Winner 2010WINNER – 2010 Next Generation Indie Book Awards – GLBT category, If a bisexual coming-of-age novel like Torn had been written when I was coming of age in the mid-1970s, it would have gone a long way toward helping me feel sane. In fact, if I could have read this book when I was 14 (the age at which we meet the book s protagonist, Krista McKinley), I probably would have become addicted to this book and carried it with me wherever I went; bisexuals let alone teenaged bisexuals get very few reliable toeholds in our society even today. Torn is a brave and memorable achievement in teen fiction. It is unflinching in its accurate depiction of the curious lust for experience that is basically synonymous with being a teenager. The characters delve into drugs, drinking, and sex just as zealously and carelessly as teenagers do in real life, and they careen into the wall of consequences just as hard. Krista and her friends Carrie, Brandon, Ryan, Nick, and Aeleise (in varying combinations throughout the book) have access to plenty of booze when they want it; they try cocaine and ecstasy; they play football, they re cheerleaders, they attend the homecoming dance as well as bible study groups; some are victims of incest and rape, while others carefully choose when they will lose their virginity and to whom; they have co-ed sleepovers where they kiss and sometimes have sex with each other; they shop a lot and, since this is Southern California, they also go surfing.

However, when the characters err in judgment, they get caught and are forced to examine their actions along with their motivations and must somehow make amends. Perhaps most importantly, Torn tackles that complicated identity question of am I bisexual, or [gay or lesbian], or just experimenting? with a huge heart and an honest appraisal, and best yet for bisexuals the answer resounds with hope for teenagers who find themselves genuinely attracted to both sexes. The characters in Torn may seem torrid on the surface, yet Lehman has crafted her characters with such kindness and with such attention to realistic detail that they are easy to become addicted to, even as an adult reader. These are insecure gay, lesbian, and bisexual characters who are fiercely devoted to each other, who hold one another accountable for everything. The few parents depicted in Torn are rich, ineffectual and self-involved. The other parents are curiously absent, with two families being overseen by older brothers. This helps create a world where the teenagers take center stage and are forced to look out for one another. The older brothers (Krista s brother Marc, a doctor; and Aeleise s brother Daemon, a pilot, a devout Christian and a thirty-year-old virgin) are so well-grounded in morals and discipline that they wind up being more effective and more respected than most real-life parents . . . Torn is a page-turner whose ending might possibly astound you. This is a terrific first novel that deserves an open-minded read. You ll make fast friends with the teenagers in this book and if you re already an adult you ll perhaps find yourself feeling friendlier toward the questioning teenager you once were.
—-Marilyn Jaye Lewis, Lambda Literary Foundation

5 STARS! : An intriguing coming of age story that many teenagers will relate to, January 9, 2010
By Midwest Book Review (Oregon, WI USA)

A radical shift in environment changes one’s world. “Torn” is the story of Krista McKinley, a Catholic school student who is sent to a public high school by her family. As she finds new friends, her world and her values will still be roughly tested. “Torn” is an intriguing coming of age story that many teenagers will relate to.

By Jen Knox
Torn is a quick read, but it’s not an easy read. I found the subject-matter compelling, and more so given that Amber Lehman doesn’t hold back details or sugar-coat her characters’ experiences.

In a note from the author, Lehman says “I have never ceased to be amazed at the gentle intimacy that we humans can have for each other, and on the contrary, have never ceased to be shocked at the tendency for brutal inhumanity.”

This short reflection is truly sums up the over-arching theme of the story that follows. Torn is centered on Krista, a fourteen-year-old girl who just moved to California from the Midwest and her struggles to find a sense of identity and value in her new community. Our protagonist does what teenagers–like it or not–do: she experiments. She embarks on a familiar but nuanced story of sexual awakening as she faces an abundance of temptation, while trying to figure out her personal sense of what is right and wrong as well as a clear definition of her sense-of-self.

Lehman recounts very realistic scenes with vivid intimacy and candor, scenes that are not uncommon to those “coming-of-age” years and should not be ignored for the courtesy of fragile ears. I recommend this book highly. It is a well-written story with the edge of real life.

