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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Can't Look Away by Donna Cooner

Title: Can't Look Away
Author: Donna Cooner
ISBN: 9780545427654
Publisher: Scholastic
Released: August 26, 2014
Page #: 265
Source: ARC from the publisher

"Torrey Grey is famous. At least, on the Internet. Thousands of people watch her videos on fashion and beauty. But when Torrey's sister is killed in an accident - maybe because of Torrey and her videos - Torrey's perfect world implodes.

Now, strangers online are bashing Torrey. And at her new school, she doesn't know who to trust. Is queen-bee Blair only interested in Torrey's infamy? What about Raylene, who is unpopular, but seems to accept Torrey for who she is? And then there's Luis, with his brooding dark eyes, whose family runs the local funeral home. Torrey finds herself drawn to Luis, and his fascinating stories about el Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.

As the Day of the Dead draws near, Torrey will have to really look at her own feelings about death, and life, and everything in between. Can she learn to mourn her sister out of the public eye?"
First Lines: (Quoted from galley - see final version for exact quote)

"In September, my parents moved me and my dead sister to Texas. 
Today, just one week after the moving trucks left us here, my parents are going to put her ashes in the ground out in the middle of nowhere. The thought of it makes my stomach churn."
Page 3

Torrey is a famous YouTube personality, but can't find it in herself to post anything anymore. After her sister's death, her life has been turned upside down. She and her parents move to Texas to be closer to family and she has to start from scratch with new friends and new problems.

It's no secret that I am obsessed with YouTube. There are lots of people I subscribe to and follow closely online - mostly because it's fascinating and often hilarious. The concept of people becoming famous that way is fairly new and I am very interested to see where that takes us. So to have a story about a girl in that position, I was definitely hooked. The whole concept is one that I'm totally interested in. Especially when real life interferes.

That being said, there were a few things that disappointed me in this story - and it all has to do with the character of Torrey. Upon arriving at her new school, her immediate concern is finding the popular crowd and befriending them. And not just that, but being extremely rude to the people outside of that crowd... just to impress. It made me instantly dislike her and the way she views things. And honestly I just wanted to shake her and scream at her about what it means to start fresh.

As you can imagine, things work themselves out so that I ended up not hating her as much. But there's something so shallow and awful about a person who is only concerned about impressing others. Especially when you get the impression that she's out to set trends with her audiences, not just follow them. Wouldn't she be better off to plot her own course in the new school, rather than try to follow someone else? It just didn't ring very true to me - and that's probably because I hate people like that.

There were several interesting characters beyond Torrey, though. Luis is awesome and she doesn't deserve him at all. Raylene is pretty funny and I would have liked to learn a little more about her - especially considering how things turn out in the end. Torrey's parents were interesting characters as well because of how they are pictured dealing with the grief from the death of their daughter.

There's one other thing I'd like to address about this story. Torrey's father takes her to see a therapist to talk about her sister's death. It's obviously forced on Torrey and she's not happy about it. In fact, through the entire scene, she sits silent while the therapist tries to get her to say something. And I know that sometimes that is how things are. But nothing comes of this... it's never mentioned again. It's as though it didn't happen. Really, Luis becomes Torrey's sounding board for everything. And that's fine... but it seemed like a weird scene to throw in if it's never going to even be acknowledged later.

Also... would a YouTuber with 300K+ subscribers still be filming with their laptop cam and their phone?

Okay, so it looks like I had a lot of complaints about this book. But really, I was just hoping for more from it. The concept is solid and I was interested to see how things turned out - even if it was all in a nice, neat little package. I think for those with a passing interest in realistic fiction and current issues (cyberbullying and such), this is probably a good book for them.
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