a little over a decade ago since 2001. We got married in 2008. And in 2010, we had our very first child.

Let me first narrate how it all began. We first met in an internet chat room of the university that we went to. I was attracted to his username and decided to send him a private message. If I remember correctly we started to talk endlessly about our favourite music, and discovered that we had a lot in common. This went on during the semester break. We exchanged phone numbers. From online to the telephone line we conversed for hours and hours.

The holidays were over, and we decided to hang out. Prior to the meet up, somewhere along our conversations we did bring up the kind of clothes we wore and talked about shoes. Coincidentally we had shoes of the same kind, a pair of sneakers, his were blue, and mine were red. We both decided to wear those shoes going out. The thing about these sneakers is that, the dirtier it is, the better it looks. It’s meant to look worn out. This information is crucial point that led to our relationship.

Before I move on with the story, I’d like to highlight that the conversation we had about our tastes in music and clothes is only touching the surface, the introduction was just an ice breaking session. According to the social penetration theory, it is the superficial layer. And sharing the same likes in music as well as footwear, naturally it led to a connection that made us agree upon this face to face meet up.

So came the day of our ‘date’. It wasn’t really a date since I did tag along a friend, and my intentions were only to get to know basis at this point. As promised he wore his blue sneakers and I wore my red sneakers. I noticed that his shoes were squeaky clean. And couldn’t stop ridiculing him of how uncool it was to wear clean sneakers. This lead me to purposely step on his shoes to make it look dirty and of course cool, at least according to the ‘the dirtier the better’ rule. And this act of staining his shoes, sparked fireworks, and I felt butterflies flying in my tummy! I quickly stepped away and tried to laugh hoping the butterflies would fly away. I must have blushed.

Then, we moved on to our next destination, a fast food restaurant. I was famished, and I ordered my favourite onion rings. I felt really comfortable eating in front of him, perhaps it was because of the hunger that I had no shame, I gobbled the onion rings, smacking my mouth together and gulped it down and drank my soda. Not realizing that he was watching me eat. And then there was only one onion ring left, we both reached out for it, but he let me have it instead. Ate it instantly, and only then I noticed he was watching how I was eating. And I asked, with a half way eaten onion ring “Uh, is there something wrong. Do you want this?” while showing the other half of the onion ring. He shook his head while smiling, and pointed out how enthusiastic I was munching away and it made him laugh.

Talking about onions let me relate back to the theory. Coincidentally Irwin Altman and Dallas Taylor the developers of this social penetration model metaphorically use an onion to describe the theory as onions like humans have many layers and depths. So in my event of gulping down the onion ring, and having him laugh about it goes into the middle layer which has revealed both of our social attitudes.

Being comfortable of this new revelation, we both expressed how we felt, especially during the shoe stepping ceremony. I was relieved and delighted to know I wasn’t the only one seeing fireworks and having butterflies frolicking in my bowels. At this stage we have penetrated into the inner layer. We both started to share more detailed information and background information, our beliefs, hopes, and secrets as well. His secret was about this girl he had a crush on, and mine was that I already was seeing someone else. A guy I knew for almost two years. Let’s call him ‘Mr X’.

The relationship between Mr X and I wasn’t doing so good, it was really on the rocks, just on the verge of falling over the cliff, yet we held on. I personally held on, because I assumed he was the guy that I wanted to marry, and believed that he was mister perfect. But when meeting my husband, the title ‘mister perfect’ no longer belonged to Mr X.

This is when I started comparing the two, measuring who is better. I was using the comparison level of alternatives of the social exchange theory. Mr X used to be a 10/10, but meeting my husband, the alternative totally defeated Mr X with a scale of 100/10! I knew then what I had to do. Say bye-bye to Mr X. However, it took me months to officially call it off. It wasn’t easy, because Mr X was quite special to me. But 10 years later, at this moment, seeing my dearest son and beloved husband, watching them sleep every night, I do not have an ounce of regret going for the alternative.

Now that we’re married with a child, it is easy to say that we have entered the innermost layer of the onion, and have revealed our core personality, exposing ourselves to our most basic self. We both have heard various frequencies of each other’s passing of gas, and even the different types of scent. Perhaps we both had too much onion, digging in too deep that we could not hold it in any longer. It may seem disgusting to some, but that is us being our true selves, by not hiding our flatulence.

The theories mentioned in relation to the development of my relationship seem to have been applied almost quite perfectly that it is difficult to find a flaw. The social exchange theory which includes the comparison level of alternatives is something that everyone would most probably go through in a relationship. If it isn’t applicable, it’s just might be because that person does not have the alternative to compare to.

However, having that said, using this standard of assessment doesn’t necessarily mean one has to choose the better alternative. Because, as mentioned earlier, the social penetration theory states that humans are made up of many layers, sometimes what one sees in a person is only a certain breadth of that person, depending on an individual and the level of interaction it may take years for one to get to know a person entirely, at times, it just never happens.

Therefore, to choose what ones measures as the better alternative might turn out to be even worse! When they go in depth one might discover some deep dark secret of that person that is really disturbing. And unfortunately by that time, it might be too late to return to the former relationship. But, if one is lucky enough after weighing the possible outcomes, like in my case, the better turns out to be the best decision ever made.

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