By Melissa
Despite my being older than teenage and this being a teen book, I found it a good read. I will be suggesting it to my teens and any others that we know. The imagery was so good that I could see and feel the surroundings, as well as items and people, in the book.

The Rainbow Review
Review by PermaFrost

An easily captivating story of a young girl’s beginning exploration into her personal identity, “Torn” reveals the painful unfolding of adolescence, the discovery of self, the process of transforming wishes into dreams, and the troubling matters of family, friendship, and intimate emotional relationships. (for full story).

By Shalonda Williams
Anyone who is a teen or needs to understand the realness of life as a teen or child even
I am so excited for Amber and this book of hers. “Torn” was such a great read. I was taken by her characters and by the end, I found it hard to say goodbye to them. I was ready to know what happened to them in life like I would about someone I’ve grown to know and love.

Krista’s story is very common and if it is not talked about amongst parents and children as serious business, I’m afraid that there will always be that gap there; that void that can’t be filled.

I was not disappointed in the least by this book. It captured me and I was excited to know what was to come. Krista and Brandon were destined and I was happily rooting for them since the middle of the book.

My favorite character was Brandon. Why? Because he was real to me. He was true to who he was and just as cool, charming and sexy as can be. His maturity didn’t surprise in the least. I understand teens like him. In the end, love was love for Brandon and I found that very brave of him to stand up for it when the time was at hand.

Amber, this book was well worth the read. Thanks for sharing it with us.

In Addendum:

This Book Is Real Life
How many of us parents really know what’s going on with our children & teens? How many of us really sit down and listen to them? Do we even believe that what they have to say is relevant?
Bullies, crushes, questions about sex and sexual orientation, opinions about politics, thoughts about the treatment of their peers… Do we know what they’re thinking and feeling?
“Torn” by Amber Lehman is a book; novel which dares to give a look inside the hearts and minds of those they often go overlooked. Our very children. Amber has taken real life situations in this great novel that will have help adults see what conversations they are missing out on. It will help adults know that some life lessons are inevitable, however love and understanding can go a long way. What discussions have we missed? This dynamic book will help you figure it out.
In reading this book, teen and young adults will get a view also. A view of themselves and of others. How many of your peers have you overlooked or mistaken for arrogant without even knowing a bit about them. Though a novel of fiction, “Torn” is real life!
What Will Become Of The Friendships?
Krista, coming from a Catholic School background will now experience a life change more drastic than anything she could ever have imagined. With her mom gone what will she do? Who will she confide in?
Best friend relationships hanging in the balance due to hidden emotions and confusion. Questions about what’s really going on inside of her. Thoughts of an older man that won’t go away. Emotions for Carrie that stemmed from a simple dare. Can an evening with Brandon help or will her confusion grow?
My Rating:
I give this great book of awesome substance 5 balloons, which to me signifies rising higher. I call them my high risers.
I would recommend this book to adults as well as teen and young adults. Read it and love it! Way to go Amber Lehman on the release of this great read!

By Debbie- onyx95
The first year of High School is tough enough with all the changes and challenges of education, but the new social environment can be confusing even for the most popular of kids. Krista was dealing with extra. Coming to a new school, in a new state, a dad out of the picture, a mom out of the country, living with her older brothers and then she ends up in Public School for the first time in her life. Having come straight from Catholic schooling, boys as friends was a new concept and being attracted to them was just plain scary, but being dared to kiss her new best friend Carrie, just left her confused about her own newly awakening feelings and desires. With no mother around to talk to, she confided in her gay friend, Brandon. Hoping that with his help she would be able to figure out her feelings and if her attractions for both boys and girls was real, but the help that she asks Brandon for could either give her the information she needs or make things even worse.

This book has so many elements and levels to it, it is difficult to decide which to focus on. As a love (teen love) story, it shows the teen angst, emotions and feelings that some high school students might really feel. It made me remember my own high school days (it was a different time). I wonder now if some of those “popular” kids had similar struggles with their own relationships and/or sexuality, like that portrayed here. As a parent, I can hope that the kids today (my kids included) will not have such struggles. That they can find the acceptance, protection and answers that they need, and that I can help to keep them from some of these types of experiences. It reminds me (as a parent) to have those conversations about drugs and violence (including rape and coercion), while being there as the ‘adult supervision’ that all kids that age still need – whether they like it, or think so.

There was a lot of characters in this book. I understand some of the decisions Krista made, and why, but I “felt” more for Brandon. His bad boy persona covered so much, and after all, he was just another screwed up teenager. I did enjoy the different take on the ever present high school social drama. Probably to serious, candid and explicit for a young adult (13 – 17 years old) reader, but a good coming of age story about young adults.

Reviewed on 03/02/2010 by Member Eileen Elkinson
One of the most difficult periods in a person’s life is spent in high school, and TORN, through its excellent character portrayals reinforce just how difficult those few years can be. As a new student, Krista McKinley is deluged with easy opportunities to experiment with alcohol, drugs and sex. This fourteen year old protagonist faces them head on and makes adult decisions much earlier than she should have to. She emerges knowing a lot more than she did in the beginning: that being true to be true to yourself may not please all of the people all of the time. I was reminded of the TV series My So Called Life, which was a big hit, as I fully expect this book to be.

Rating: Excellent!
Reviewed by: Eric Jones of

One of the most popular television shows right now is ABC Family’s drama, “The Secret Life of the American Teenager”, which has furthered the divide among critics and viewers. Its lessons lack the complexity of the reality that it’s meant to mirror, and its actors are often melodramatic, but there is no arguing with the show’s popularity, which has been astounding. I mention all of this because if you were to dial up the mature content of “Secret Life” just a notch or two, you would get a perfect example of what Amber Lehman’s debut novel, “Torn”, is all about.

Krista is beginning public school in California after moving from Ohio where she attended a Catholic school called “Our Holy Sisters”. Of course, speaking to the effectiveness of Catholic teaching is Krista’s near immediate falling into the ranks of high school sexual confusion which leads her into a world of eroticism, alcohol, drugs, and all the natural consequences which follow. But what’s interesting here is the clear division between erotica and cautionary tale that Lehman traverses throughout Krista’s journey.

The world of Crestmount High seems to stand on that same plateau of heightened realism that “Secret Life” stands on. Its characters are all equipped with finely chiseled good looks, the girls wear thongs to parties, they make out in the hallways, and constantly shift in tone from dramatic to cool to funny at a moments notice. But along the way, Lehman cleverly interrupts her own fantasies to introduce aspects of realism that withdraw us from the book’s naughty fun. For instance, in one scene Krista is dabbling in sex and cocaine for the first time in a way that feels more like a dream than a realistic depiction. It’s the kind of scene you might read in an erotic novel, but the dream is interrupted by her older brother, Marc, who announces that Krista’s friend has been drugged and possibly raped in the next room. What follows is a horrifying trip to the ER and shameful penance for Krista and Carrie’s deviance.

But, like most dramas, the cycle of corruption and comeuppance doesn’t end there. And it continues to be both fun and shocking for those who enjoy coming of age stories with an adult slant. Lehman has a natural, flowing way of writing that makes her book accessible to its intended audience without being over preachy or complicated. This leads me back to that little divide I spoke about earlier between critics and viewers. “Torn” is a niche drama meant for a mature but young audience. Critics who have a habit of trying to read further into things than what is presented won’t enjoy “Torn”, as it simply doesn’t have the depth of high literature.

There is one particularly keen line however that I found to be an insightful beam of light among the myriad of GAP and MTV references. I think that it sums up the author’s ultimate intent while commenting on the fundamental flaw that allows Carrie and Krista to find themselves in these preposterous predicaments time and time again. “I’m a doll, I’m a mouse, I’m an orangutan, I’m a bunny hopping away, I’m a kid being dragged here on a slave ship, I’m a human but I sometimes feel less than, and I’m the misfit girl sitting across from you,” Krista says in frustration when asked about her mixed ethnicity. But this line speaks more to her disposition than to her race. She is a product of America, a doll to be played with, and she makes herself into just such an object for the boys that she flaunts for, and the society she so much desires to “fit in” with. This is the greatest lesson of Lehman’s book, and it chimes even through the shadows.

Reviewed by Douglas R. Cobb, of

Fourteen-year-old Krista McKinley finds herself a stranger in a strange land when she, her mom, and her two older stepbrothers move from Ohio, where she attended a Catholic private school, to California, where she gets enrolled at Crestmount High, a public school. She faces culture shock and experiences confusion about dating, being around boys as schoolmates for the first time, and questions her own sexual preferences in the debut coming-of-age novel Torn, by Amber Lehman. It’ll pull at your heartstrings, and make you feel for Krista’s situation and her inner turmoil, wanting to fit in, but also desiring to be true to herself. Is it just a “phase” she’s going through, as her brothers Josh and Marc suggest; or, are her feelings for her best friend, Carrie, something more?

The situation Krista is in is a bit strange on a few levels. Her mom and dad are divorced, and her mother is a missionary who is in Nicaragua for a year, leaving her in the charge of her two stepbrothers. Josh and Marc do the best job they can serving as both her brothers and parents en-absentia, but they are no substitute for the real thing. Also, I couldn’t help but wonder about California’s laws regarding this sort of arrangement, and if her mother’s not being there might be considered to be a case of child abandonment or neglect. Still, looking beyond that issue, I thought the novel was a sensitive treatment of an issue that affects many youths – the questioning of who they are, and how they should act and behave socially and sexually.

Besides her girlfriend Carrie, one of her best friends is Brandon. Brandon is a surfer, and he’s very wealthy, athletic, popular, good-looking, the kind of guy other guys admire and girls fall in love with – but, he’s also gay. Most of the other guys mentioned in Torn have either had sex with Brandon or also question their sexual identities. He’s had sex with teen girls his own age, but he knows he’s gay, and is comfortable with this realization. He’s witty, and somewhat catty, and has a great sense of fashion. Carrie introduces him to Krista early on in the novel, and the three become close pals. Brandon suspects that Krista wants to be more than friends with Carrie, and vice-versa, and he encourages Krista to pursue her feelings.

Brandon is a great friend for Krista in many ways, and an interesting and colorful character. He even becomes Krista’s date to the prom. Still, I wondered if Krista maybe wouldn’t have ended up questioning her sexual preferences if she had first become friends with heterosexual guys at her new school instead of Brandon and his male friends. It’s one thing for Brandon to know who he is and be cool with it, but not everyone is as self-assured or has had as much sexual experiences as he claims to have had. Krista has gone to school only with other girls previously, and has not had any sexual feelings for them, and she’s only fourteen, after all. Being around other young people who have had sex likely makes her feel she has to play catch-up with them.

Despite her emotions for and attraction to Carrie, Krista wants to do most of the stuff all teen girls like to do. She totally enjoys dressing up and going to the prom with Brandon, having her first taste of alcohol (courtesy of the bar of the limousine that Brandon rents), and going to parties. Unfortunately, a party she and Carrie gets invited to by seniors at a rival school places her and Carrie in a very sketchy situation, in which their dates do drugs and get them to smoke pot and do cocaine. They both get bombed and their dates try to take advantage of them – not a good initial sexual experience with guys, to put it mildly – and I’m sure this also adds to their confusion about their sexual identities and which gender they’re more comfortable with.

Torn is a heartfelt, risk-taking novel that you’re sure to like if you have also ever questioned your sexual preferences. It’s a novel which has an endearing cast of characters, and it’s one that parents as well as teens will like reading and discussing together. I have a fourteen-year-old daughter, myself, and I will support her and love her whatever sexual preference she might eventually express. Positive father figures are not portrayed in Torn – the main characters have fathers that either are no longer on the scene, or are – like in Brandon’s case – but don’t have much of an impact on their children’s lives. Krista’s friend, Carrie, even develops a theory that real fathers are a myth. I’d like to be a better sort of father for my daughter. If you like great coming-of-age novels, whatever your age, you’re going to want to check out Torn today!

By Dottie A. Randazzo “reader of everything”

Reviewed by Kam Aures for (09/09)

“TORN” by Amber Lehman begins as 14-year-old Krista moves to California and finds that life her at the public school is much different than the Catholic School that she went to back in Ohio. She quickly becomes friends with Carrie and Brandon and as they become closer the experimentation begins. In a simple juvenile game of Truth or Dare, a dare to kiss another girl causes her to question herself and her friends.

The “Note from the Author” at the start of the novel tells us that the author herself had a difficult childhood and this heightened her sensitivity to stories that were shared with her throughout her life. Instead of writing a book of “case studies” she chose to fictionalize the people involved. “By placing the characters in positions to interact with each other, it makes us care for them and for their hardships as multidimensional persons, and not just case numbers or studies.”

In the book there are a lot of different relationships among the characters and each one is interesting in itself. Lehman does a wonderful job presenting each individual’s story and conveying his or her thoughts and emotions. “TORN” is a story about young teenagers however the target audience for the book is for people over the age of eighteen which is very fitting due to the sexual nature and descriptive sexual scenes depicted throughout the novel. Unfortunately the experiences with alcohol, drugs (like cocaine and marijuana), and sexual experimentation presented in the book are a reality in many teenagers’ lives and this book could definitely serve as an eye-opener to some parents. However, in itself, “TORN” is a very readable and engaging novel even if you want to read it and enjoy it purely as a work of fiction.

By H. Paxton (Newport Beach, CA)

Although I came of age in O.C. twenty years ago, this tale stands the test of time about the difficulties of fitting in and finding yourself in high school. Once I began reading, I couldn’t wait to finish and swallow all of the juicy encounters in between! Reality fiction at it’s best!

By GABixler, IPBookReviewer “Glenda” (Pennsylvania) –

“The world is a difficult place for children. Thank God we turn out as well as we do.”

In addition to loving to read, I appreciate books that have been obviously created with care. Amber Lehman, in Torn, gives credit to Jill Ronsley. Kudos to both of you for creating a truly beautiful book. Torn is a young adult novel (17+) based upon true stories gathered by the author during her own life. Readers will recognize the love and concern with which she heard and remembered those individuals and their lives, by reading the above beginning note from the author.

I quickly point out that this novel is erotic/sexy–a dramatized story of a young girl named Krista. It is an exciting adventure that many teens will enjoy and learn from through Lehman’s subtle but excellent approach.

It may be a difficult book for parents to read; but, in my opinion, you must. Amber Lehman provides a well-written, truly realistic story of the lives of various teens at a local high school. It could be the school your children attend. It could be the lives your children are leading. It could be you, the absent parent(s). With proper guidance and discussions, if I had younger teens, I would also share this book with those mid-teens that are the true characters in this book!

Krista is 14 when her family moves from Ohio to Southern California. Throughout her early years of school she attended a private religious school for girls. Krista would be attending public school for the first time. Her mother is gone for a year, on a church mission in Nicaragua. During her absence, her older half-brother, Marc, a pediatrician, is living at home with Krista and her other half-brother Josh–both with whom she has had little experience in relating/living. Krista dreads starting school.

Krista is artistic, and in choosing a dance class, she finds she’s also part of the cheerleaders. There she met Carrie, who became her best friend, and others. Through Carrie she met Brandon, or rather, she saw Brandon with Carrie as they were making out in the corridors near their lockers. Brandon had pulled back from Carrie, licked his lips at Krista, as if Carrie was no longer there! Quite a first impression about him!

It was only later that Krista learned that Brandon was gay.

Krista had never been kissed. Now she was meeting new boys all around her. So in sharing her fear with Carrie, they decided to learn by kissing each other. That first experiment led to many other sex-related encounters as Krista tries to become comfortable in this new world. All of the girls surrounding her were always talking about boys and what they could do to get their attention–even her brother Josh!

One of her friends then invited her to join a Bible study group at her home, taught by her brother, Daemon, who was twice Krista’s age. He was Aeliese’s guardian while their parents, who were also missionaries, were away from home. Krista also attended their church and found it quite different–where were the statues, the confession booth, the majesty of the priests in long robes? So much was so different! Krista had nowhere to turn to discuss all of these strange and new experiences, except older brothers and friends. And then Krista began to have other ideas about Aeliese’s older brother.

This story is sexy, because the children in the story are surrounded by experiences that include sexuality–drinking, drugs, and what can happen under their influence; sexual orientation experimentation; early experiences of abuse; but, more importantly, the sharing and caring, and, yes, love, that grows between young teens when they have few, if any, adults with whom to relate and discuss such important issues. Torn by decisions that they must make each day.

Step into the lives of the teens you know and love! Read Torn by Amber Lehman. Reality awaits you in this inspiring, frank and, yet, sensitive love story. Meet Krista and her friends now!

G. A. Bixler

The US Review of Books

reviewed by Laura Miller Edwards

“I really wasn’t concerned. What happened had happened for a purpose; I wasn’t expecting a boyfriend out of the arrangement. Had I, then maybe it would have mattered to me to know the names and faces of all those before me. As it stood now, I was fine with it.” In Torn, Amber Lehman explores the dangerous and confusing terrain of what it is to be a teen today along with all of the accompanying emotions. When Krista moves from Ohio to California, she expects some changes, but when she feels an attraction to her new friend, Carrie, after an especially personal game of truth or dare, she begins to question all she thought she knew. Yet, it’s her increasingly intimate friendship with Brandon, an attractive gay teen that causes her to ask the toughest questions and that ultimately changes her life in ways she never could have expected.

Torn is sexy fun with a warm tenderness at its core and an honesty that will appeal to the young adult reader. The book deals with common topics of interest among teens, including gay and lesbian issues, the use of drugs or alcohol, and those all too common feelings of insecurity that all young adults experience. Lehman handles her characters with care, portraying both teens who attend Bible studies and late-night parties with depth and fairness. The writing is fast-paced and scene-driven, keeping the story moving with dialogue and action. The story is mysterious, taking the reader through the various stages of friendships and relationships and ending with a surprising twist.

By Donna Coomer “Between the Lines Reviews” (Hartshorn, MO, USA) –

Everyone was young once. For some, times were easier – less peer pressure, less stress. Not so anymore. Sure, there’s still the strange bewildering difference between guys and gals but sometimes there’s a whole cultural shift to deal with.

Such is the case with our leading lady. Fresh in from Ohio, California is a bit daunting. Dance helps, as does some newly acquired friends. When sex, absent mothers and charming older brothers are thrown into the mix the stress is amped up considerably.

Amber Lehman’s first novel is enthralling. And while your teenage years may be far in your past, your grandkids, neighbors or employees may be smack dab in the middle of it.

Regardless of age it’s never easy to tear away your layers and get down to the rock solid truth about complicated situations. Lehman doesn’t have all the answers but sussing things out with your friends, siblings or even a far-away Mom can help tremendously.

By Donald Gow –

Torn, a new book by Amber Lehman is a complex story that sheds light on the angst and joy that is common in the life of modern teens. A story that could have degenerated into a simple expose of modern teen morals, it is told with honesty and feeling. I was taken aback at first by the young age of the lead character until I realized that this is a modern teen’s life. As modern society has evolved, we have made our children grow up faster than at any time in history, and then we decry their lack of innocence.

Ms Lehman, embraces what it means to be a young teen age woman in our modern society and,” Tells it like it is”. I found myself caring deeply about these characters and the many different lifestyles they embody. Their story is the story of the modern teen and the world as they live in it. I highly recommend this as a book that will shed light into what it means to be a young person in America today, and the choices we require them to make earlier in life than ever before.

By J. Herrel “book worm”

I am not a great lover of reading so a book really has got to hold my attention and “Torn” certainly did. I loved the characters and couldn’t put the book down. I would say this was a must read for parents and grandparents or anyone who works with young teens. This may be a book of fiction but in today’s society it’s probably closer to the real word than most would like to believe. I appreciate the author’s honesty in dealing with what some would say is a touchy subject matter but I would rather know what my teen may be facing everyday than ignore the consequences. Torn – I hope is just the first from Ms. Lehman.

By Swaf

Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Great insight into the challenges faced by teens dealing with their sexuality.

By Reader Views “”
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (11/09)
Let’s face it – growing up is a terribly confusing process. One day you are playing with dolls or cars, and then all of a sudden you start noticing boys or girls, and maybe both. Finding out who one is and what one really wants can be a long and oftentimes painful process and more often than not, the adolescent has few, if any people, who can really help with the ensuing confusion. Amber Lehman’s “Torn” is a brave and candid book about a group of teenagers searching for their identities and dealing with everyday school and family issues.

When she transfers from a Catholic school in Ohio to a public school in California, fourteen-year-old Krista McKinley’s life changes rapidly Very quickly she is befriended by Carrie and Brandon, who in turn introduce her to a bunch of other teens and Krista’s life suddenly does not look so bleak. But teens will be teens and a simple game of truth or dare threatens to shake Krista’s life and her beliefs to the core. Is she gay? Is she straight? Does she love Carrie? Or maybe Daemon? Or is it somebody else who has really captured her heart?

“Torn” frankly and openly speaks about the realities of life faced by today’s teens. It touches upon the subjects of homosexuality, drugs, underage drinking, date rape, statutory rape, STDs, dysfunctional families, absent parents and more. Ms. Lehman’s writing is very fluid and vivid, and her characters colorful, believable and likeable. I particularly enjoyed learning more about Brandon, and I found him the best developed and most thoroughly explained character in the story. Although some of the dilemmas the teens in the book faced did not really resonate with me personally, I definitely see the value of speaking about those matters in the straightforward way that Ms. Lehman used. There was one slightly jarring note in the book for me, namely the way the adults in the book dealt with the issues of underage sex, use of drugs, alcohol and the borderline improper sexual conduct with the minor. I would have liked it better if the book made it clearer that none of those is a good idea and that they are all both illegal and highly dangerous. While I am definitely not closing my eyes against the reality, and I do realize all of those things do and will happen, I would have really liked the book better if the consequences of such behavior would have been more emphasized and the instances of it shown in a less permissive way.

Having said that, I would like to commend Ms. Lehman on a courageous and well written book; “Torn” could certainly help any teenager who feels alone, abandoned and confused. And I am quite certain that would be quite a large percentage.

Torn by Amber Lehman is the story of fourteen year-old Krista McKinley, who has transferred from Catholic school in Ohio to public school in California. Talk about culture shock! But she quickly finds friends in Carrie and Brandon and makes her place in the school society.

Those early teenage years are already confusing enough as it is. But add sexual ambiguity and experimentation to the mix, and welcome to a scary spiral of self-doubt and questioning.

Krista’s first bout with confusion comes when she realizes that Brandon is actually gay, even though every girl in school seems to want him. He throws men and boys away as easily as he throws his money around, seeming to not care what damage is created. Yet, she is highly devoted to him.

Then comes an intoxicated experiment with Carrie, that brings their relationship to a new level for them both. How should it really be defined now? What do they really owe each other? What is normal?

Seeking answers is difficult, as her father has long disappeared, her mother is doing missionary work overseas. Her brothers are wrapped up in their own worlds, and would freak out if they knew what she was really doing. And then she is highly attracted to her virginal almost-30 year-old Bible Study leader, who is also the older brother of one of her other friends.

Relationships between the friends become increasingly complex as they struggle to answer these and many other questions about life, love, and lust. Their predicaments, while possibly extreme in the wealthy California setting, can probably found in just about any town in America, though it used to not be at such a young age. These types of games and experiments used to only happen during the freedom of college.

Amber Lehman herself said that though the characters in this book are in high school, it is actually written for the 17 and older crowd. The topics presented within are quite mature and would probably be better for a slightly younger crowd if read with a trusted adult.

Nevertheless, I found it to be a very good read. I had a hard time putting it down once I got started. And I am sure I will read it again some day.

I received a copy of this book for the purposes of reviewing it, from the author, Amber Lehman.

Purchase Torn
Posted by Andrea Coventry